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OCD is more complex than perfectionist stereotypes

OCD is more complex than perfectionist stereotypes

OCD is more complex than perfectionist stereotypes
December 01
12:00 2022

Content warning: The following story contains language related to mental illness that may be harmful to some audiences.

The quote, “I am so OCD,” is very frequently thrown around. It is mentioned whenever an individual is extremely organized or particular about a task. When I was younger, my mom would observe how I arranged my workspace and personal belongings and say, “You are so OCD,” which we routinely joked about and I took as a light-hearted comment.

Until I was diagnosed by my psychiatrist with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, my mannerisms were interpreted as merely perfectionist behaviors, which are commonly confused with symptoms of OCD.

What distinguishes perfectionism from OCD is the anxiety produced by repetitive, undesirable compulsions or thoughts. Individuals who have perfectionist tendencies are driven by the satisfaction of being rewarded or by feeling in control of their lifestyles. Many with OCD are motivated to complete rituals out of fear of the consequences of not completing a task or sequence to reduce their anxiety.

Cultural stereotypes and social media tend to taint the authenticity of mental disorders, including OCD. When scrolling through mental health TikTok, content creators portray their symptoms to be seemingly harmless or ordinary, but having structure and organizing objects a certain way does not mean you have OCD.

Instead, viewers notice they have a singular symptom of a mental illness and immediately assume they have the disorder. Peculiarly enough, I discovered various aspects of my lifestyle aligned with symptoms of OCD through TikTok

Everyone desires to be distinct, flaunting mental illnesses in every direction without considering the consequences. Because of this, I refused to acknowledge the potential of having another mental illness, fearing I was seeking attention or overthinking. The reality of having OCD is overshadowed by the glamorization of mental disorders on social media, generating inaccurate assumptions and downplaying the severity of having a mental illness. 

For instance, having an established regimen is normal. However, it is another scenario to have a mental breakdown because your sibling took a shower at 6:29 a.m. and you were supposed to be in the bathroom at 6:30 a.m. to do your makeup. Such a small and benign thing leads to unwanted thoughts as you ponder the consequences: since your sibling is in the bathroom, you will be late, and because you will be late, everyone will despise you, and because everyone will despise you, you will be homeless and the list of outcomes proceeds infinitely.

While the scenario sounds laughable to the average person, depending on how severe the diagnosis is, the reality is that an individual with OCD tackles those conflicts daily. I have experienced this exact situation on numerous occasions.

Sometimes, I provide an obscure explanation of the aftermath if I am unwilling to gamble the unpredictability of my circumstances. I have to lock my door precisely three times, have my phone above 40 percent, avoid the number seven, wipe outdoor benches before sitting on them, consistently double-check and rewrite certain words until they seem normal, not allow items to touch my floor and rearrange my workspace because it does not look correct. I cannot pinpoint the distinct reason for these behaviors. Even though I have gotten better at managing my compulsions, intrusive thoughts continuously invade my headspace and make coping with OCD suffocating.

While mental health awareness is fantastic, influencers with mental illnesses are unintentionally damaging their vulnerable, younger audiences because their viewers either abruptly display symptoms or inaccurately diagnose themselves. Every social media platform transitioned from exhibiting picture-perfect lifestyles to standing out by acquiring mental illnesses.

As a result, medical professionals have seen an increase in mental disorders. Additionally, most adolescents on social media are convinced having mental illnesses makes a person more appealing and noteworthy.

The internet can help identify mental disorders, however, visiting a medical professional would be the most beneficial to get an accurate diagnosis. Mental illnesses should not be considered a personality trait, a simplified quirk to parade on social media to be perceived as unique or relatable. Especially with the extremity of OCD, distorted stereotypes like the quote mentioned earlier are destructive to the OCD community, obligating all sufferers alike to doubt the severity of their diagnosis.

Featured Illustration by Allie Garza

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Ally Brown

Ally Brown

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