A few days ago I found myself in a deep and meaningful conversation about mental health (as you do). It wasn’t long before the topic of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) came up and the following interaction occurred: “Oh yeah, I’m so OCD about shit; like I have to have my room clean and do you ever (laughingly) check to make sure the light switch is turned all the way off!?”
Whilst I must admit I was laughing alongside my mates, I did notice a certain urge to calmly educate them about what OCD really is because I find that the common misconception with it is that it is often related to cleanliness. In truth, cleanliness and order can be associated with OCD, but first and foremost, OCD is an anxiety disorder through and through.
Many of us like things neat and many of us check to make sure the lights are turned off, but only 1 in 100 of us act out in anxious behaviour in order to ensure things are the way they are in order to negate the spiraling perpetuation of crippling fear.
I am genuinely not trying to over exaggerate what OCD is here, but it most definitely is more than things being ordered a certain way because they look nice, unless of course that order is a behaviour acted out constantly to prevent something bad from happening.
“I’m so OCD” and “Fuck, you’re OCD” is great and all because it’s raising awareness about the disorder, but we must be well informed about what the disorder actually is.
THINK OF IT LIKE THIS: You get an anxious thought – “Shit, what if I left the door unlocked and someone robbed the house!?” That thought causes physical symptoms and spiraling anxiety. Then, in order to negate that anxious thought from occurring, you rush back home from work and check the door in question.
Your anxiety is relieved, however, only for a short while. By acting out the compulsion, you have strengthened the obsessiveness. Having that once in a day sucks, but try that on constant repeat, literally 24/7. That’s OCD, my friends.
Speaking from personal experience, when I was having a mad old time with OCD sessions, to prevent myself from heading down to Hell for a hotel check-in extravaganza, I found myself picking up rubbish around the neighbourhood. To prevent myself from changing sexuality, porn became a compulsion and in order to try and get rid of the constant mental imagery playing around like a carousel, training for footy yielded a great escape.
I guess the lesson I learned from this chat was that I feel people are super pumped to talk about mental health and what it’s like for them, but maybe the social norm almost tends to influence what is socially acceptable and what could still be relatively taboo. I find this stuff so fascinating and at the end of the day, if someone is saying something, then there is a place for it.
Tom works as a CrossFit coach, author, podcaster and founder of The Mind Mate. Through personal experience, facilitating conversations about mental health became a strong passion of his.
“I had, for much of my life been anxious. I was ignorant of it, however, having only seen the world through my own lens. Every person’s experience is completely unique and their own, however, I feel it’s time we reconciled that notion rather than move away from it. Becoming more honest with ourselves and others is not only therapeutic by nature, but it also allows for people dealing with mental health issues to learn about and draw upon similarities so they may feel more empowered.”