I’m going to let you in on a little secret that I don’t really talk about too much: I have moderate obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s beyond frustrating, and the fact that it’s seriously misunderstood makes things even more difficult.
When most people think about OCD, they think of someone who spends all their free time cleaning and alphabetizing things, but that’s not really what this disorder is all about.
Interested in someone who’s obsessive-compulsive, or who you think might be? Let the following 7 tips guide you to the best way to approach her.
1. It’s not all about cleaning and alphabetizing.
It’s almost funny that people associate OCD with impeccable cleaning and organizational skills. The truth is that there are so many people living with OCD who are not obsessive neat freaks. The media clings to this minority, though, because it’s the easiest to convey to other people – if someone has a super clean house and freaks out if things are disorganized, it’s obvious that they have OCD. Right?
Well, this leads people who don’t have OCD to make jokes about how “OCD” they are. (Pro tip: OCD is a noun, not an adjective.)
Personally, I don’t exhibit most of the most characteristic symptoms of OCD. I’m not a clean freak – in fact, I rarely clean unless my compulsions get totally out of control. I color-code and alphabetize, but only as a way to soothe my mind – not as an everyday way-of-life.
I’m not really the most organized person, either – even though I really do strive to be – but if something has a place it “lives”, I may freak out at least a little bit if it’s not there. I’m not really sure how much of it is OCD and how much is just general anxiety, since the two often overlap, but let me assure you – we’re not all germophobes.
2. We are not trying to control your life. (Probably.)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is really a control issue, and those of us who suffer with OCD probably seem like total control freaks. The truth is that we’re not trying to control your life – we’re just trying to get a grip on our own.
Sometimes, this means that we’re double-checking the things you do, just to make sure they’re actually getting done. That doesn’t mean we’re trying to change you… It means we’re trying to quiet our disorder.
That doesn’t mean that control freaks don’t have OCD, though. There are definitely some people who want to control everything around them, and there’s probably at least a bit of OCD behind their reasoning.
But, for the vast majority of us, we’re really not trying to control you – we just want to make sure we don’t lose control of ourselves.
3. OCD is a serious mental illness.
Considering how much the media minimizes OCD, it’s no surprise that most people assume it’s not a big deal. But to the person who’s actually struggling with OCD, it’s a huge deal. We get these obsessive thoughts that invade our mind, and it seems like the only way to quiet them down is to do what our compulsions tell us to do.
We know it’s really illogical, but we can’t stop it. It’s part of who we are, at least to some degree.
The fact that most media representations of OCD show people who obsessively count things, or who clean as if their lives depended on it, neither of those things is necessarily part of an OCD diagnosis.
The actual diagnosis just means that someone has repeating obsessive thoughts or mental images that disrupt our daily lives. It’s an anxiety disorder – not just a habit we’ve picked up over the years.
4. It’s more common than you might think.
An estimated 1 in 40 adults suffer from OCD or similar anxiety disorders, but it may go undiagnosed for years, just because of the stigmas surrounding it.
These numbers are higher in developed countries, like the US and the UK, than they are in developing countries – but that’s not to say that they don’t exist in the third world, too.
Sadly, approximately 1% of children are presumed to live with OCD and other anxiety disorders, but since they may not understand why their thoughts are happening (or even that their thoughts aren’t normal for their age), they aren’t likely to seek out help.
Once you factor in the fact that OCD is really, really hard for non-OCD-sufferers to fully understand, it’s not so easy to reach out for help – so your new boo might have OCD and not even know it.
5. OCD is one of the most treatable mental illnesses.
Since anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental illnesses, there’s a bit of comfort in knowing that it’s completely possible to live a normal life, even with OCD.
That doesn’t mean that the disease will ever go away (although that is a possibility), but it does mean that proper treatment and education can make a tremendous difference.
What treatments are available for people with OCD? Two of the most common treatment options are cognitive behavioral therapy (also known as CBT) and medication.
It’s important to realize that not everyone wants to go through treatment, though, and you can’t make someone go through treatment – there’s really no benefit to being coerced into therapy.
6. There’s a chance it could be genetic.
Although the underlying cause of any anxiety disorder is bound to differ from one person to the next, there’s a good chance that the woman you know with OCD might have inherited it from one or both parents.
In my particular case, I have one parent who’s a control freak and another who’s a germophobes, so I’m pretty sure that I was born into this life. The girl you’re thinking about asking out was probably predisposed to the illness, too.
What about the woman who didn’t get it from her family members? It might also be taught, such as those who grew up with parents who expected “too much” from them. I don’t really have too much experience in this area, but I solidly believe that the way we’re raised plays a huge role in who we become as adults – and why would OCD be any different?
7. She deserves love, too.
If I can only teach you one thing about obsessive-compulsive disorder, it’s that the woman who’s suffering with it deserves just as much love as anyone else you could date. Every day, she struggles with obsessive thoughts (such as a fear of bad things happening, or feelings that she’s not good enough) and compulsive behaviors (such as the need to touch, count, or organize things).
The specific symptoms are different from person to person, but one thing is for sure: She is just as worthy and deserving of love as any other person on the planet.
That’s not to say it’ll be easy. In fact, dating someone with OCD might even be the hardest relationship you’ve ever been in. But it’s not because she doesn’t care – if anything, she probably cares too much. She might act a little “crazy” from time to time, but it’s not because she doesn’t love you.
It’s because she’s so paranoid she’s going to screw things up, that she’ll do anything in her power not to… And sometimes she overshoots a little bit. Try to be patient with her. I promise she’s harder on herself than you could ever be. Why add extra stress into the mix?