depressed woman lying on side on bed overhead view

My OCD Doesn't Affect Me the Way You Might Think

Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.

The clock on my television reads 8:49 a.m. I occasionally get up this early when it’s not a work day. Today it is because I am on a mission that would take most people a couple of hours tops. The clock changes to 8:50. That’s a good time. For as a long as I can remember, I have needed to begin tasks, any tasks, on time intervals my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) brain deems “right” or “good.” Oh, it’s 8:51, and the next good time won’t be until nine sharp. And so it begins.

I keep my ashtray, cigarettes and eyeglasses in the same area on my coffee table. My bare feet are crossed and my legs are stretched out on the table’s soft surface. Contrary to popular belief, a person who has OCD is capable of not being preoccupied with germs or color-coordinating their dishes. I am a prime example. I have a tidy house; maybe even an organized and clean house to some visitors. But let me tell you, my OCD is not preoccupied with germs or neatness. It thrives on the multitude of other obsessions and compulsions I complete and think about on a minute by minute basis. These range from ordering, to checking, to placing, to repeating, to patterning and sometimes intrusive thoughts. My favorite television show is playing in the background as I type. It soothes me, maintains me and calms me. I have seen every episode over 30 times easily. What can I say? I’ll take predictability anywhere I can get it. It’s light and easy watching, like one of those sound machines that play ocean waves crashing against the shore.

My dog snoozes next to me and I check whether her tiny chest is moving up and down. I am scared for her all of the time. I love her more than anything and I care for her very thoughtfully but I am always filled with worry. There is a laundry basket next to my right leg but I will not leave it unattended. Every slit and fold in the hard plastic scream to me that an accident is waiting to happen. I picture her tiny leg getting caught and me not being there to save her. I look at her innocent face and think, I am an awful person because she needs a bath. Despite the truth, I always fear I am a bad mom to my dog. The guilt is palpable.

It’s 9:01. I guess getting the laundry from the dryer will have to wait again. This continues for hours and hours in an endless wait for my brain to give me the go-ahead. I am waiting for some miracle to come from the parting clouds and give me a sign I can do the next task without fear. I imagine my OCD saying, “Amy, empty the dryer now! It’s safe! Run! Run!” The process of cleaning my condo began yesterday at 5 p.m. Once a task begins, I cannot disrupt the process. I can’t say how many more hours it will take, but I know that, in order to leave my home, it will all have to be done properly in the eyes of my OCD. My brain has two levels of success — things not done and things done 100 percent. It is never in-between. There is no pause button other than the cigarette breaks I take to daydream, free from my obsessions. I tell myself “This is so ridiculous” as my fingers search for my lighter.

I look to my balcony and am sharply reminded of my screen door that broke last night. I picture it blowing off the balcony, over the railing and falling on some poor passerby’s head. How would I live with myself? I attach it enough to ensure it will withstand the strongest of winds. I sit back down. I go to change the volume and feel proud of my decision to fight my compulsion. You see, for over two decades, I could not move down on numbers. If I didn’t strictly move upwards something terrible would happen. For example, if I was on channel 27 and needed to go to channel 26, I would click, click, click. I would go down to 26, then down to 25 and then up to 26. Voila! Welcome to my life. Fortunately, this is one of the few compulsions I have learned to control through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The second is no longer arranging my shampoo bottles around the ledge until it “feels right.” I just wish I could stop setting five alarms every night.

I wonder if my psychologist realizes I follow the exact same routine every time I go to an appointment. These are what I refer to as my quirks. In reality, it is my OCD. When I say routine, I mean my route, lane changes, parking spot, cigarette, phone adjustments, wallet, lipstick and check check check. Keys, interior lights off, headlights off, purse, keys, interior one more time and headlights one more time. When I walk away, I look back once more at lights and once more in purse for keys. This is because I never trust myself. Scratch that — I don’t trust what my OCD tells my brain. It tells me I imagined checking and if I don’t check just once more then it will result in catastrophe.

Driving is challenging as my irrational fears have complete control over me when I am behind the wheel. I constantly smoke to fuel the effort it takes me to do a mental inventory of every precaution required. Left turns — I could hit a pedestrian in my blind spot by accident. Passing animals that have been hit by traffic — I need to say a mantra or I am an uncaring person. Underground garage — cars, children and pets flying out of nowhere and me hurting them by accident because I’m not driving well enough. Drive thrus — they won’t have what I need or there will be a conflict. Parking — I need to make a mental note of a landmark so I don’t lose my car. Getting from my car to the door is a sprint — something bad happening is always on my heels. Thank the Lord for self-checkouts is all I have to say.

As for this moment, I am safe in my home. I am safe physically but I am in a mental fight of a lifetime. OCD is an absolutely exhausting mental illness. I could go on and on about the negative aspects, but at the end of the day, I think what matters the most to me is connecting to someone out there. I never knew what these symptoms were while I was growing up. I had only heard cavalier comments made about an individual being “so OCD” because they were organized or frequently washed their hands. Yes, those can absolutely be symptoms experienced by many, but society should not chalk up such a complicated illness to misconceptions swirling around our society. This minimizes everything that those living with OCD fight through. When I was diagnosed, everything became clear. I hope my story can help in some small way for anyone out there feeling as if they are losing their minds. You’re not, and you’re not alone. I personally find sharing concerns with those I trust, weekly CBT sessions, a medication plan and open communication with my family doctor are some of the healthy ways I have found to cope. I hope those of us struggling can more easily fight the good fight, trusting we are most definitely not alone.

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Thinkstock photo via tommaso79


A man with numbers around his head. Text reads: habits of people who live with OCD

27 'Habits' of People Who Live With OCD

While we usually talk about how mental illness affects us in ways other people can’t see, with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), this isn’t always the case. Many (but not all) compulsions manifest outwardly, so whether you get up to see if the oven is on, tap three times to feel “just right” or wash your hands until they bleed, it can be hard to hide these behaviors.

So we asked people with OCD in our Mighty community to share with us “habits” they developed because of their OCD. Whether these habits are compulsions themselves, or manifest because of compulsions, they might held you understand what someone with OCD is going through.

Here’s what they told us: 

1. “Putting my money in denominational order, facing same way in my wallet when receiving change at the store. People behind me huff and puff about it but it will give me anxiety if I do not do it right then and there. My boyfriend now does it too but mostly because he has seen my reaction once when he went to pay for something.” — Ann L.

2. “Closing all the tabs on my phone, clearing all notifications and blacking out the screen. If I leave just one open or my screen on, it will continuously stress me out until I fix it. Seeing other people’s phone with just endless notifications and tabs open gives me so much anxiety, but I try not to look at it because it’s not my phone to fix.” — Sabrae M.

3. “Picking my skin. Dermatillomania. In my worst times I will dig/scratch out my freckles (like tonight). On not so bad days I wash my face and look for zits. It’s a compulsion I can’t really control. Even at work I’ve caught myself scratching, rubbing and casually picking. Especially in an uncomfortable situation.” — Chynna R.

4. “I ask indirect questions to people I know will give me the direct answers I’m seeking as validation to comfort/calm my obsessive thoughts/worries. I don’t ask direct questions because I know that will annoy people, especially if I do it repetitively. But if I ask indirect questions, I get the answers/validation I’m seeking, and it seems to annoy people less.” — Kaylie E.

5. “It’s really weird… but I spell. People have asked me time and time again why my thumbs are twitching and why my lips move after I finish talking, but it’s because I’m physically trying to spell out the words I just spoke. Strange, I know.” — Elisabeth A.

6. “I count every thing! Walking up stairs? Counting. In a room? Counting how many paintings, how many knick-knacks, etc. Eating M&Ms? Separating by color and then counting.” — Laura A.

7. “I buy things in multiples of two. Even if I only need one, I will buy two. It’s also about even numbers. Almost like Monk was in his show. I can truly relate to that show.” — Melody A.

8. “I type out words I hear on TV, radio and conversations on my ‘air keyboard’ with my fingers. I try to do it so low-key that no one sees me though… When I used to play the clarinet in school, when I would listen to the radio, I would ‘finger’ the notes I heard on my ‘air clarinet’… if that makes sense.” — Jessica J.

9. “I’ll pretend I’ve forgotten things so I can go back (repeatedly) to check locks/oven. When I was a kid, I vividly remember refusing to put away the dishes because the intrusive thoughts made me believe I was going to do harm with the knives.” — Jen L.

10. “I constantly check for phone, keys, wallet, etc. in my pockets, to the point that when [someone walks by me] it literally looks like I’m ‘[making] triangles’ with my hands. It’s a bit embarrassing and most the time I don’t realize I’m doing it until someone looks or points it out.” — Charli B.

11. “I feel like I am responsible for everyone I care about’s problems. If I see someone might be upset about something, I try to throw hints about something that will help and they always seem so confused, but I feel like if I can’t make them happy, then it’s all my fault. So I’m constantly feeling guilty if everyone I know isn’t happy.” — Kelly G.

12. “Checking things over and over. Even if you’ve already checked, you have to check again to make sure you were right. Or you have to do things certain ways/in certain patterns because if you don’t, you feel like something bad will happen.” — Erin H.

13. “Saying ‘I’m sorry’ even if I did nothing wrong. Whether it’s saying ‘I’m sorry’ to my family or friends, I often say it more than once and ask, ‘Are you mad at me’ along with it.” — Taylor C.

14.I say things, then mouth what I just said. When I get in and out of the car, I have to open and close the door twice. I sometimes wash my hands twice in a row and brush my teeth twice in a row.” — John R.

15. “Rewording the words I see on signs, flyers, billboards, etc. so they are rewritten in my mind without any vowels. I also live in a rural area and have to say, ‘Moo,’ the first time I see a cow in a day. (Doesn’t happen every day.) If I don’t ‘moo,’ something terrible will happen. That’s a real gem to try explaining.” — Jennifer R.

16. “Checking the alarm on my phone. I could have just picked it up and looked at it, but [fewer] than 10 seconds later, I have to check again to make sure I did actually set it.” — Sheryl F.

17. “I rehearse what I’m thinking of saying in my head and rehearse conversations, but sometimes without realizing, I might mutter or mumble under my breath while I’m doing it, making people stop and ask me what I said, or what I’m saying. That then makes me feel really awkward and I never know how to reply.” — Ka C.

18. “For family gatherings where we all pitch in and bring food, I can’t bring just one dish, I bring four or five. I can’t make a normal amount of anything, I have to bring excessive amounts of food because I’m afraid there won’t be enough.” — Debbie S.

19. “When I check out at a grocery store, my items have to be set on the conveyor belt a certain way. My kids have tried to help me unload the cart, and if they don’t do it right I get anxiety. They’ve learned to unload it how I like it. I honestly feel bad about this because they don’t understand what goes on in my mind, and that it’s my OCD and anxiety… I feel like they’re going to hate me when they grow up because of it. Like maybe they’ll feel like nothing they do is ever good enough… and that gives me anxiety… so a lot of times I will just do things myself to avoid me having to correct them and make them feel less than ‘perfect.’ I hate it.” — Jessica J.

20. “Tapping my pencil before every new sentence I write.” — Olivia R.

21. “Asking the same question over and over again. To the same people. Getting the same answer. In case I heard it wrong the first five times.” — Sam F.

22. “Counting change and bills multiple times, super noticeable when I was a cashier. 12345, 12345, 12345…” — Susan S.

23. “Freezing time. Avoiding tasks or just daily life by sitting/laying on the couch or bed. Freezing myself gives me a false sense that bad things won’t happen. You see lazy, I see ‘safe.’ If I don’t move, nothing bad can happen.” — Krissy M.

24. “Letting the majority of my house fall into filth because I’m obsessed with cleaning one room or area repeatedly for weeks until it’s absolutely perfect.” — Tara L.

25. “Wearing the same clothes every day because the previous day you wore them nothing bad happened and you hope that continues. I also tend to eat the same meals daily in hopes that nothing bad will happen.” — Jade M.

26. “If it looks like I’m not paying proper attention, it’s because my eyes are busy rolling around, outlining the pattern of what I am looking at as many times as it takes to feel comfortable! This could be 10 times over until I can find the strength and mind power to stop. Sometimes I have to leave it on an odd feeling because my tic was left incomplete.” — Jade G.

27. “I have lots of noise on. Especially driving. Talk radio, news, anything busy. It drives my husband bonkers, but these keep my intrusive thoughts away. Mine are especially bad when I drive. Some have been so bad I have to pull over, but the noise and distraction of news radio has really made a difference.” — Cassie B.

What would you add?

Woman alone in the forest

The 10 Dark Truths Behind Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Author’s note: This article is based on my own personal experience with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), though some of the symptoms may be relatable to others, they cannot be generalized to everyone struggling with OCD.

1. OCD might make you think thoughts, that if you were to say out loud, could seem irrational and dangerous. Thoughts you, as a person without OCD, would never think about, let alone act out.

2. OCD might trick you into thinking these thoughts are directly a result of your own beliefs.

When intrusive thoughts come to your mind, you sometimes can’t differentiate them from your ordinary thoughts. You usually hear thoughts in your own voice, which makes one believe they are their own. With OCD, when a disturbing thought comes to your mind, it is usually said in your own voice with your own nuances. This makes OCD a sinister and convincing illness that fuels blame and anxiety.

3. OCD might make you say strange things out loud.

When trying to carry out compulsions, rituals that you use to help you get rid of your anxious thoughts, sometimes you might accidentally let yourself slip in public and begin to mutter some of your rituals out loud. For example, I will say strange words randomly because I feel myself about to think something terrible. I can’t explain this well, but as an example, I might say the word “jelly” randomly because I know that an intrusive thought is about to come into my mind and I want to distract myself to prevent it from happening.

4. OCD might make you say horrible things about yourself.

Out of the blue, I will often call myself “stupid” or an idiot. I’ll say phrases like “I deserve to die,” or, “I want to kill myself.” These are very disturbing, but often they are said impulsively, meaning sometimes I don’t think of it before I say it. In my opinion, this is most likely a reaction to prolonged stress. OCD sometimes makes you feel like an awful person, and it might be a compulsion to say something like that to justify those terrible thoughts.

5. OCD might completely go away for years at a time and then return.

Sometimes OCD can completely disappear — this happened to me. I’ve had severe symptoms for years, which have disappeared for years, only to return years later. I’m not sure exactly why this happens, but it probably correlates with stress and life events. OCD can flare up, become worse, be dormant or just very well-managed. Therefore, it is a very difficult condition to understand as it varies from person to person. People sometimes say, “You don’t have OCD because your symptoms are a lot less severe.” But we have to remember that just like with any illness, it comes in varying degrees at different times.

6. OCD might significantly reduce the quality of your life.

I think because of media portrayals, many people don’t truly understand the consequences of OCD. It’s more than just quirky little idiosyncrasies that make you into the person you are. OCD is a mental illness, and in many cases, can become an illness that affects the way in which you function in your life. Mental illnesses can affect people’s jobs, family life, relationships and eventually your own well-being.

The thoughts that you have no control could eventually become worse, which can sometimes lead to you becoming so consumed in guilt, shame and fear that you are unable to live life fully or forgive yourself for what you think. That is when suicidal thoughts might start to creep in.

7. OCD might add onto my own thoughts.

For example, I might be watching a TV show and I have an opinion of one of the characters — immediately OCD will add onto that opinion or that thought and turn it into something dreadful. I might say I don’t like this character with blonde hair and OCD will finish that sentence with, “she’s a slut,” and “she should die.” This will lead me to carry out compulsions asking for forgiveness to deal with the guilt.

8. OCD might affect you in ways that you are not even aware of.

Your overall confidence level, your anxiety levels, self-esteem or self-worth. People with OCD rarely just have OCD. Comorbidity means that people with one type of mental illness usually have other types of mental illness. For example, OCD and anxiety disorder can be paired with depression or dependency on substances.

9. Compulsions are not relaxing and they lie.

When a person with OCD completes rituals, it is often under the false belief that this will free them from the anxiety of their obsessive thoughts. This is exactly how OCD makes you think — that completing the compulsion will help you get rid of the fear and anxiety. You might think that this is a relaxing process that leads to a relaxing outcome, but that’s far from the truth. The amount of stress taken to perform the ritual can be more anxiety provoking than the thought itself.

For example, sometimes when I am praying for forgiveness for certain thoughts, halfway through the prayer I must stop and start again because something was not said in the right way, or an intrusive thought came into my mind while I was praying, making that prayer void. Sometimes I feel as if I’m not sounding convincing enough, or humble enough, so I must begin again to convince myself that the anxiety from the thought can be removed. This feeling is very temporary, lasting from a few minutes to half an hour before the next intrusive thought comes.

10. OCD might take away the most sacred things in your life, then uses them as material.

As an OCD sufferer, I can say that it usually takes things that are very personal to you: morals that you hold close to you, things that you would never want yourself to say or think. OCD takes the opportunity to turn these into an intrusive thought.

For me, my relationship with God is important, my family is important, how I think about other people is important and my reaction to tragedies is important. If I hear about people dying in an accident, OCD will no doubt make me think thoughts that insult those victims. It’s the one thing I never would want to do and that is exactly why OCD chooses to use it.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Design Pics

the author standing with Tony Shalhoub from "Monk"

What I Want to Tell Tony Shalhoub From 'Monk' as Someone With OCD

Tony Shalhoub has had a successful acting career, with roles in “Men in Black,” “Galaxy Quest” and “Wings.” However, he’s certainly best known for starring as a private detective who struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in the hit show “Monk.” This series has stirred up some controversy in the past over its portrayal of OCD. Some believe the show was too gimmicky, or that Tony Shalhoub’s character was too extreme. So I know there are plenty of people out there who will disagree with what I’m about to write. But I want to tell Tony Shalhoub, “Thank you.”

“Monk” started to become popular right around the time that my OCD was becoming unbearable. I was in junior high and we had just moved 500 miles away from my friends and the school I’d been attending since kindergarten. This added stress, paired with the fact that I had very few friends, and therefore, nothing to distract me from the constant nagging and fears in my head, elevated my symptoms to the point that I was losing sleep and feeling absolutely stuck.

One day, my mom called me into the living room and told me I should check out the show she was watching because the main character shared some of my habits, but he was also a great detective. So I sat down, and lo and behold, the character and I did have some similarities, things I had never had in common with anyone else before. We both washed our hands a lot (albeit for different reasons — mine is not because of contamination OCD), worried incessantly and preferred certain numbers. Of course, Monk and I didn’t share all the same compulsions or fears. I don’t clean as one of my compulsions. Monk doesn’t turn lights on and off. But I was finally not alone, even if the “person” I shared this experience with was a fictional character.

I won’t deny the show had its obvious downfalls — the “Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine” episode comes to mind. But beyond all that, there were unique elements about Monk that moved the portrayal of OCD beyond simply having a tidy house and being afraid of germs. And I believe part of this is due to Tony Shalhoub’s careful and thoughtful approach to his character.

If you watch more than just a few episodes of the show, it becomes clear that Monk’s compulsions are not just “quirks.” His compulsive hand-washing, avoidance of certain foods, and tendency to dress in similar clothes each day are derived from intrusive, unshakeable fears of contamination, and a consistent, nagging worry about what other people think of him. Tony Shalhoub has multiple scenes throughout the series where he convincingly describes the pain and loneliness that comes from being so frightened and nervous on a daily basis.

One of the most heart-wrenching and relatable episodes, for me, is “Mr. Monk and the Kid.” In this episode, Monk agrees to temporarily foster a young boy. Throughout their time together, he grows to love the toddler and considers permanently adopting him. By the end of the episode though, after talking to his therapist and coworkers, Monk comes to the painful realization that, for the time being, he doesn’t have enough control over his illness to be the kind of father the young boy needs. This scenario is something many individuals with OCD, including myself, wrestle with; and it portrayed the disorder as something so much more difficult than simply liking a clean house.

I mentioned in a previous post that until about nine months ago, I didn’t realize my constant fear of hurting others was a symptom of my OCD. At first glance, it seems as though Monk doesn’t address this issue of intrusive thoughts at all. However, after learning about that aspect of my disorder, and then re-watching the series, I began to see even this little known symptom of OCD was portrayed by Tony Shalhoub’s character. Monk avoids nakedness in any shape or form and feels guilty for pursuing relationships after his wife passes away. This avoidance and guilt often gets in the way of his everyday life, which is something I, and many others with OCD, can identify with. While having a TV character to relate to did not even come close to curing my symptoms, it provided some hope and relief to see a character with my illness portrayed in a positive light.

A couple years ago, I did have the incredible privilege of meeting Tony Shalhoub at a benefit in a nearby town. Before meeting him, I practiced what I was going to say. I ran through the words over and over again in my head. I knew there were about forty other people waiting to meet him, and I wouldn’t have much time to say what I wanted to. I was so nervous. What if he thought OCD was all a big joke? What if all that brilliant acting was just to make money, and he didn’t really care how his character was portrayed?

When Tony Shalhoub walked over to my husband and I, I quickly poured out the words. I told him how much I appreciated the show because it made me feel less alone, and it opened a door for me to talk about my illness with my mom, which helped her understand what I was going through. I said I liked that the show displayed how serious OCD is, while still maintaining a sense of joy and hope. Then I waited. A look of overwhelming relief lit up Tony’s face. He put his hand to his chest and said, “Oh, I’m so glad to hear that.” He said he always hoped that’s what his character would do for people. He asked if I had seen any improvement with my symptoms over the years and then genuinely listened to my response. He was astonished to hear that we came from out of town to meet him and thanked my husband and I repeatedly. During the rest of the event, we listened to him interview on the stage, where he talked about how the part of Monk was originally written for Michael Richards (better known as Kramer), and that he (Tony) felt the original draft of the script was far too light-hearted. Because they were dealing with such serious subject matter, he insisted they do a better job of portraying the struggles and suffering that OCD can bring. This was incredible to hear. Sitting in front of me was a celebrity who genuinely cared about shedding light on the difficult subject of mental illness.

After the benefit was over, Tony specifically sought out my husband and I to ask if we had a place to stay in town so we weren’t driving home late at night. I was overwhelmed by his kindness and humility, but most of all, by his genuine desire to portray my illness with accuracy and sensitivity.

I wish I had another opportunity to speak with Tony Shalhoub. I would tell him how much his genuine kindness calmed my fears and how I appreciate his portrayal of even the lesser known symptoms of OCD. I hope the future holds more awareness of mental illness, on TV or otherwise, and that more actors like Tony Shalhoub, who genuinely care about the people they’re representing, fill those roles. So, Tony Shalhoub, thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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BBC's Suggestion That SSRIs Create Murderers Could Put My Partner's Life in Danger

Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.

On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, BBC’s investigative current affairs program “Panorama” — holding the honor of being the world’s longest-running current affairs program — aired an hour-long documentary suggesting that SSRIs could turn patients into murderers.

I cannot begin to cover how wrong and dangerous I found this suggestion.

As a person who cares for someone with harm obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), often treated with SSRIs, BBC is frankly playing with fire when they even slightly suggest that the medication used to make someone more stable could actually turn them into the thing they fear the most. Obviously we should be real about medication side effects, but to state something so sensationalistic is frankly irresponsible.

My partner, who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), struggles with this very fear — that she could be a killer, a pedophile, someone capable of the darkest acts imaginable. She requires the keys to be locked away at night for fear that she could “escape” the house in her sleep and commit unspeakable acts. She cannot be alone during the day, for fear that she could “lose her mind” and do the same while awake. She cannot take her medication outside of the safety of our home, for fear of being drugged or being adversely affected in some unknowable way, caused by her medication to become a different person and lose her strictly held self-control.

Many people living with harm OCD feel they are capable of the worst acts imaginable. So, imagine being told by a broadcaster respected around the world that your fears are more than that. It was my partner who alerted me to the BBC’s reporting, terrified that it was true. I could hear her thoughts before she voiced them, having been by her side, through the horrors of her self-doubt, for three years now. Why would they report it if it wasn’t true? How could she be sure? What if she was the small percentage who was affected in this way?

And that’s just the problem: the BBC might have said this affected “a tiny minority,” but for those with OCD, they are the minority. Each person may feel that they alone could be affected in this way. For all the millions of people successfully treated for harm OCD, who have never committed a crime in their lives, they could be the one the research is wrong about.

The BBC’s reporting didn’t stop there. The documentary, featuring the picture of killer James Holmes who murdered 12 and injured 70 at the midnight premiere of Batman in 2012, named specific medications and their possible murderous side-effects. They named one of these medications, and asked if it could have played a role in his killings. They named other cases where those taking an SSRI committed an act of murder. They did not place doubt on the so-called findings — indeed, they asked, “If enough is known about this rare side effect, and if doctors are unwittingly prescribing what could be a prescription for murder.”

This isn’t investigative reporting — this is scaremongering at its finest, and could very well be responsible for harm coming to those affected. Whether you take medication or not, many people find it instrumental — and in fact essential — to the stabilization of their symptoms and their ability to cope with everyday life. Merely seeing James Holmes’ image, along with the medication that some with OCD take to protect themselves from their intrusive thoughts of harm, is recipe enough for danger. My partner is distraught, sickened by the very association. Other UK institutions such as The Telegraph, likewise known for scaremongering, have gone on to report on the documentary with the headline “Antidepressants linked to murders and murderous thoughts.” They are no shades of gray here.

The damage is far-reaching, and may not be easily contained. OCD Action have issued a statement on their Facebook page, urging those affected by the program to seek help with medical professionals. They go on to say:

SSRI’s (along with CBT with ERP) have been proven to be a really effective treatment for OCD, and are recommended by NICE … Please do not let scaremongering documentaries put you off these treatments, and speak with the person who prescribes your medication if you have any questions or concerns.

I strongly urge anyone affected do the same — do not let reporting such as this one, based barely in fact, to scare you off what could be potentially life-saving treatment. Obviously medication isn’t for everyone, but this shouldn’t be a decision consumers make out of fear. I loathe to link to the documentary and associated scaremongering here, as I don’t want to add to the damage. We must be loud in our response though, and not allow respected institutions to drive mental health treatment and stigma back to the dark ages.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication. This piece was published with permission from the author’s partner.

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The OCD Compulsion We Don't Talk About

For a while now I have toyed with the idea of writing an article about the part of my OCD people don’t really seem to understand — my compulsive speech. The reason being I find it hard to find articles or media that talk about this side of OCD and feel it would be helpful to have some insight into what compulsive speech can look like. So I thought I would give it a go.

Now, when I say, “compulsive speech,” what I mean is my obsessions (thoughts) are telling me I have to say a certain word, ask a certain question, make a certain remark (no matter how embarrassing) in order for the obsession to go away. You can bet that this can be frustrating, nerve wracking, embarrassing and more to the point, bloody pointless most of the time. And boy, if you try and suppress the urge to say something, you better be in for a bumpy ride!

My OCD started when I was 19, but these “compulsive remarks” are quite a new addition to my ever growing collection of symptoms, obsessions and compulsions.

Once I say what my thoughts are telling me, I feel relief. Ahhh, that’s better — for five seconds.

So you ask, what exactly does this manifest itself as? Well, I’ll give you a recent scenario. My partner and I were watching TV together.

“Are you OK?” I said.
“Yeah, why?” she answered.
“Just wondered.”
“Are you OK?” I say again.
“Are you sure?” I ask.
“Are you OK?”

This goes on for about five minutes until my partner refuses to answer — and I can’t cope with not having an answer, so I cry. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to listen to me say the same sentence five, 10, 20, times and have to answer each time.

Compulsive speech can also manifest itself in other ways. The compulsion to say, “Just checking” when asking my boss/colleagues/friends/family anything in case they take offense to anything I have said. The total urge to whisper, “Help me,” at least 20 times a day like something out of a horror movie. FYI, don’t whisper, “Help me” when you’re at a bus stop with a stranger or in line at the supermarket — it causes more problems than it solves.

This compulsion also has me repeatedly counting out loud, for no apparent reason. The thoughts slither into my brain like a black eel, waiting to escape through my mouth in repeated utterance of, “You idiot.”

The reason why I want to talk about it is because I feel I am a bit on my own with this, there is hardly any literature talking about compulsive speech and as a young person with OCD, I could have really done with an article like this to tell me I am not the only one, and that no matter what your OCD is, you are not alone.

I have learned to embrace my compulsive speech as a part of my personality, and function quite well despite this socially awkward manifestation. I am a confident, functioning adult, who has OCD — and occasionally blurts out, “Shut up” at dinner parties… and I am just fine with that.

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