If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not OCD.

Let’s be real here.  Almost everyone has a quirk or two.


Some people have to organize their shirts by color.  Some need to dot their i’s a certain way.  Some have to clean their kitchen in just a certain way.  Some always double-check the front door before they go to sleep.

Quirks.  Quirks, I tell you!

Unless …

You feel that a disorganized closet is going to ruin your day, your week, or even your life (and you will panic and feel sick over it until you fix it).  You think that if you don’t dot your i’s just so it might mean that something bad will happen to your family.  You think that if you don’t follow a particular routine in cleaning, you (or people you love) are going to get really sick and probably die.  You think that if you don’t check the front door, a murderer will certainly get inside, kill your entire family, and it will actually be all your fault.

Those are just some examples off the top of my head, but my point is this: if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not OCD.  

In fact, it’s built into the very definition: OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry; by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions.

I was recently on a web forum that was asking “What minor OCD quirks do you have?” and the answers amounted primarily to superstitions and quirks:

* I feel naked without a pocketknife handy.
* I just have to snip or pull loose threads on clothes or buttons.
* I tap my pockets to make sure my keys are there.
* I fold my dollar bills face-in.
* I hate it when someone else uses my pillow.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  These may all very well be true for these people– but I didn’t get the impression from these forum users that if they didn’t do these things, they would spiral into tumultuous anxiety that makes you believe things will never be okay again.  That is OCD.

It’s fine to have quirks; they can even be funny!  But please call them quirks.

OCD is an anxiety disorder.  It ruins people’s lives.  It steals joy from them.  It gives them a sickening feeling of terror.

Please don’t feed into the misrepresentation.  You are not “so OCD” just because you organize your sock drawer.  If, on the other hand, you believe that something terrible will happen if you don’t organize it just right, and if the organization and reorganization of your drawer seems to be adding to your distress, well, that’s another story.

Be informed.  And compassionate.

Don’t label something cutesy and funny as “OCD” — OCD is anything but.