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:
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.
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!