This Article Is Triggering My OCD

A strange movement has reared its head in popular culture and seems to have traveled quickly from social media and television into the halls of Talawanda High School.  A student doesn’t have to listen too attentively to hear a conversation in which someone inevitably claims that something is “triggering my OCD” or “giving me OCD.” Amy Macechko, Talawanda school district health and wellness coordinator, said: ¨I think language is so, so important, and the way we use language when talking aout mental health, when talking about addiction, it’s really important. Because it’s easy for it to become like a ‘I’m so depressed,’ right? Where depression is a very real clinical, medical condition, so when I taught psychology, I said we don’t use other terms like that.¨

This is said as if OCD is a simple annoyance that flares up from time to time when something is uneven, out of place, or generally not to someone’s liking.  The same disorder that wreaks havoc in the lives of sufferers has been boiled down to a trendy issue in which the irritation experienced by someone with a green Skittle in a pile of yellow ones is equal to someone who is unable to leave the bathroom for hours because they haven’t been able to get their hand washing just right.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is classified in the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as the presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both.  Obsessions are defined as recurrent or persistent thoughts, urges, or impulses that are experienced as intrusive and unwanted and cause an intense level of anxiety or distress.  Compulsions are the actions that a person takes to relieve the distress caused by the obsessive thought. The individual suffering from OCD feels driven to perform these behaviors according to rules that must be applied correctly, even though they don’t always logically make sense or change the actual situation.  People who do not suffer from OCD will also experience things that aggravate and annoy them, but a person who truly has OCD will find themselves engaged in this cycle of thought-anxiety-distress-compulsion to an extent that interferes with their ability to function normally.

According to, it is estimated that about 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This means only 12 Talawanda students actually have OCD.  OCD equally affects men, women, and children of all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Using scans in which images of the brain and its functioning are captured, researchers have discovered that certain areas of the brain function differently in OCD patients than they do in those who do not have OCD.  Research findings show that OCD symptoms may involve miscommunication between different parts of the brain and abnormalities in chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine within the brain. Science has come a long way in understanding what occurs in the brain of someone with OCD, but there is still little knowledge when it comes to determining what causes it.  This lack of understanding leads to an inability to prevent the disorder from occurring. While it is widely believed that OCD has a genetic component, more research is needed to determine whether there are contributing factors in the environment that make developing OCD more likely.

Thankfully, even though the causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder aren’t known, there are many treatments and medications that have made living with the disorder possible. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a combination of medications and therapy is the most effective way to treat the symptoms of OCD.  Two types of therapy have shown the most success. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) works from the theory that our thoughts create our feelings. So, if we want to change our feelings, we must first change our thoughts. In CBT with OCD patients, the therapist helps the client pinpoint irrational thoughts and works to change those using a second type of therapy known as Exposure with Response Prevention.  This is where the client is exposed to the irrational fear or belief and encouraged to refrain from acting out the compulsion. The healing happens when the patient realizes that the anxiety eventually lessens, even without acting out the compulsion. Although these strategies are effective at some point, it takes a lot of practice and will-power to be successful.

Overcoming OCD is no easy task and the people who use the term casually, do a great disservice to the individuals who are truly trapped in their own illogical thoughts.  When phrases like, “I’m so OCD right now,” are tossed around, they eventually become meaningless. The more the media describes OCD as simply wanting to fix something that is out of order, the more the masses are going to believe the same thing, and  the more the perception of what OCD is continues to stray further from what it truly is: An incurable condition that negatively impacts the lives of those who suffer from it.

It seems that we need to be much more careful in how we talk about mental illness.