Characters in TV and movies who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are often depicted as "quirky" and "fun." People often say, "Oh that's just my OCD," if they're a little particular about things or as a substitute for calling themselves "perfectionists." But OCD is so much more serious than how it's portrayed in the media and talked about in the public sphere.
OCD has the capacity to debilitate a person and prevent them from living a comfortable life. One woman sought to challenge the dominant perceptions of OCD in a thread on Twitter, and it went totally viral.
OCD is horribly misrepresented in the media. Emma Pillsbury, Monica Geller, and Adrian Monk are depictions of stereotypical OCD behaviors rather than representations of actual people with OCD. So here’s a thread about what it’s actually like to live with it:— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
Shira is a young woman who has OCD and takes issue with the way the disorder is represented in the media and our culture. Monica Geller from Friends, for example, was characterized as a compulsive cleaner, an "OCD neat freak," and her compulsions were always played for laughs. But that's not what it's actually like to live with OCD.
Let me start by being blunt: OCD fucking sucks. It’s legitimately the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I would not wish it on my worst enemies. I mean that sincerely.— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
Shira cannot overstate how much OCD "f--king sucks." "It's legitimately the worst thing that's ever happened to me," she writes. It's not cutesy, and it's not something to laugh about.
Intrusive thoughts are an absolute nightmare. An OCD intrusive thought is a persistent, anxiety provoking obsession. It’s like getting a song stuck in your head, but instead of a song, it’s a mixtape of your worst fears on repeat— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
People with OCD often have intrusive thoughts that are wildly out-of-nowhere and anxiety-inducing. But they cannot help but obsess about them. This can have disastrous consequences for someone trying to accomplish their daily tasks.
OCD intrusive thoughts are ego dystonic, which means they don’t align with your values. ‘What if I accidentally poison my family?’ ‘What if I take this knife and stab my partner in the back?’ ‘What if I drove my car off a cliff right now?’— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
Shira explains that often, these intrusive thoughts are "ego-dystonic," meaning they oppose your core values and aren't things you would ever do or think about normally. For example, some people with OCD cannot stop thinking about intentionally harming people they love, even if it's something they would never do. They might constantly worry about doing this thing and yet have absolutely no desire to. It's illogical, but OCD doesn't take logic into consideration.
The fact that they’re ego dystonic makes them terrifying to share with anybody. Because what if they take you seriously? What if they confuse your worst fears with your legitimate values or intentions? It’s petrifying— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
This is so scary. It's hard to share these obsessive thoughts with others because sometimes they are so disturbing that the person you share them with might consider you dangerous for even expressing them. Suddenly, they don't see you as the person you actually are.
Compulsions are compulsive attempts to get rid of your intrusive thoughts. Ex: I’m scared of getting sick, so I wash my hands. But doing compulsions only makes your OCD worse! So why do you do them? Because OCD is a tricky son of a bitch.— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
OCD isn't just being obsessed with cleaning because you're a neat freak. It isn't just about tics that make you do things in threes, for example. Often, these compulsions are the things you think you have to do so these terrible things from your intrusive thoughts don't happen. You're convinced, for example, that if you miss a spot cleaning, your whole family will die. That's a terrible way to live.
It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s miserable. Your compulsions relieve your anxiety momentarily, but the thoughts always come back worse. So you do another compulsion. And your anxiety gets even worse. And so on and so on and so on.— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
Shira explains that it's completely miserable, a vicious cycle of intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and compulsions that monopolize your life.
Hiding your OCD in public is a bitch, especially when you have overt compulsions like tapping or blinking. You know that hypothetically you could just stop, but you can’t. It’s too risky. So you find ways to mask your compulsions. You make up excuses.— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
People with OCD often feel like they have to hide their compulsions in public. This could be for several reasons. They could be afraid that someone would find out about their intrusive thoughts. They could be embarrassed if their compulsions are visual, like, blinking or tapping, as Shira wrote. No one else would understand why you're doing what you're doing.
And that making excuses is exhausting. All of it is exhausting: the obsessions and the compulsions and the hiding and the fear of judgement. And since it’s so hard to open up about OCD symptoms, some people go decades undiagnosed.— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
I can't imagine how exhausting it is not only to deal with intrusive thoughts and compulsions due to OCD but then also to feel like you have to hide it all from everyone in your life. There is so much stigma around OCD, and much of it stems from the fact that it's so different from what we see in movies and TV shows.
You can get depressed. The more that OCD takes over your life, the more depressed you get. Because when you’re spending all day obsessing and compulsing, you’re not really living your life. And that's devastating.— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
Hiding OCD can have disastrous consequences, and so can the symptoms themselves. Think about it; if your intrusive thoughts and compulsions are things that you obsess over, they can take over your life, and you can develop depression because you are unable to live comfortably and productively the way you deserve.
The point of this thread isn’t to be a total bummer. The point of this thread is to educate. Because keeping your mental illness to yourself is hard, but stigma can make speaking up even harder.— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
Shira wanted to share what it was like to debunk media portrayals of OCD but also to fight the stigma that prevents people from speaking out about their OCD. People with OCD should not feel afraid to seek help and describe their thoughts and feelings to people.
Do you know how frustrating it is to finally work up the courage to disclose your OCD, only to be told, “oh, we’re all a little OCD”? It’s awful. And the possibility of being dismissed discourages people in need of help from reaching out.— shira (@shiraisinspired) September 13, 2020
But they often do feel afraid to share because so many people dismiss it and think they understand it when they actually have no idea what it's like to live with OCD.
OCD is not cute. It’s not quirky. OCD is not Monica from Friends. It’s not ‘most satisfying’ video compilations. It’s not organized. OCD is not helpful, it’s serving no one. No one needs it.— shira (@shiraisinspired) May 4, 2020
To round off her thread, which garnered hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets, Shira quoted this tweet of hers from back in May. "OCD is not cute," she wrote. "It's not quirky. OCD is not Monica from Friends. It's not 'most satisfying' video compilations. It's not organized. OCD is not helpful, it's serving no one. No one needs it."