Stop saying you’ve got OCD if you’re just tidy

Constant anxiety and fear is not the same as just being tidy

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You come downstairs and you hear your housemates moaning about the dirty dishes saying that they can’t cope because they’re “soooooo OCD” and when you knock something over in the living room – once again – they tell you to pick it up because they’re “soooooo OCD”. But you see, there’s so much more to OCD than wanting your house to be tidy.

It’s not a term that can be thrown around so casually.

Personally, I’ve known from an early age that I suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and after proper diagnosis, I’ve slowly learned to live with it. For a while, I thought perhaps it was normal to have anxiety and fear-inducing thoughts and to feel the urge to tap my fingers on the table exactly 10 times to get rid of those bad thoughts. I’ve always had a strict routine and knew exactly how I needed things to be organised or else I would have trouble sleeping at night.

OCD can be difficult to spot. Perhaps you’re just a very organised person who likes routines or perhaps it’s something more than that. The Tab spoke to phobias and anxiety expert Christopher Paul Jones about how to differentiate between the two, and what you can do if you suffer from OCD.

OCD symptoms come in diverse forms, as Christopher describes, “Psychological labels such as OCD can often cover different behaviours… Of course, some people say they have OCD when really they just mean they like a clean house.”

What are the effects on a person who actually has OCD?

Having OCD is often associated with anxiety, Christopher explains what it can feel like to live with the condition: “OCD type behaviours can be very debilitating and cause constant anxiety with the fear that if something isn’t done in a particular order, there will be serious consequences. When you can start to notice the triggers, that is the first step to working through it.”

Is there anything that causes OCD or worsens it?

Although each person can experience different triggers that can exacerbate their ritualistic behaviours, Christopher believes a lack of control to be the main issue: “lack of control is a big trigger for OCD and the less control somebody has in their current situation, the more these types of behaviours can worsen.”

What can you do if you suffer from OCD?

Obsessive organisation is often associated with extreme OCD; however, according to Christopher, organisation can also be a step towards taking control of the disorder: “OCD often comes about when your life seems out of control and this is why ritualistic behaviours come about. The first step to tackling this is to identify the situation in your life that makes you feel out of control or unsafe by making a list. Cross out anything that is not in your direct power to influence, for example, climate change. For the remaining situations, ask yourself what you would need to do differently in order to change how you feel about them. This way you will start feeling more empowered in your life and the OCD behaviours will usually lessen.”

I’ve struggled with OCD for most of my life and at times it has been difficult but with patience and help, it’s become so much easier. If you have been affected by these issues, the first step is to seek help and talk about it.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised, help can be found on the Cardiff Students Union Mental health website.