What I Wish You Knew About My Son With OCD

Every few months, a post along the lines of “You Know You Have OCD If…” makes its way around Facebook. The mention things like: If you don’t like an off center bathroom tile. If a crooked picture bothers you. If leaving 17 seconds on the microwave timer at work upsets you.

My son has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and it is nothing like that. OCD is not all about hand-washing and counting (although it can be). My son has a type of OCD that is obsession-based, rather than compulsion-based.

Here’s what I wish you knew about him:

1. He is not throwing a tantrum because he can’t get his way; he can’t handle his emotions when his thoughts don’t match reality.

2. He is not touching everything in the checkout line to be annoying; he is over-stimulated by the sounds and sights and is grounding himself to calm his mind.

3. He asks the same questions over and over not because he forgets the answer; he wants to be reassured that nothing has changed.

4. He’s not covering his ears to ignore you; he can’t handle loud noises that deregulate him.

5. He apologizes repeatedly so he can truly believe that you’re not mad at him.

6. He paces, sometimes, when he’s overwhelmed.

7. If something on his body doesn’t feel right, he can’t “just calm down” about it.  If his body feels badly, then so does his mind.

8. He won’t turn in his homework unless he’s sure it’s perfect. He can’t abide mistakes.

9. He likes having scripts. He likes having the same answers given to the same questions.

10. He can’t control his thoughts sometimes. He gets intrusive ideas or images that upset him so much that he doesn’t like talking about them.

11. He thinks about violence or blood or bad things that might happen. He doesn’t understand that a thought is just a thought.

12. But more than any of these things, I want you to know that he’s funny and kind and smart and sensitive and happy. He is happy. He loves to play and he loves his sister and he loves “Star Wars” and exploring nature.

Just like any of us, his illness does not define him. It never will. It creates challenges for him that, as his mother, I wish I could take away. I will never stop wanting his world to be just a little bit easier. But I would never change who he is.

When I hear people throw around the term OCD as if it’s a joke, it hurts me. It hurts my family. It’s not a persnickety personality or a hyper-organized person. It’s a mental illness and we should talk about it as such.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Jordan Whitt

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

Related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Beginning to recognise myself again despite Olivia's presence.

The Question My Therapist Asked That I Didn't Know How to Answer

I stared at my therapist. With my mouth slightly ajar and a look of confusion on my face, I scanned my brain for a suitable response. I simply couldn’t find one. You might be wondering what she asked me. It wasn’t a difficult question about how my thought-challenging was coming along, nor was it a question asking me to describe how [...]
Watercolor illustration of a beautiful woman with a lily tattoo on her shoulder

Just Because I Look 'OK' Doesn't Mean I Am

One of the things I find frustrating with having a mental illness is the way in which people often judge you by the way you are functioning at that precise moment in time. They assume that just because you can go to work, or engage in a conversation for five minutes with a smile on [...]
young smiling woman at sunset in field

How I Began to Heal From OCD and How You Can Too

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. Let me begin this piece by telling you how little I believed in the possibility of recovery from obsessive-compulsive [...]

When OCD Traps Me Inside My Own Mental Blocks

When I was younger, I used to daydream about a world where everyone wore “sandwich boards” when they went out in public. Each board would outline their various mental health conditions, in descending order of significance. At the time, this seemed like a great (if potentially cumbersome) way of shattering the stigma around mental health [...]