In 2015 Target Stores released a clothing item during their Christmas season that caused a lot of controversy. The red, white and green sweater sold online and in retail locations read “OCD Obsessive Christmas Disorder.” Shortly after this item was released many people on social media reacted harshly. Some said that it was trivializing mental illness and making light of a severe condition. Others, most being those who have OCD, found it to be lighthearted and funny. The public outcry and differences in opinion show that this clothing item sparked a debate about mental disease acceptance as a whole. Ultimately, Target chose to keep the item on the shelves and continued selling it throughout the Christmas season.
This is not the first time that mental illness has been mocked in popular culture and it certainly won’t be the last. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and most often OCD are at times mocked or spoken about in a tongue-in-cheek way. We’re all bound to hear or see instances of this from time to time. Instead of getting upset and rushing to social media to profess your anger, the best way to combat the negative talk associated with mental illness is to become more knowledgeable about the subject. Keep reading below to learn more about OCD and how it affects a sufferers’ daily life.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is defined as a chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that they have the urge to repeat over and over. It’s not just a case of being overly organized or particular; it has to deal with habitual thoughts, rituals, or worries that interfere with everyday life. Obsessions are repeated thoughts or urges that cause anxiety. Some common symptoms include fear of germs, aggressive feelings or the need to have things in symmetrical order. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that people feel like they need to do in response to obsessive thoughts.
Common compulsions include excessive handwashing, compulsive counting, or organizing and reordering things in a particular way. OCD is common and affects people of all ages, most being diagnosed before they turn 18. The cause of OCD is unknown, but risk factors include having a family member with OCD, abuse or trauma at a young age, or certain brain abnormalities. OCD is typically treated with medication or psychotherapy and may be seen more often in people with other mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.
OCD is a difficult disorder to have to deal with as it can affect so many parts of one’s daily life. It’s exhausting and takes a lot of work to deal with. So, the next time that you or a friend comment about how you’re “so depressed” because your favorite show is ending or how you have OCD because you like to keep your house tidy, consider the differences between being sad or particular and suffering from a mental illness. Being compassionate for others (and maybe passing on the Target shirt) is the first step to truly understanding them.
Besma (Bess) Benali, Clinical Social Work/Therapist, MSW, RSW, Counselling Ottawa Nepean. I am trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Brief Psychodynamic Therapy, ACT, and mindfulness. Clients come to me because they are struggling and feel like they are trapped in a darkness that no matter what they have tried (and many have tried therapy before) they can’t pull themselves out. I help my clients understand themselves in ways no one has ever taught them before allowing them to see positive changes.
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