Twitter Users’ Mental Health Stereotypes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

March 10th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

by Emily Brooks

Twitter Users’ Mental Health Stereotypes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

“My apartment-sitting friend decided to go full-on OCD and clean & order my place.” –a happy tweet

It’s bizarre to imagine anyone would “decide to go full-on OCD”, to choose obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, if your only reference point is social media, you may be apt to think “OCD” is the best adjective for anybody systematized and well-controlled. People labeling themselves “ocd”, often in all-lowercase letters, are paying themselves a compliment about their positive organization skills, cleanliness, and neat and ideal work. “I swear I have OCD. I color coordinated my apps,” says one Tweet. Another says, “I’m really OCD about making my notes look perfect.” A third asks, “Anyone else really OCD about how their blog looks? I really am. Spacing, colours, photos, layout has to be right!” And one Twitter user even manages to invoke gender and obsessive-compulsive disorder stereotypes at the same time, announcing, “If I was a girl, my nails would be OCD perfect all the time.”

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not a fun compliment; it’s a draining condition characterized by intrusive thoughts—obsessions—and time-wasting rituals meant to alleviate the obsessions—compulsions. Those people whose OCD takes the form of perfectionism and organization find extreme anxiety about doing things just right and often must repeat tasks to the point that it gets in the way of healthy functioning. And while some individuals with OCD have compulsions to clean, organize, and re-arrange, some of us are quite the opposite and end up collecting or hoarding stuff instead. Still others don’t have either of these compulsions. Using “OCD” as a good, fun adjective not just stereotypes the disorder, but also takes away from the real pain from people living with real, clinical OCD.

This post is part three in a five part series. Visit us for the next two Mondays to continue the discussion. Also, please check out more content by Emily Brooks at her blog Changing Perspectives About Gender, Sexuality, and Disability Through Writing.


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