Woman's Viral Thread Explains that OCD Is Nothing Like It's Portrayed in the Media

OCD is not "fun" or "cute" or "quirky." It's a potentially debilitating mental disorder that has the capacity to severely diminish someone's quality of life.

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Sep. 21 2020, Updated 11:55 a.m. ET

thread ocd
Source: NBC / Twitter

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. 

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Shira explains that it's completely miserable, a vicious cycle of intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and compulsions that monopolize your life. 

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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.

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.

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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.

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. 

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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.

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."

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