The Question My Psychiatrist Didn’t Ask Me When He Diagnosed Me With OCD

I have battled obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) for as long as I can remember, but for many years I kept my struggle hidden. From a young age, my intrusive thoughts were strange and uncontrollable. Because my 10-year-old self thought having OCD just meant being really clean, I didn’t know what was causing these thoughts. I thought I was evil, that I was going to hell and that I just needed to try harder to control my thoughts. I hated myself because I didn’t understand what was wrong with me.

I was 16 when I stumbled upon a list of symptoms of “pure O” OCD on the internet. One of the common obsessions listed was blasphemous intrusive thoughts. Shock and extreme relief rushed through me as I read the descriptions of obsessions I’d been struggling with in silence for years.

Now there was a reason for my thoughts. They were not an indication I was a bad person or that I had failed in some area. They were simply a symptom of OCD. They still scared –and continue to scare – me, but at least now there was a name for the glitch in my brain.

I had my first appointment with a psychiatrist a few weeks ago. As I sat in his office, my body felt like it was on fire. My heart pounded in my throat, my fingers twisted in my lap and tears triggered by panic waited just behind my eyes. Telling a man I had only met five minutes ago about the thoughts I couldn’t control, the thoughts I had lived with for the majority of the past 17 years, was beyond scary for me. He asked me questions about how long I’d been dealing with my anxiety, what my obsessions were, if I had images pop into my head (intrusive thoughts) and if I had to perform certain actions to make the thoughts stop (compulsions). He seemed to ask everything except the one question I was expecting:

“Do you like to be organized?”

He did not ask me about the state of my room. He did not ask if my closet was color-coded. He did not ask if my pencils were arranged perfectly on my desk and if all my notebooks matched.

I couldn’t believe it.

Ten-year old me would probably have been shocked to hear I have OCD, because 10-year-old me was pretty sure you had to have a clean room to have OCD. Ten-year-old me would probably spend the rest of the day incessantly asking my parents if it was really true, if there was something really wrong with me — all the while not realizing that constantly asking for reassurance can be a compulsion of OCD. When 10-year-old me finally understood what OCD actually meant, she would be beyond relieved to hear her thoughts didn’t make her disgusting or evil.

Unfortunately, 10-year-old me didn’t get to hear this. She only heard the term OCD thrown around as a joke, so she spent the next six years believing she was worthless.

A lot of people don’t understand OCD comes in many forms. OCD can be washing your hands a hundred times a day, it can be constantly asking for reassurance, it can be silently praying in an effort to cancel out intrusive thoughts. And yes, some of those things can involve organization or cleanliness – but definitely not always.

Using OCD as a synonym for clean, anal or organized might seem harmless, but it is not. It keeps people from truly understanding the severity of the disorder and it keeps people like me from realizing what’s going on in their brain. If the misconception that OCD is a funny quirk hadn’t been planted in my mind as a young child, I might not have been so afraid of my thoughts.

Please, stop staying you’re “sooo OCD” just because your house is clean. It would be nice if it were that simple. But trust me, it’s not.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

woman at the beach with her arms out watching the sunrise

When I Decided ‘Enough Was Enough’ in My Battle With OCD

In June of 2016, I decided I’d finally had enough. While I had been seeing a great therapist, unfortunately she hadn’t been enough to take down the monster of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This disease needed an army to stop it from plaguing my mind. This is why I entered an intensive week-long program called exposure [...]
girl in blue meadow dress

How to Come Out to Your Loved Ones About the Taboo Parts of OCD

Those of us with OCD are often faced with the seemingly impossible task of telling loved ones we might, for example, have thoughts of harming them or others. We might fear contaminating our husband or wife, or perhaps abusing our newborn baby. While these thoughts are indeed intrusive thoughts and fears – meaning we would [...]
silhouette of a mysterious girl on blue background

The Most Important People to Reach During OCD Awareness Week

It’s OCD Awareness Week. I wondered what I could say in this post that would be new or unique, yet still meaningful. I didn’t want to rehash old trains of thought or repeat myself yet again, so I started to think about what OCD awareness meant to me. What should it mean? Obviously, those of us who [...]
OCD Awareness Week poster

An OCD Cheat Sheet for OCD Awareness Week

This week is OCD Awareness Week! As someone who has lived with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) almost my entire life, I wanted to write a quick fact sheet about the disorder, and hopefully, do my part to increase awareness. If you have just two minutes to spare, continue reading to learn more about what OCD [...]