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Opinion: The OCD Stereotype

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

A brain with leaves behind it on a purple background
Graphic by Elinor Shelp-Peck

“I keep my room super clean because I’m, like, OCD.” — This is a phrase I have heard my entire life. The stereotype typically associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is that of being neat and organized. I believed this stereotype until late middle school when I learned that having OCD did not just mean that a person was extremely clean, but it wasn’t until January 2020 that I had a first-hand experience with someone who had OCD.

I was on a plane going from Houston, Texas, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My flight left early in the morning, so I slept for the majority of the plane ride. When I woke up, I noticed that a mother and her daughter were sitting beside me. I began to eat some breakfast when the little girl reached across me and put her doll facing the window. I was working with kids at the time, so I didn’t think anything of it. She held the doll there before bringing her arm back. About two minutes passed before she did it again with her mom noticing. Her mother apologized to me, explaining that her daughter had OCD. I assured her that I was not bothered, but I began to wonder what OCD actually was.

Upon further research, I found that OCD is a mental health disorder that can affect anyone. OCD is invisible; you wouldn’t know that a person suffered from it unless you’ve spent time with them. When a person suffers from OCD, they experience thoughts, images or impulses that they cannot stop. These impulses may not make sense to the person or to someone looking in from the outside, but they cannot be controlled.

Because OCD is a mental health disorder that greatly affects those around us, the stereotype can be harmful. The OCD stereotype restricts people from knowing what OCD actually is, and in doing so, downplays the struggle that those diagnosed go through. This is the case with all mental health stereotypes. In making jokes and creating bias, we are creating an unsafe or unsupportive atmosphere for those who are diagnosed or believe they are suffering from a mental illness. We need to erase stereotypes and make a conscious effort to ensure that those around us don’t feel like their mental health is a joke or a funny stereotype.

By Anna Prince, Contributing Writer


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