"That’s so OCD."
This comment, often traded among high school girls, usually regards someone’s organizational skills: properly spaced tab dividers, arrays of multicolored pens, or an especially neat locker.
If I google “celebrities with OCD,” I discover that I share my disorder with Cameron Diaz, Howard Stern, and Jesse Eisenberg. These interviews mention little more than minor compulsions. (Cameron Diaz is rumored to open doorknobs with her elbows; Howard Stern taps his car radio dial for a certain length of time before switching it on.)
Compulsive tics steal most of the limelight when it comes to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Comparatively less attention, meanwhile, is given to the obsessive thoughts that characterize the other half of OCD. The content of these obsessions can range from pedophilia to homicide to sexual identity crises; compulsions “atoning for” the thoughts sometimes follow. For example: A woman, distraught by visions of murdering her child, wakes up several times in the night to check on her daughter.
In discussions about OCD with family and friends, I’ve observed that it is easier for others to adjust to compulsions they can see rather than obsessions they can’t. It is easier for them to understand repetitive hand-washing than, say, the fear of murdering your parents. Abstract pamphlet language—”recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses or images”—doesn’t necessarily register in a nonsufferer’s mind as graphic or violent.
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