A Little Bit OCD?

May 15th 2018

There’s been a lot of debate about the seemingly harmless phrase, “a little bit OCD”. It’s used on TV, in interviews and even for celebrity campaigns. It’s seen as a bit of fun or a way of teasing an overly tidy person.

However, this idea can cause a lot of upset to people who are struggling with debilitating OCD. It belittles their feelings and turns their illness into a punch line. But is it really insulting or are us OCDers just being oversensitive?

When I was younger, OCD completely ground my life to a halt. I hurt a lot people I loved, missed out on some amazing opportunities and almost lost my life to it. So I in no way take it lightly. I was also one of the people who used to say I had a little bit of OCD.

From the age of seven there were so many things I had to do just so: putting my socks on, making my bed, getting washed and dressed etc. If they weren’t done in exactly the same, ritualistic way it would cause me unimaginable stress. Looking back, I can see this was the beginning of the more extreme behaviors that took over in my teens. But at the time it seemed like a small problem, which overall didn’t have a big impact on my life. So if ever I was asked about my strange behavior, I’d joke that it was just one my “OCD things”. I never for a second thought I actually had OCD.

But over the next few years things progressed until I was sat on my bathroom floor, unable to move because the floor around me was contaminated. I had to face the fact I had a serious mental illness and had done for a long time.

During my recovery I kept obsessing over when exactly my problem went from being a nuisance to an illness. I thought if I could pinpoint the exact moment, it would help me get better. I examined my behaviours and spent hours comparing them to other peoples.

My roommate, for example, is paranoid about keeping her bedroom door shut. She’s worried if it’s left open her room will get cold and she won’t be able to sleep. She’ll even go back and check it several times throughout the day. She often jokes that it’s a bit OCD. The difference is, if her door is left open, she calmly closes it, puts the heating on and gets on with her day. She doesn’t experience overwhelming panic or a desperate need to carry out rituals which can last for hours and still don’t make things any better. That was the difference between her and me.

Looking back I don’t believe I ever had a little bit of OCD. My symptoms may have been milder but I still met all the criteria to be diagnosed with a mental illness and always knew something wasn’t quite right. So in some ways, I wasn’t right or wrong when I’d described myself as having a little bit of OCD.

Mental health has a lot of grey areas and there is no definitive answer when it comes to whether or not this phrase is insulting because we never know what’s going on in a person’s life. Yes, there will always be people who say the phrase too casually or with malicious intent. But there may also be people terrified they have a serious problem. Who can’t admit it to themselves so they brush it off as I did.

Whatever the reason, the best thing we can do is to speak openly about OCD to broaden people’s understanding and make it a subject people can discuss with ease, awareness and kindness.

  • Note: You must be logged in to post a comment.