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There Is No ‘Winning Score’ in Comparing OCD Diagnoses

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 the International OCD Foundation’s website.

I interact with people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) quite often, and I take in stories that form a wider view of OCD than if I just concentrated on my own OCD. This has benefits and drawbacks. Because I am not on the outside looking in (I am not a doctor, for example), every story I hear about OCD episodes and coping with OCD, I naturally compare to my OCD.

The benefits are that anyone — especially those with OCD — can always use more information. Or, usually. With OCD, I feast on information. And we’ll get the positives out of the way to properly scope the subject here. When we hear about others’ OCD, we can work out coping mechanisms more easily —because they are based in examples from others, which is a heck of a lot easier than thinking of our own OCD.

So, that is good. But one needs to be careful. Thinking too much about others’ OCD has some major drawbacks. This is how I am careful when delving into such experiences.

I was told a story from a person who could not get a particular thought out of their head. This person was driving along a road and passed by a pedestrian. Nothing happened, but they drove fairly close to the person. He could not get it out of his head that he hit the pedestrian and will now go to jail because of this. This person went back to the scene (there was no scene) to check over and over if there was a person struck by his car (there wasn’t).

I don’t often get triggered by other people’s stories, and I would not say I was triggered here. But I could completely relate to the story. However, I could relate to it like something I would have done in the past, but do not do nearly as often now. I used to have just as scary thoughts. I used to take simple life interactions to a visceral endgame of something like jail.

I’ve worked on my OCD. I’ve not solved it, but in working on it, I’ve been able to compartmentalize some of the more extreme thoughts similar to this car-hitting-pedestrian example. (This very specific example I can chalk my success up to stopping driving entirely — which is a very extreme solution, and in itself not fully rational. But, it works. And I am afforded the ability to not have to drive.)

The problem with taking in these examples too deeply is I feel like my own OCD does not measure up to others. And because of this, in a weird way, I feel because I don’t have these specific types of OCD episodes, I am in a place where I really shouldn’t be taking my OCD as seriously.

In a way, I feel like a fraud. Like I don’t have OCD as bad, and in some bizarre universe, because others have it worse, I should shut up and just carry on with my “better” life. (Again — all of these feelings set in a bizarre universe, not the real one.)

People do have OCD worse than me, but most often they just have OCD different than me. This isn’t a competition! OCD isn’t a club. It does not have a ranking system. However, internally, most of us feel like mental disorders do have a score. And that is dangerous.

I am more prone to not want to explore solutions to my OCD which often involves other people because I feel I have less OCD than others.

Anything that hampers one from finding solutions is not good.

So, I’ve found the key is to take in others’ experiences, and know there is no score. I am equal to all others with OCD because we don’t have a score. It doesn’t matter — all that matters is my OCD. With that, all I should be taking from others’ stories is an exercise on how I would handle the OCD episodes being told to me.

(Just as well, we can all help each other, but that’s outside of the scope here.)

I need to be careful with any story I hear about OCD. I need to put myself in that situation only for exercise.

Exercise solutions, don’t compare. Don’t score yourself or others.

Use examples of OCD as an exercise only.

Don’t compare.

Unsplash image by Wesley Tingey