Obsessive-compulsive disorder, not so funny anymore
Posted Friday 7 October 2011
This is a guest post from Charlotte, who blogs on the stigma associated with obessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and to support OCD awareness week and World Mental Health Day.
You may not be aware that 10 to 16 October is OCD Awareness Week. We all know about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), we’ve all seen the Facebook groups for people who are “so OCD” about a character from a film or whatever band is currently causing hysteria in the charts.
It’s not just the general public who have pushed this misunderstanding – the media haven’t always provided the best image of an OCD sufferer either. A national newspaper published an article last year which referred to people with OCD as “fully fledged lightbulb-licking towel-tidiers”, not the most helpful representation that we’re looking to project.
I don’t blame them – from the outside the rituals can look pretty funny and the lack of logic in our obsessions is – I suppose – laughable. The problem is that it’s so easy to see it as a funny quirk, an amusing tic, that we forget to look further.
Two years ago I was paralysed by OCD. I had dropped out of university, cut myself off from all of my friends and found it increasingly difficult to even leave the house. I had not touched a knife for over a year in the fear that I could stab someone and I would spend hours on exhausting rituals in the hope that I could somehow save my family from whatever horrible event was playing in my mind. Suddenly OCD didn’t seem so funny anymore.
I don’t blame people for finding OCD an amusing label to stick on any quirk or obsession – before I was diagnosed and learnt more about the disorder I would probably have done the same. All I ask of them is to please stop belittling the suffering that hides behind this witty acronym: the mother who cannot hold her baby out of fear of contaminating her with an illness she doesn’t even have; the father who is so tormented by horrific thoughts that he can't even look at his children; the fourteen year old boy whose hands are raw and bleeding from being scrubbed with bleach, the child who believes that his rituals are the only thing stopping his mother from being killed; the list goes on and on.
OCD isn’t funny – it ruins lives. Everyday people lose their jobs, their homes, their families or their partners because of the incredibly distressing and debilitating symptoms of this often misunderstood illness. So many people stay trapped in the agonising vicious circle of obsessions and compulsions, too afraid of stigma and not being understood to ask for help.
So please have a look at what OCD is, and what OCD isn’t. And remember that to some of us it’s a reality. To some of us it isn’t a joke.
Thanks to a lot of support, medication and CBT I am now back at university studying psychology and trying hard to spread some awareness of this often unrecognized illness. I blog at www.obsessivelycompulsivelyyours.wordpress and would love to hear your comments.
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