Why Saying “I’m So OCD” is Problematic

People often joke about this mental illness without understanding what it really is.


Dylan Stern

Although it’s often used as a joke, OCD is a serious disorder that impacts many people’s lives.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so OCD!” 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a relative, friend, or stranger say these words after color coding their notes, organizing a packet of Skittles by color, or straightening up papers on their desk. It is almost as frustrating to hear other people throw around the acronym for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder without thinking about it as it is experiencing true OCD every day.

While I can’t confirm that these are not symptoms of others’ OCD, the word often feels to be used too casually and nonchalantly for my comfort because I actually have OCD.

We are all guilty of overusing mental health terms to define the way we are feeling. However, I think OCD gets overused so often because many people don’t know what it really means. It is described as “unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to compulsive behavior.”

Many people thrive in a routine, but if your routine starts to control or negatively impact your day-to-day life, it’s likely OCD. These types of behaviors are usually linked to fear and anxiety. Whether it is a fear of germs, losing control or personal items, or not being prepared for a potential situation, these kinds of thoughts can control a person’s actions. 

Anxiety comes into play if a person does not fulfill one of their compulsions or obsessions. This person will fixate on what they did not do and convince themselves something bad will happen to them or a loved one. For instance, there are many behaviors I had that I didn’t notice until someone else pointed it out. I fold my gum wrappers into little, tin foil rectangles, and put them in my back pocket in case I need to spit out my gum and there is no trash can. Considering I was always at school or my house, it was pretty irrational to think I’d never have a trash can at my disposal.

Every day, I would pack baby carrots and hummus in my lunch, and every day, I would leave one carrot in my lunch box out of fear it would poison me. Another obsession I have is that I change the sheets on my bed every Sunday, and I have done this for the last three years. The one time I didn’t have matching sheets, I nearly cried and I was actually afraid to sleep in my own bed. 

Rationally, I know nothing will happen to me if I don’t fold my gum wrappers, if I eat all the carrots in my lunch, or if I sleep with mismatched sheets, but the irrational anxiety-filled part of my brain convinces me otherwise.

Remember to think twice before using a mental illness term in your everyday conversations. You never know what others are experiencing or have experienced due to mental health issues