4 Things No One Tells You About Having OCD

We live in the Age of Awkward. It's hip to be square, cool to be uncool, and sexy to be nerdy (and above all, quirky). And there's no better way to assert your individuality and weirdness than branding yourself "so OCD" about something.


Except that OCD isn't a quirk or a set of tendencies or a BuzzFeed list; it's an incapacitating, isolating disease that makes you afraid of your own mind. Here's what it's really like to have OCD.

#4. You Believe You're a Terrible Person

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Imagine the feeling of having a song stuck in your head. Now imagine that instead of "It's Raining Men," it's the thought of murdering your best friend. In graphic detail. Over and over again. You're not mad at your best friend, and you've never done anything violent, but it won't stop playing.

You probably feel kind of shitty just reading that. But that's what the "obsessive" part of OCD is like: intrusive, unwanted, disturbing thoughts that won't go away. No one seems to know what causes them, although it might be miscommunication between parts of the brain or something faulty in its error detection circuit.

"Ohhhh, you don't want to feel debilitating helplessness. My bad."

The thoughts aren't always about you doing bad things, but they're never pleasant. Most obsessions are based on deep fears -- "What if I or someone I love gets sick?" -- or basically the worst things one can think of, like blasphemy, racism, suicide, murder, rape, contamination, animal abuse, cannibalism, torture ...

Vintage Books
"Excuse me, I have to go rape some video murders."

People with OCD who have thoughts of doing something violent never actually act on these thoughts, and those who dread bad things happening almost never see those things happen. But while most people can shake off a weird thought, when you have OCD, it sticks in your mind. Inevitably, you think, "Why do I keep thinking about these things? Is it because they'll happen? Do I want them to happen?"

The answer's no, you don't. But you'll always fear you do.

#3. You're Probably Not a Neat Freak

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Some of you might remember the show Monk, about a private eye whose OCD makes him a brilliant detective. When I watched it, I felt a little like how my gay friends felt about Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: It was nice to see us being represented as useful, but did it have to be so stereotypical?

Despite what Monk or the company Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics might have you think, OCD doesn't necessarily mean you're neat and particular. Those of you into freak shows (sorry, reality shows): Have you ever seen that show Hoarders? Hoarding is often a symptom of OCD. Compulsions vary. Sometimes they correspond to fears, like washing your hands because you're scared of contamination. Sometimes there's no real logic behind them, like when you have to jump over a line on the floor because otherwise everybody you know will die horribly and it will be all your fault.

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Or you keep counting because you don't want to lose control and start sucking blood.

Many don't have physical compulsions at all, instead suffering from "purely obsessional" OCD, where all they have are obsessions. And some people with diagnosed OCD even obsessively doubt the fact that they have OCD. How's that for a mindfuck?

OCD, at heart, is an anxiety disorder. Yet movie and TV characters with OCD are often shown washing their hands or straightening things, never suffering from overbearing anxiety. This is probably because writing is hard and it's easier to show someone cleaning than to show someone going through extreme mental anguish.

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Unless you're Darren Aronofsky. Then "extreme mental anguish" is why they pay you.

There have been some more true-to-life accounts in the media lately: Maria Bamford talks about OCD in her standup act, and the depiction on Girls was actually pretty accurate. But the majority is still way off.

This is why I can be found staying up late writing to Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics suggesting that, while they're at it, they should start selling their makeup in insulin syringes and call it "Diabetic Cosmetics."

This could be their "Jaundice" line!

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Mara Wilson

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