By Emma Buchman
Elm Staff Writer
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that has no real identifiable cause. This illness has two main components. The first is obsession, which includes intrusive thoughts that constantly force themselves to the forefront of your mind and cause you to focus solely on them. The second part, as you may have guessed, is compulsion. This is the action that you take in order to relieve yourself of these obsessive thoughts and the physical/mental symptoms that they cause. OCD causes both physical and mental stress and can even manifest itself with physical symptoms like nausea and tremors. I know all of this because I live with it every day.
OCD is a disease that I find to be frequently belittled in today’s society. The phrase “Oh, I’m so OCD” is thrown around far too often for my liking, and I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t think it was important. OCD is a serious mental illness that affects the lives of over 3.3 million Americans. It can be debilitating depending on how severely you are affected by intrusive thoughts or compulsions. Constant hand washing isn’t just the butt of jokes. It can be a serious compulsion that accompanies OCD. Some of those afflicted by this compulsion can scrub their hands until the top layer of skin has been removed. OCD manifests itself in many ways, and it can make you feel so many things. It is not an excuse and it is not a lie.
For me, my OCD is kind of like having a person being constantly attached to you. You can’t see them and you can’t get rid of them as they whisper awful things in your ear. They feel like a cumbersome weight on your mind and body, and the only time you can even dream of relief is when your terrible excuse for a friend decides to take a nap or go on vacation and you can finally just be happy without any strings attached.
The most accurate and moving portrayal that I have seen of OCD was in the TV show “Scrubs.” Michael J. Fox played a doctor who was trained in both the medical and surgical fields. He was very highly respected because of his extensive training and everyone looked up to him. However, he suffered from severe OCD, and no amount of praise for his accomplishments ever made up for that. At the end of the episode, J.D., the protagonist of the show, finds Fox’s character standing at a sink station, and he has a breakdown. Fox said, “I guess with the last few days, meeting new people and trying to get used to this place and I’m stressed and I’m fried and I just want to go home. But here’s the punchline: even though my last surgery was two hours ago, I can’t stop washing my damn hands.” He couldn’t go home because something was telling him that he couldn’t, until he washed his hands again and again and again.
These feelings aren’t rational or logical. OCD sufferers, for the most part, know this and try their best to fight it. However, as often as we try, we more often fail.
So let me ask you some questions, and think very hard about your answers. Have you ever become so worried about the wellbeing of yourself or others that you had to double-check the locks at night just so that you could get to sleep? Have you ever woken up with a pit in your stomach that wouldn’t go away? Have you ever turned your car around on the way home from work at night to see if you accidently hit someone? Have you ever had a thought plague your mind so often and so persistently that you accepted it as a part of your everyday life and gave up on feeling normal? If you haven’t, then I don’t even want you to think about the phrase-that-shall-not-be-named. However, if your answer to any of these questions was yes, things can be normal, and you can get help for whatever ails you. Plus, you will officially have the right to say, “I am so OCD.”