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Dr. Patrick McGrath’s Blog

You Actually Do Not Want to Be “a Little Ocd” at This Time

    Wishing to have a mental health problem is not the best way to manage your life.

    I heard a news anchor state: “We should all have a little OCD at this time in our life.”

    This is an absolutely ridiculous statement.

    If the world were a really happy place, we would never wish for a little depression on the population. If people were slowing down, we would never wish for hypomanic episodes.

    Why would a little OCD be OK?

    OCD is misunderstood, and it has been the butt of jokes and the plot of “funny” movies and TV shows. But it is not funny for people who have OCD. Further, statistics show that the kind of OCD that is often referred to when we wish we had, “a little OCD” is not the main presentation of OCD.

    What are you wishing for when you make such a statement? You would be wishing for your most disturbing thoughts, blasphemous images, or darkest urges to repeat themselves over and over. People do not clean and straighten because they desire an organized home. They have these compulsions because they believe that a catastrophe could occur if they do not do them. They think that doing these activities will, just for a moment, give them relief from a mental health disorder that the World Health Organization has called one of the top ten most disabling conditions.

    Having a little OCD would mean spending at least an hour of your day in the greatest worry that you have ever experienced in your life, and you would continue to have that worry every day for decades. One of my patients has suffered OCD for 70 years; she finally decided to get treatment because she wanted to enjoy her remaining years of life.

    OCD does not make you a better cleaner or a better organizer. Nicknamed “The Doubting Disorder,” OCD leads you to doubt whether you have cleaned enough; you continue to do so until your hands bleed from excessive use of soap, sanitizer, bleach, ammonia, and other chemicals that should never touch the skin. OCD does not care if your skin gets burned or cracked; OCD just cares that it was sufficiently satisfied with your cleaning ritual. In fact, OCD will look at the condition of your hands the next time you to wash them, making you wash them even more. OCD now sees that germs have an easier way to get in; more cleaning is the only solution.

    Or, you could be plagued with the notion that you could be spreading the COVID-19 virus to other people, and you would spend hours checking in on people who you might have come in contact with to see if anything has happened to them, trying to constantly reassure your OCD that you are not actually a murderer for giving the virus to someone else.

    No one wants this disorder, not even people with this disorder, not even a little bit.

    Let’s not belittle the OCD community. Let’s support each other.

    Be safe, stay safe, and we can all do that without being a little OCD.