Mental Illness: Describing My OCD

OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – everyone throws the term around without regard to what it really means. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts and behaviors that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” Cleaning your room once a week doesn’t mean you “are OCD.” Keeping an organized binder doesn’t make you “OCD.” OCD is not a term to throw around when you are feeling organized.

Many people struggle with “extreme” ends of the disorder, like washing their hands many, many times a day to the point where the skin becomes raw and inflamed. Other people, like myself, may not even realize that their behaviors are out of the ordinary unless it is pointed out to them. One day, I was talking with my friends as we walked to class, and I was counting in my head in threes, timing the counting with my steps, as I did regularly. I had zoned out to what they were talking about to focus on my counting, making sure to end on the “right” (what I felt was the right) number of set of three. For example, I may have counted to three 21 times. I was aware that someone had called my name, but I had to finish on the “right” multiple of three. Once I felt satisfied, I re-entered the conversation, “Sorry, it’s kind of hard to count and listen at the same time, you know?” That earned some strange looks. It turned out, I was the only one out of my group of friends to do this. Now, I just seemed like a weirdo to my friends; fantastic.

I didn’t know why I was counting the way I was; sometimes I just felt this strange, maddening feeling of tight anxiousness in my stomach and so I counted in threes to multiples of threes. There wasn’t any particular reason why I counted that way, I just did. Years later, and I do recognize this behavior as compulsive counting, a form of OCD. I try not to make it obvious when I feel the need to count, as I still do not want to feel like I am some “weird” person for a behavior that I have little control over.




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