Whenever I open my social media accounts or flip through a magazine, I find someone who has “come out” about his/her mental illness. People own up to being depressed, anxious, psychotic. It takes immense courage to accept something like that, even more so when you’re a public figure whose every action will be scrutinised. I have nothing but respect for anyone who has the courage to fight against their mental health condition and come out tops. But I have nothing but distaste and disgust for anyone who knows zilch about mental illness but claims to “have it” nonetheless, trivialising everything it means, assuming it is somewhat cool or stands for an attractive aspect of their personality.
OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental illness that causes people to indulge in obsessive behaviour or thought that they can’t seem to control. I have found it is among the most abused health conditions, ridiculed in all kinds of social settings.
“I have to keep my kitchen countertop spick and span. I am so OCD about it, you see,” an acquaintance lamented the other day.
“Oh, I have OCD too. It is SO irritating when I miss a deadline at work; I obsess about it for days on end,” sympathised another.
For God’s sake! Wanting to keep your kitchen neat does not mean you have OCD. Fretting about failed work commitments doesn’t make you mentally ill. (Missing deadlines and then whimpering about them probably makes you a humbug.) You cannot “be OCD about” something. It isn’t a synonym for being a Type-A person, more organised, or a stickler for schedules.
Fact 1: Everyone with OCD is not hell-bent on orderliness and cleanliness.
Fact 2: Many sufferers don’t have odd rituals or habits, but struggle with intrusive thoughts that agonise them. They are afraid they will hurt their baby sibling or stab a stranger on the street. They may have to touch the doorknob 12 times to feel a little more comfortable. They might need to wash their hands till they get sore or risk being contaminated with a life-threatening illness.
Before you make fleeting statements, please review facts 1 and 2 and re-assess your need to keep the kitchen countertop clean. Don’t claim you have OCD unless this need permeates every aspect of your life. Unless it brings you similar distress and pain. If it doesn’t, casual statements like that only belittle a severe and disturbing health condition.
It has become ridiculously common to make generalised statements. People “get depressed” when their favourite character on a TV show dies. They tell others who are depressed to cheer up, eat healthily, and go for a walk. (Even ministries share ridiculous tips to cope with depression.) I know people who say they’re bipolar because of all the endless energy they have; it is “the secret to their professional success”. I wonder if these people know that bipolar disorder or manic depression kills hundreds of people around the world every year; it propels many to suicide.
I understand that people who make such comments probably don’t intend to be cruel. They are only using these terms in a literal sense, perhaps hoping to cash in on the media attention and social eyeballs that they have now started gathering. But for the sakes of all those whose lives get ravaged by mental health conditions, I urge them to have better judgment.
So, no, you probably don’t have OCD. Consider yourself blessed, not sidelined or unimportant.
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