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Why I Believe There Are No 'Positive Traits' Tied to Having OCD

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is what helps me get good grades.”

“It’s because of OCD that I’m so well organized and responsible.”

“I don’t want to treat and get rid of these ‘good traits’ OCD gives me.”

How many of us with OCD have had these thoughts as part of treatment? How many of us are willing to try some exposures but are more hesitant with others that might eliminate the “positive” traits “OCD gives us?” *I raise my hand honestly and in solidarity.*

When I first started Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy about five years ago, it was a huge barrier for me. A large part of my OCD was perfectionism, particularly surrounding school. I was quite literally a perfect student. I got nothing less than straight A’s in high school and was valedictorian of my class. And I worried about how treating OCD might affect my grades.

Which leads to the question of, “So, can’t OCD be helpful sometimes?”

I know not everyone will agree with me on this, even some people with OCD, but I believe the answer is firmly, “No.”

Sure, outwardly, I was wildly successful. My teachers praised me for being so incredibly hardworking and responsible with my schoolwork. The good grades themselves were also reinforcement.

But internally, I was miserable. My entire waking life (and sometimes even sleeping life) consisted of either thinking about or doing schoolwork. I brought textbooks to band events. I missed dance class to study. I stayed up until 3 a.m., even though my growing body desperately needed rest. More so, OCD made my studying incredibly inefficient. A reading that took my classmates 30 minutes would take me over two hours because of rereading and perfectionism compulsions. I didn’t get good grades because of OCD. I got good grades in spite of OCD.

Now, I know what some of you still may be thinking: “Yeah but Morgan, wasn’t it still the OCD that led to your good grades? You just needed to dial down the intensity of the perfectionism/organization/responsibility so you could better function. Treated OCD can be useful because you’re still detail-oriented.”

I still do not believe this is true and I don’t think it is useful to give OCD this much credit, if any.

OCD took so much from me in life. This can be counted in hours spent on compulsions, missed opportunities, ruined special moments or a terribly stressful quality of life for years when my OCD was especially bad. I try not to dwell for too long on all that OCD stole but it is worth acknowledging in this argument. OCD takes, it does not give.

I don’t think it’s fair to also let OCD take credit for things that are positive and are just me. OCD has taken too much already.

I am not smart because of OCD. Morgan is smart.

I am not hardworking because of OCD. Morgan is hardworking.

I am not detail-oriented because of OCD. Morgan is detail-oriented.

I am not responsible because of OCD. Morgan is responsible.

The positive traits belong to me.

– Morgan

Originally published: October 23, 2019
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