We need to stop saying ‘I’m so OCD’

We need to stop saying Im so OCD

By Hannah Simon, Staff Reporter

OCD. Your teacher uses it to explain why their to-do-list is color coordinated. A friend justifies why they cannot work while their room is messy. Your sister explains why she keeps adjusting her hairstyle. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)  is not an adjective, and it needs to stop being utilized as such.

OCD is characterized by obsessions, compulsions and intrusive thoughts. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “obsessions are repetitive and persistent thoughts (e.g., of contamination), images (e.g., of violent or horrific scenes), or urges.” The obsessions are intrusive, often disturbing, unwanted thoughts, and they can create considerable mental discomfort. In response to the anxiety-inducing thoughts or urges, individuals will either suppress the obsessions or perform compulsions for relief.

Misunderstandings of what constitutes OCD have resulted in large scale misdiagnosis and stigmatization of those who suffer from the disorder. The phrase ‘I’m so OCD’ has slipped its way into American jargon, carelessly dropped by non-OCD sufferers when referring to being overly tidy, meticulous about something, or obsessed with any number of things. 

Being a neat freak or enjoying organizing your socks does not distinguish a person as OCD. The transition of an abbreviation for a medically diagnosable anxiety disorder to an irreverent comment to describe harmless quirks is due to the lack of inaccurate portrayals of OCD in the media, especially in Hollywood.

On her popular YouTube series ‘KHLO-C-D’, celebrity Khloe Kardashian referred to OCD as a blessing, calling it the “method to my magic”. Kardashian, who once on her TV series ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ saw a therapist over her OCD and anxiety after her mother’s concern, releases content such as “How I Organize My Sunglasses,” “You Won’t Believe What I’m Organizing Now” and “Not to Brag, But My Baking Cabinet is #Goals.” Troubling though, is not her ostentatious organization strategies, yet how she in-complacently throws around the term OCD. American culture has suppressed the significance and relevance of OCD, inadvertently restricting viewers from hearing an accurate description of the disorder.

Too often the media presents oversimplified versions of OCD. The rhetoric that OCD is purely synonymous with overly tidiness and meticulous organization advertises a trivialized version of OCD which presents a one-size-fits-all definition. While for some, OCD may be constant hand washing or excessive household cleaning, this generalization is instrumental in propagating minimizing statements, burdening patients with the task of dispelling these myths. Using the term nonchalantly reduces its seriousness and further removes society from understanding it. 

Noting that early treatment can ease symptoms, misrepresentation defers diagnosis and treatment process as patients are routinely seen as odd characters who frequently take up the OCD role for comedic relief. In this way, stigma can prevent those with OCD from seeking help. The possibility of a diagnosis becomes more obscure when a patient’s symptoms do not match those that are so commonly shown on screen.

Destigmatizing mental health begins with reframing how we use diagnoses in our vernacular: rather than cheapening a psychiatric term, stepping away from the use of OCD in everyday conversation can curb the negative phenomenon of misrepresentation, bringing OCD patients the respect they deserve. OCD should not be dressed up as the hero in the battle against messiness; if anything it is the devil in disguise. 


Hannah can be reached at [email protected]