These days, everyone’s claiming to be ‘a little bit OCD’, but the popularisation of the term has been at the cost of understanding the condition. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a spectrum which isn’t simply about having fanatical cleaning habits and lining up your bathroom paraphernalia in height-order.
OCD can be immensely challenging and outright destructive to those with the condition. You can end up trapped in your own mind, unable to work, unable to maintain relationships with friends and loved ones… and still not even have a tidy bedroom to show for it!
So what is OCD? How does it work? Why are there so many misconceptions about it? And how can we help ourselves or others with the condition?
At this year’s Edinburgh Festival, I saw an incredible, heartfelt exploration of OCD’s impact on a person’s life – Lost in Thought, by Lucy Danser. So, I got in touch with Lucy and invited her on the show to talk about these questions and many more besides.
We sat down in a park in central Edinburgh and moved beyond the bizarre media portrayals to the human realities of what it means to live with OCD.
Lucy’s experience of OCD involves intrusive, unwanted and disturbing thoughts which threaten to come true unless she takes specific actions. The pressing need to do certain things to try to release the intensity of those thoughts can be all-consuming: we might all ‘touch wood’ for luck, but what if you felt you had to do it or your entire family would die?
But OCD can’t be understood as straightforwardly ‘irrational’. Within its own logic, you’re actually being extremely responsible and conscientious. Ask yourself, if you truly thought that touching wood, repeating a mantra, or performing some other ritual might stop something terrible happening to a loved one, wouldn’t you do it just in case? Would you risk not doing it?
We also explore how far kindness and understanding of OCD behaviours can ultimately be enabling; how other people around those with OCD can become ill; and whether there might be some upsides to having OCD.
Huge thanks to Lucy for coming on the show to share her personal experience, as well as creating such a moving piece of drama for the stage. This episode was revelatory for me at times and shattered a lot of lazy misconceptions I’d been holding on to. Let us know what you think and about your own experiences of OCD over on our Facebook Discussion Group!
Find Out More:
- David Adam, The Man Who Couldn’t Stop
- Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein
- John Green, Turtles All the Way Down
- Fletcher Wortmann, Triggered: A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder