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My Experience with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

My Experience with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Most people know what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, also known as OCD, is. Yet it’s something that is rarely discussed realistically. Typically, it’s brought up by someone saying something like, “I don’t like my foods to mix. Lol, I’m soooo OCD.” Making it into a lighthearted thing is hurtful to people like me—people who either have OCD or have suffered from it in the past. Not only is the phrase nonsensical, but it’s insulting to treat this very real disorder as a joke.

When I was around 13, I developed mild OCD and mysophobia (more commonly called “germophobia”). I still have tendencies associated with OCD that show up from time to time, but with the support of my parents and friends, I have pretty much overcome it entirely.

When I did suffer, though, it wasn't funny. A minor desire for cleanliness or uniformity is not OCD. It’s different for everyone, but for me, there was something in my mind deciding I had to do certain things. It was almost like there was some force controlling me, but it was all coming from my head. I would feel a strong compulsion and this voice in my head would create consequences that would happen if I didn’t follow the urges.

The consequences made no logical sense. I would be about to fall asleep and then a thought would come into my mind saying I had to clean my room right that second or else I would die in my sleep that night. I would wash my hands after touching almost anything that wasn’t mine, or I thought for sure I would get some disease. I did it so much that my hands were raw and bleeding every day. I would be going down the stairs in my house and need to go back up and down again four times before I felt satisfied. It was like there was some perfect way things had to be for me to feel “right,” even though that way had no significance whatsoever.

If I did something wrong, I would often physically punish myself. I’d slap my face to leave a red mark, or claw into my arms until they bled. This way, my punishment was a visible reminder of how imperfect I was. I was so afraid of this voice—even though it was manufactured by my own mind.

As miserable as OCD felt, I thought I would feel empty without it. My family and close friends knew I had some level of mysophobia and a need for things to be perfect, but they didn’t know the extent of it. Thus my problem with the term “OCD” being thrown around so casually. I was afraid to tell them that something seen by most as a simple “quirk” was causing me such pain.

Finally, my mom started to notice what was going on. I was in tears as I told her the details, and she worked with me on making changes. She told me to try to start ignoring the voice and to stop punishing myself so I would see that nothing bad happened when I did. This was difficult at first, because the compulsions had become so familiar that I didn’t want to resist. I slowly started to, though, and felt incredibly anxious until I saw that it caused no disaster. The impulses came less and less frequently and eventually came rarely, if at all.

I was lucky enough to have the support of my family, but unfortunately, that’s not something everyone can say, and treatment often isn’t that simple. We need to bring the subject to light in its true form so that people can help their loved ones by at least understanding the disorder.

Saying “I’m so OCD” reflects just how misrepresented disorders are in our society. I rarely talk about my experience with OCD because it’s a difficult subject for me, but it is necessary to educate people through personal experience so that others facing similar disorders can gain the support they need. OCD is no joke.


By Audrey Chaffin, 19


This letter was brought to you by Penguin Young Readers, publisher of John Green’s new novel, Turtles All the Way Down. You can pre-order a copy here or enter to win one below—or both! Because, yes, it’s that good.

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