9 things you should not say to someone with OCD

It is extremely important for OCD sufferers to surround themselves with people who can support them. My loved ones have helped me a lot and without the support of my family and friends, I would have never been able to learn how to keep my OCD under control.

I’ve always been a very social person and it is not difficult for me to talk about my feelings, however, I can totally understand those who find it difficult to tell others about their OCD. A lot of people misunderstand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and there are a lot of misconceptions about it – so people with good intentions may easily say things that do more harm than good. In today’s post, I’d like to talk about things that one should never say to someone with OCD.

1. Just stop thinking about it!

Stop thinking about it!

This is the piece of advice that people give me all the time. And I wish I could just stop having intrusive thoughts but unfortunately it is not that easy.

If people with OCD could stop their unwanted thoughts, they would do that right away, because believe me: obsessing over irrational things and wasting your time on compulsions are not fun things to do. Let’s not even mention the severe anxiety. However, the problem is that the harder you try to fight your disturbing thoughts, the more likely you will get them. I often tell people that OCD felt like as if you were in the prison of your own mind: you really want to get out and escape from your own thoughts but doing so is more difficult than most people would imagine.

Thanks for God, there’s a way out of this terrible prison of thoughts and there are a lot of useful techniques that can help you overcome Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – but telling sufferers to stop thinking about their OCD will not really help them.

2. You’re being irrational

Do not get me wrong. It will not annoy me when people tell me I was being irrational, because I know I am! People with OCD may know that their thoughts and behaviors do not make sense. Of course there are cases when you may not know that your unwanted thoughts and compulsions are far from being rational and in such cases, it can help if someone tells you that you were being irrational – but speaking from my personal experience, I can tell you that 99% of the time, I know that my obsessions are absolutely unrealistic.

For example, I used to be scared of catching HIV in the tube: I perfectly knew that it was not possible but then I just wouldn’t be able to overcome this fear or to stop my excessive hand washing. Sounds paradoxical, does it not? But that is what OCD can be like.

Want to read more about the irrational nature of OCD? Please check:
Related posts:
OCD: living a lie
Magical Thinking OCD

3. Are you sure you have OCD?

Now, telling people that they should stop worrying about their intrusive thoughts or that they were irrational may not help them, but asking them if they’re sure they have OCD can actually be very dangerous and harmful. Why?

Because Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a constant cycle of doubt and guilt. And doubt is one of the things that fuels the fire for OCD: sufferers can not stand having uncertainty in their lives. In the 19th century, OCD was known as the “doubting disease” and to be honest, this name really makes sense to me. Now, at this point, you may ask yourself why I am talking about this and what this has to do with asking people if they were sure they had OCD.

Let me give you an example (I promise you it will make sense!) Let’s say:
Harm OCD – I could write hundreds of pages about it because I’ve been living with it for a decade (is it not romantic? Wish any of my relationships lasted this long….). So it usually starts by a sudden, intrusive thought:

what if I harm someone? Like what if I just push someone off a cliff? …I mean I do not want to do it, but what if I want to? What if I just do not know that I want to do it and what if I am totally insane and why do I even have these kind of thoughts? This should mean that I am a monster. A terrible monster.

Having such thoughts is extremely distressing, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel: getting diagnosed with OCD. Learning more about OCD helped me a lot because it gave me reassurance: I am not a monster, I have OCD.
But then, what will happen if someone asks me if I was sure I had OCD?
The vicious cycle of terrible thoughts will restart!
Because…

what if I do not actually have OCD? What if my therapist is not competent enough or what if my therapist was lying? What if I am dangerous to society?

So you see, it may be an innocent question for you, but for someone with OCD, this question could mean the beginning of a new obsession.

4. You have an amazing life! You should not obsess over insignificant things.

Doubt is a terrible feeling but it is not the only one that people with OCD have to cope with. Guilt can turn your life into a nightmare too.

Telling a person with OCD that some people have it worse will do more harm than good. I can tell you this from my personal experience:

My Mum has been supporting me ever since I was OCD diagnosed. She’s helped me a lot but she is not a professional therapist and at the time of my diagnosis, she did not use to have a very extensive knowledge about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. So, she thought it would help if she told me that I was lucky, amazing, beautiful and that I should enjoy my life – because a lot of other people have it worse. Of course, at that time she did not know that telling me such things would actually make my OCD even worse: I knew that other people had it worse and it made me feel guilty. It made me think that I was not grateful enough and I felt guilty for wasting so many years of my life on my obsessions and compulsions.

And honestly, the feeling of guilt is something that I haven’t been able to fully overcome. I feel guilty for a lot of things – sometimes, even without any obvious reason. And I feel guilty for not having been able to enjoy every moment of my life.

5. You do not look like you have OCD

First of all, I gotta tell you that I am not the kind of person who gets easily offended. So, if you told me that I did not look like having OCD, I would not get upset. But everyone is different:there are a lot of people with OCD who may find this statement very offensive and at the end of the day, it IS pretty offensive. Having OCD is not something visible.
Is it a terrifying mental disorder? Yes, it is. It can make your life very difficult but most of the time, you really can not tell if a person has OCD.

6. “I am a little OCD”

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental illness. So you can not be a “little OCD”. You either have it or you don’t. I would not get upset if someone told me “they were a little OCD” because I do not think we can expect everyone to have an extensive knowledge about mental disorders, however, as one of the main reasons why I started this blog was raising awareness of OCD, I felt that I just had to include this one in my list.

7. “I wish I had OCD”

This is my personal favorite. You’re lucky not to have OCD. Believe me: it is not fun! One of the common misconceptions is that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be useful. While OCD helped me become the person who I am today and I am not ashamed of having it, I can tell you that it is far from being useful!

8. Just relax

I do think it is important to relax. OCD will usually get worse when you’re stressed. But telling someone they should relax will definitely not help them overcome their OCD. I wish relaxation could solve all the problems – but it does not.

9. Why is your room not clean?

My room is a total mess. And I have OCD. Now for many people these two things are pretty contradictory, but Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not only about cleaning. There are a lot of other obsessions and compulsions that people with OCD can have.

Want to learn more about the different types of OCD?
Check my post about the 6 types of OCD

At the end of the day, good intention is all that matters

I believe that the world is an amazing place and people are inherently good. Most of the time, we do not say things that can hurt other people’s feelings because we actually want to hurt them, but because we do not know that others might find our statements or questions offensive. This is why good communication is extremely important and it’s crucial to raise awareness of OCD.

Your Experience

As you know, there’s one thing that I love more than sharing my ideas and experiences: reading yours. Would you like to add any other thing to the list? Do you have any interesting stories? Please feel free to share them in the comment section!

16 thoughts on “9 things you should not say to someone with OCD

  1. This is a really good post! Absolutely a key to recovery is being supported enough to feel allowed to not feel guilty about it. And I really relate to the guilt about not enjoying everything you otherwise would have, because of OCD! Even as I type this now, the guy in the room above me is moving around and the floor is creaking, which is really distracting, and it’s making me want to do rituals! Goddamn it, haha.

    I can well imagine the difficulty before you all got educated, and the heartbreak from the well-intended things that people would say! But I’m really glad you had the support from family. Makes me realise again I’m missing out by not having a qualified person knowledgeable in OCD to check in with, and to help give me that permission to not feel guilt.

    Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I’m glad you’ve found this useful.

      Same here! I just feel so guilty for having missed so many good things in life because of my OCD. Like even when I am on holidays: everyone else is enjoying themselves on the beach while me…I am seeking reassurance from Google. 😀

      But nowadays it’s getting better because to be honest I did not use to know that guilt had anything to do with OCD so it took some time for me to realize this…

      It’s very important indeed to get support from other people. And I’m sorry to read you do not have a qualified person who could help you with your OCD.

      Have you already seen a therapist? It actually helps a lot – like I do not normally talk about therapy on my blog because I haven’t seen a therapist for a long time but I was going to a therapist a few years ago and it actually changed my life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, that will be a process–– of gradually overcoming that feeling guilt, and moving towards acceptance of how things currently are. Which sounds annoying to hear when you’re not at that stage, I know! And it’s a process of coming to focus on all of your good qualities, and the positive aspects of the experiences–– such as gaining clarity of life purpose.

        I haven’t yet seen a therapist. I’ve only been waiting for around 4 months. I should chase it up. I mean, firstly I’m waiting for an OCD assessment/diagnosis. The whole thing is a long wait and I’m certainly not hanging around waiting for it!

        I found a really inspiring podcast episode on ‘The OCD Stories’–– have you heard of that podcast? The episode I’m thinking of was with Chris Trondsen. It was truly moving–– he was a very severe case indeed. Please listen to it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, it does take a lot of time and i really hope that you will soon be able to overcome the feeling of guilt. I think guilt is one of the most difficult things about OCD but writing about it helps me a lot. (And it also helps that there are people like you, who are reading my writing and who understand me 🙂 so thank you! )

        I love The OCD stories! It helped me a lot and yes, I have seen the one with Chris Trondsen. It’s very inspiring indeed. He is a role model to me. I do not think I will ever become a psychotherapist but it is an amazing feeling to help people cope with their OCD – obviously I can not do much but at least I can tell them about the way I feel and about the things that actually worked for me!

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      3. Incidentally, my typing OCD is now sooo much better than it was a few months ago, as a result of all of this therapeutic writing! As well as the improvements in circumstances. The reading OCD is continually improving too. It’s amazing :).

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I am not sure if I have the same thing: by typing OCD, do you mean that you need to re-read your writing a hundred times before sending/publishing it? (that is one of the things that I can not stop doing…). If that’s the case, please share a few useful techniques because I’d love to get rid of this. Like it is not something that makes my life much more difficult but still….it’s obviously not very pleasant.. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      5. No, it’s much more peculiar (in my opinion!)—it’s retyping things on the scale of single characters, words, or sentences: such as repetitively deleting and re-typing the full stop at the end of a sentence, or a series of three in an ellipsis: ‘…’ . It’s the actual physical process of typing that doesn’t feel ‘right’.

        Typing a typo, or sudden background noises are big triggers for it.

        I ALSO have a re-reading OCD, where I re-read things on the scale of words, sentences or paragraphs. Sometimes I even begin the whole poem again— this applies to anything I read.

        The typing thing began which I did computer programming as a job, and really slowed me down, contributing to being fired from my last job, haha. And that was the point when I had to try to fix things.

        The perfectionism kind of OCD that you’re talking about— I’ve experienced this in the past with writing, but I managed to overcome this when blogging on my own website about software topics.

        The frustrating thing for me with the poems— especially in the beginning, has always been that they come to me so fast and perfectly-formed, yet I can take forever to write them just through the act of typing. And yes–– same thing applies to hand-writing— a school-teacher even brought this up once in a parents’ evening at school because I had been putting multiple full-stops on sentences and dots on the letter ‘I’.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I totally get you btw about the difficulty of your perfectionism OCD— of course there’s worse things, but to be held back from properly enjoying something you love IS stressful, so I completely share your wish to be able to fix it!

        One thing I’ve heard is to hold a piece of card over the writing, and move it down as you read…helps to physically force yourself to keep moving forwards. Reading OCD is my hardest to resist actually, but start small and try to work up :).

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Hey I started a new blog a couple of weeks ago–– called Whirlpool Of Wonder, where I’m writing things that aren’t poems. Take a look at my post called ‘Vegetables, Fruits–– And Colours’. I’m coming to realise that what I’ve said in that has a lot of merit. Eat tons of vegetables, it really makes a difference :). Maybe you do already, or maybe you could write something about the importance of diet on OCD, at some point.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Hey there 🙂 I have just started following it! 🙂 I’ll read your posts! And I agree with you: it is important to eat a lot of vegetables. Unfortunately, my eating habits are not the healthiest but I am working on it. And thank you for the suggestion – I think it’s a topic I should really write about or…not sure if you’re into guest posting – because that would also be an amazing thing to do!

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  2. #7 ! I was in a writers group. I wrote an essay about how I’ve beaten myself up with exercise over the course of my life leaving me with all sorts of injuries. After I read it, one of the women said “But you’re so fit. I wish I had your drive.” I wanted to shake her and ask if she even read the essay.

    OCD gave me a lot of drive. For fitness, for writing, for hobbies. I’d never give up my meds to recapture that drive. I was talking with my wife tonight about how weird it seems that I’m not freaking out about the coronavirus. During our last potential pandemic, I couldn’t sleep. More evidence that the meds are working.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah…yeah, I guess she did not read the essay…or just did not pay attention to it. 😦
      However, the other thing is that I am sure it can be pretty difficult for someone who does not have OCD to understand our feelings.

      OCD motivated (or forced) me to do a couple of things that were actually pretty useful but I wish I never had OCD…..

      I am glad to hear that the meds are working and that you’re feeling better. And pretty much same here: I was extremely scared of H1N1 and I would spend hours on Google and I do not say I am not worried about this novel coronavirus but it’s kind of a “healthy worry” that has nothing to do with OCD.

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  3. nothing bothers me more than when somebody expects me to be all neat and clean just because I have OCD. OCD doesn’t mean my room has to be clean, but it does mean that there is a rhyme and reason for why everything is the way it is… a reason behind the mess.

    Liked by 1 person

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