I’m a mother of three children who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I was diagnosed with OCD in college, and not because I couldn’t stand to have my notebooks unorganized, but because I was paralyzed by irrational fears that were taking over my thought space, my time, and my self-confidence. I’m no counselor, but after suffering with OCD for over 20 years, I can assure you, the phrase, “I’m so OCD,” is used with all the wrong information.
Most people who say this phrase think the disorder is characterized by wanting picture frames straight on the wall or needing a house that’s always kept neat. There are people who do suffer from OCD who also want things to be kept constantly organized, but usually, that desire is rooted in a fear that something bad will happen if they don’t follow the what-if based instructions they are getting from inside their minds.
It’s not just a preference. It’s a compulsion.
If you aren’t tortured by your brain because of your thoughts, then you likely don’t have OCD.
OCD is called “the doubting disease” because the brain becomes obsessed with figuring out the uncertainties that often can never be figured out. There are slews of specific fear categories that present themselves, appearing as bizarre thought bombs or ideas that horrify the thinker and are based solely on the what-if.
What if I want to murder my newborn baby? What if I didn’t see a person on the road and hit them without knowing it? What if I touch this door handle and get a disease that will kill me? What if I think this angry phrase and my whole family gets killed because of my single thought? What if I don’t check my baby sleeping and she dies because I was too selfish to get up out of bed? What if I contaminated my whole grocery cart by putting raw meat next to other things?
Add to these random thoughts unwanted images and feelings, and you get the recipe for a sweat-filled panic attack.
Sure, everyone thinks extreme things sometimes. We all have brains that create strange scenarios or weird thoughts, but most people can quickly dispose of them. When OCD is in the picture, these intrusive, scary, and radically unsound thoughts (obsessions) get stuck on a loop, causing a person like myself to perform actions (compulsions) to offset the anxiety.
Unfortunately, over time these compulsions become the only way to relieve the anxiety, but the relief is temporary at best. The cycles continue as new outrageous thoughts take root in the soil of reasonable thinking. Eventually, all that’s left is a mind full of possible scary truths that never fully go away, no matter how obedient one is to the demand for corrective action.
It’s a mental prison and uncertainty is the warden.
As a mom, it can be hard to know what’s my mom intuition and what’s my OCD causing me to be afraid and alarmed. It is often a guessing game for me, and I must listen to those around me even when I feel certain my fears are legitimate because they always feel legitimate.
OCD is far more serious a condition than people often think, and it’s important to know how the condition looks from the outside. Sadly, OCD is not just about being Type A but is a mental struggle that comes in all shapes and sizes, each case unique.
The types of fears people with OCD experience aren’t openly shared because these fears aren’t the prettiest or tidiest. These fears are all too often soaked in shame and aren’t worn proudly, but there is hope.
OCD isn’t trendy in the way many think it is, but a treatable disease worth having a chat about.
Many suffer silently, performing compulsions until their lives become an ocean of required behaviors provoked by fear alone. Keep your eyes peeled and be a willing participant in a conversation where maybe you tell someone or yourself, that there is much hope, even when OCD says there isn’t.
OCD isn’t an adjective. It’s not a cool personality trait or hopeless label.
It’s a disordered way of thinking because of a brain that’s wired differently.
Most importantly, it can be conquered. There is help.
If you love someone who struggles with anxious thoughts like these or if you are dealing with these sorts of fears yourself, know that there are counselors who know how to direct change for these horrid cycles and can recommend medications. You are not alone in your struggle! There is light at the end of the tunnel, and there is a God who loves you dearly.