Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is widely heard of and spoken about. Yet it is also one of the most misunderstood disorders at the same time. So many people jokingly describe moments of fussiness and particularity as “OCD moments.” There has even been a television show, Monk, which is about a detective with excessive fears of germs and anything which is not 100 percent perfect. But OCD in real life is slightly different from those stereotypes.
I myself was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a sixteen-year-old. Many people I come across get somewhat excited and fascinated by this news, and say that it’s unbelievable to have met a real person who has OCD. Some of the stereotypical characteristics are indeed true for me, and a fair few people I’ve met have been thoroughly excited about the novelty of seeing them in a real person. However, I also have characteristics that contradict the stereotypes so much that some are surprised that I was even given a diagnosis. The similarities and differences of the OCD stereotypes pretty much weigh each other out. I will mention them all briefly in this blog and will begin by describing the similarities.
In my case, I’m definitely obsessed about bacteria in food and about possibilities of food poisoning. Whenever something in the house passes the expiry date or (even worse) spoils, I experience a great deal of anxiety. There was once a time when I found a bag of sausages (which I never eat myself, spoiled or fresh) on the kitchen bench. We were told that they were extremely bad and would be fed to the dogs. The scariest thing was that the preservatives had disguised the fact that they were indeed bad. I couldn't sleep knowing that they were in the house. Something else which scares me about food is whenever it’s homemade or prepared in a kitchen that looks dirty or old (as I fear that the fridge and stove would be incapable of preventing and killing all the food bacteria). This was the main reason why I didn't like school camps very much.
Moving on to the differences from the stereotypes, I (and most other people with OCD) am not fussy about tidiness, in comparison to the general population anyhow. In my case, I’m so busy keeping my anxiety in check, that I am rarely bothered about the environment outside of me. The only time a person with OCD will (excessively) care about neatness and cleanliness is if they feel that their own health and safety are at risk. Otherwise, they’ll care no more (and no less) than the general population would do.
There are indeed people who are obsessed with tidiness, neatness, and cleanliness to a debilitating level. That’s why there’s another branch of OCD, which is called Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, and they’re related to each other yet are not the same condition. I often like to think of OCPD as extreme perfectionism and OCD as extreme pessimism, as all of our compulsions come from us thinking the worst is happening or will come.