Monday, August 15, 2016

Let's Talk About Stigma

OCD is one of the Internet's favorite mental disorders. It's talked about a lot, whether by mental health professionals and sufferers or the rest of humanity. Like all mental disorders, there is a certain amount of stigma surrounding obsessive-compulsive disorder. You find it at home, in public and on the Internet. There's no escaping it, so I thought it prudent to chat about the types of stigma I seem to see and hear a lot in my life as it pertains to this disorder.

OCD Memes With Things Out of Order


You couldn't handle an OCD nightmare.
You've seen it–the tile slightly out of line with the surrounding tiles and some misinformed quote about it being your friend with OCD's worst nightmare. Guess what? It's not. Her worst nightmare is that someone she loves or a stranger is mangled or dies and it is somehow her fault (or one of other similar themes). She may or may not cope with that fear by keeping things tidy as a form of "magical thinking" that if she fixes the tile, her family is safe, but she doesn't give a shit about the tile. You see what I'm saying? The only thing that bothers us about those photos is that people might start thinking we'd be okay if only the tiles were in a straight line.

Self-Diagnosing


I connect with a lot of people who have OCD. It really makes me feel less isolated, and I hope my presence does the same for them.  A lot of my connections post about how annoying it is to see the "I am so OCD" posts from people who like things orderly or hate sticky stuff on their hands. OCD and other anxiety disorders are often thought of as abnormal reactions to normal situations. Washing your hands because they've got gross on 'em is a normal reaction to a normal situation. Washing your bleeding, raw and cracked hands because you haven't done it 150 times yet today is an abnormal reaction. When you compare your normal behavior to our abnormal behavior, you minimize the effect OCD has on us. People think of it as a first-world problem instead of a mental disorder.

Ignoring the Thought Part of the Disorder


Some of us who have OCD exhibit unusual behaviors like counting our steps, opening and closing doors a certain number of times, engaging in excessive grooming, etc. That is just a result of the main part of the disorder-disturbing thoughts. No matter what sub type of OCD a person has, he has intrusive thoughts that cause great distress. When people boil OCD down to just behaviors, they ignore that OCD has an even darker side, which lends to the stigma because people think we "just" do this or that.

To be fair, most of the folks who perpetuate the stigma do so without intention. They're just making a joke, and I'm the first to admit OCD can be hilarious. That said, you can joke about it while accurately portraying its challenges. You definitely don't have to claim you have OCD to talk about your quirks, either.