Have you ever seen the TV programme Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners? I have. I have a hard time believing the people on there actually have OCD. The general public have a rather skewed idea of what OCD actually is and what it looks like. Most people if you ask them believe it is a preference for being clean and tidy. They think someone who has OCD likes a nice tidy home, is a neat freak, always washes their hands when you shake them. These people don’t have OCD. There’s probably a very small percentage of people with OCD who would discuss their OCD on TV and even less who would use their compulsions to clean and tidy other people’s houses. Most people with OCD don’t even have the compulsion to clean, that’s just one part of it. In reality those people on TV probably have OCPD (obsessive compulsive personality disorder) a very different condition altogether.
One of the key differences between OCD and OCPD is how the person views their condition. People with OCD don’t want to have OCD, they recognise that something is wrong and usually don’t know how to fix it other than by using the compulsions that make up their OCD. People with OCPD like their condition, they feel comforted by it and think it’s perfectly normal. In fact many of them don’t understand why others aren’t the same way as them. OCD is characterised by intrusive and upsetting thoughts. They think something bad might happen or that they might do something bad and so in order to counteract these things they carry out compulsive acts. Usually the compulsions won’t prevent what they believe might happen from happening, they often realise this logically, but they are unable to stop themselves from thinking those things and so continue to carry out compulsions. The compulsions can be anything from needing to switch lights on and off a set number of times, needing to wash their hands when they feel dirty as opposed to actually looking/being dirty, needing to recite certain words a set number of times, needing tins to face a certain way, needing objects to be placed in a set order, needing to touch objects in a way that feels right according to the pressure exerted, etc.
People with OCPD prefer things to be done a set way and to look a set way. They don’t have intrusive thoughts. They don’t believe something bad will happen if their bookcase isn’t set out just right. They take comfort in their organisation/cleanliness, they don’t feel like they have a problem, rather that anyone who complains has the problem and should adopt their way of thinking instead.
This website has a lot of great information on OCD: http://www.ocduk.org/ocd
Some of my OCD obsessions:
- feeling like I might stab someone if I’m holding a knife or similar sharp object around people.
- feeling like people can read my thoughts.
- feeling like if my hands are dirty I might accidentally put them in my or someone else’s mouth and make them be sick.
- feeling weird if I don’t make everything even and parallel, and that I might never stop feeling weird if I don’t correct this feeling.
- feeling like people might shout at me if I say/think anything negative.
- and a few others I don’t want to mention here.
Some of my OCD compulsions that I use to help combat my obsessions:
- not using sharp objects near others/ pointing them away from people if they come near me.
- refusing to think anything negative about others, especially around them.
- explaining why my negative thoughts are wrong and why I don’t/shouldn’t think that way. Effectively telling myself off.
- spelling words in my head, in the right, even way.
- washing my hands a set way whenever they feel dirty/after touching certain objects that might make my hands feel dirty.
- needing to touch objects in the same way that the opposite side of my body has touched. Using the same pressure until it feels right and even.
- avoiding walking on cracks in pavements because I have to step equally with one foot as I do the other, in the same place with the same pressure. Repeatedly stepping on cracks a certain way until it feels even and right.
- refuse to say negative things to people/around people.
- and a few others.
Some of my OCPD:
- wanting my books to be set out a certain way.
- preferring to clean the dishes in a set order and a set way that ensures they are completely clean.
- preferring to clean the bathroom and other areas in a certain way.
- wanting to clean up as I cook.
- wanting things to be clean to a certain standard.
- brushing my teeth in a set order.
- hanging out washing a certain way and folding/putting away washing a set way.
- feeling agitated when others don’t follow the same patterns I do.
- preferring to do certain jobs myself because then they’ll be done ‘correctly’.