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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Boston chapter.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a lifelong disorder where a person can experience uncontrollable thoughts, obsessions, and intrusive thinking which can lead them to do compulsive repetitive behaviors. OCD can come with debilitating symptoms that make going through daily life impossible. According to the International OCD Foundation, “it is listed as one of the top ten most debilitating illnesses worldwide,” and it can lead to loss of jobs, friends, family, increase isolation, and exacerbate negative coping mechanisms.

According to Sarah Schuster from GoodRx, “OCD can manifest in four main ways: contamination/washing, doubt/checking, ordering/arranging, and unacceptable/taboo thoughts. Obsessions and compulsions that revolve about contamination and germs are the most common type of OCD, but OCD can cover a wide range of topics.”

The intrusive thoughts related to OCD are unwanted and are ego-dystonic, meaning that they are the opposite of what one would want or intend to do. Everyone can have intrusive thoughts, but in the mind of someone with OCD, these thoughts ruminate and are obsessively thought about, resulting in the person affected to believe it is a reflection of who they are.

Due to incorrect portrayal of the disorder, many people see OCD as simply wanting to be organized or having a fear of germs. In conversation, I have heard OCD being used as an adjective with someone described as “so OCD” because they like to have tidy space. People also joke about “letting their intrusive thoughts win” when changing their appearance or making an impulsive change. Although these comments undermine how debilitating the disorder can be, I understand why people do not realize what a distressing disorder it is. The reality of OCD and its symptoms are not widely known or talked about, and the media often perpetuates the misconceptions of it. Prior to being diagnosed with OCD, I was unaware of how serious it was until I had experienced the true debilitating nature of it, which includes intrusive thinking and compulsion seeking.

Although OCD can manifest in some as having obsessive compulsions or thoughts that are related to cleaning or tidiness, but this is not the case for everyone with the disorder, as everyone with OCD presents differently. These misconceptions are dangerous for those with the disorder because it can lead individuals suffering from OCD to remain unaware that their symptoms are related to the disorder and thus not seeking help.

My experience with having OCD has been very hard, especially pre-diagnosis, because I was not sure what I was going through. Before I found resources to manage my OCD, I experienced extreme isolation and debilitating symptoms, and I felt like I was no longer myself. I could no longer do things that I enjoyed, and things that were once easy or fun I completely avoided doing, as they became impossible. I knew that my fears were not logical, but I felt the need to do compulsions to ensure that nothing bad would happen.

Some resources that have been helpful to me were the International OCD Foundation and NOCD. The mission statement of the International OCD foundation is “to ensure that no one affected by OCD and related disorders suffers alone,” and they have helpful resources available. Additionally, “NOCD offers Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, and partners with insurance plans to make these treatments affordable.”

To those who are struggling with OCD, you are not alone. You are incredibly strong. Having OCD and dealing with its symptoms does not make you a bad person. It makes you resilient and compassionate for others who also might be struggling.

Those who are interested in learning more can do so though the National Institute of Mental Health’s page on OCD.

Sofia Pecher-Kohout

U Mass Boston '24

Hi my name is Sofi! I am a senior studying environmental science and minoring in psychology. I am passionate for helping people, animals and the environment. I am a mental health and disability advocate, and hope to make a difference with my writing pieces!