Have you ever felt stuck on a thought inside your head? Have you ever ruminated, rehashing the same thing over and over and then having to perform a ritual of some sort to break the cycle just to get relief to stop the anxiety? This is what it can feel like for people who struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
OCD, short for obsessive-compulsive disorder, is a common mental health and anxiety disorder that can affect people of all ages, genders, races and backgrounds. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, OCD is something that affects over 2.2 million people everyday.
Helpguide explains that OCD causes the brain to feel stuck on a specific thought or compulsion and gives an example of it being like a needle getting stuck on an old record, just repeating itself over and over again.
I worried a lot as a child. I went to therapy weekly to try to find strategies to cope with anxiety, but mine was not just anxiety.
It was not until my sister pointed out that what I was doing was not normal that I realized I needed help. It was right before bedtime and I remember being tired and ready to go to bed but instead of doing that, I was stuck in the doorway, flicking the light switch on and off, over and over again, until I felt that it was all right to stop. My sister, whom I shared a room with, was getting annoyed that I kept flashing the lights on and off and asked me to stop but I just could not do it.
I remember explaining to her that I was almost done and begging her to give me more time to finish. I just had to do it a few more times before I went to bed and then it would be over with. I just could not understand why people could not grasp this concept.
I explained to her as best as I could that I was not doing these actions on purpose just to annoy her but that they were just things I had to do. I could not even give a reason as to why I felt compelled to do these strange things, as many were illogical, but I knew that if I did not finish or do things a certain way that I would have really bad anxiety.
I did not know that my behavior was strange or out of the ordinary because I was still young at the time and I had been doing different compulsions for as long as I could remember. I did not know any better, but I did know that if I did not complete these “rituals” that I would not feel good.
It was not until after talking with my mother and telling her all the different rituals that I did, that she realized I had OCD. It was a tough pill to swallow at first, but it explained so much about the daily struggles I was having. It also was somewhat of a relief to know what it was and that lots of other people have it and that I was not alone or crazy. With therapy, I was eventually able to work through it and understand it better. It was a very long process of trial and error and still continues to be a big part in my life to this day.
OCD can come in many different forms and it is not the same for everybody. Some people may only have one type while others, such as myself, may have several types. According to the International OCD Foundation, everybody may have obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors from time to time in their lives, but this does not mean that everyone has OCD. The site explains that in order to have a diagnosis, the cycle for the obsessions and compulsions must be severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily life and activities.
My OCD is not as big as it once was but it will always be something that I will struggle with for the rest of my life. This account only skims the surface of my story. Some days are better than others but at the end of the day, your disorder does not define you. My advice for people that are also struggling with OCD, or another mental illness, is to remember that you are not alone and that there is help.
Having OCD has changed the way I think, both literally and figuratively. My experience with this disorder has helped shape my views and beliefs about people and the world and it has helped me become the person that I am today.
To quote John Watson, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”