“We All Need OCD Now” – My Thoughts on This Week’s Wall Street Journal Article

Hand Washing Image

I know, I’m supposed to be on my sort-of blogging break. However, when I read about a certain article published by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday (31st March), I had to come out of my box and address it. To be honest, I didn’t really want to taint my blog with this fantastic piece of journalism, and part of me was thinking “don’t do it, you might just kick the shit out of your laptop in the process.” However, as I was washing up this evening I found the rage building up and I needed to get it out.

If you’re not sure what the F I’m on about, earlier this week The Wall Street Journal published an article entitled We All Need OCD Now. I’m sure you’ll probably know why I have a problem with this just from the title. Now, the eagle eyed among you will see that you can’t actually read the full article without paying £1 to subscribe, however, charity OCD-UK, who have openly challenged The WSJ on the article have given us plenty of highlights.

Essentially, the bottom line of the article is that given the current Covid-19 outbreak, the entire population would benefit from having OCD, and actually uses the phrase “a little OCD, right now, wouldn’t be so bad.” The scary thing? It’s written by a clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. In all honesty, I can’t quite put into words how angry this article makes me, but I’m going to certainly try in this post. I’m going to try my best to address this like a grown up, but I will warn you upfront that I will likely get very animated and there will be a lot of swearing. To give you an idea of the utter fucking drivel that they’ve published, each heading in this post is a snippet of the article.

“We All Need OCD Now”

Essentially, this comes from the government’s guidelines that we should be washing our hands for 20 seconds. I have a few thoughts on this: 

  • Washing your hands for 20 seconds isn’t OCD. Given the current pandemic, it’s fucking common sense. I’ll be honest, since this advice came out, my hand washing compulsions have gotten significantly worse and it’s getting increasingly more difficult to silence them. I would love to be able to wash them once for 20 seconds. Instead, I wash them for 20 seconds, 3 times, plus more if my brain decides they’re not clean enough, which at the moment, is pretty much every time I need to wash them.
  • Being told to wash your hands for 20 seconds doesn’t impact on your daily life. In the case of someone with OCD, those 20 seconds will turn into 20 minutes very quickly, and more often than not, even longer. THAT’S when it has an impact on your life. 
  • Let’s also point out that as I’ve said before – OCD is NOT just handwashing. It’s this kind of ignorance around the condition that reinforces the stigma that it’s all about being clean. 

Likewise, I have never seen OCD as something I’ve needed. Washing my hands until they bleed, losing friendships, spending ridiculous amounts of money replacing phones, coats and bags; and mentally torturing myself over whether or not I’ve hit a child in my car are all things I haven’t needed. However, thanks to OCD, I’ve done them anyway. Multiple times.

“OCD is No Longer Something We Have. It’s Something We’re Under County, State and Public Health Authorities’ Orders to Become”

SINCE WHEN? Show me ANY PART of the fucking literature that says we are to ‘become’ OCD. Washing your hands for those 20 seconds and staying indoors for the foreseeable future does not equate to a diagnosis of OCD. Also, you don’t ‘become’ OCD. It’s not a personality trait or an adjective. It’s an illness that ruins lives. It’s a shame that the writer of this article is clearly incapable of realising that.

“Social Distancing and Hand Washing Guidelines Often Are Heeded Improperly or Only Briefly Before “OCD Fatigue” Sets in and Caution is Abandoned”

I would love to say that as soon as I get tired or bored or fed up, I can switch off the compulsions. Unfortunately that’s not the case. There is no logic with OCD. The intensity of the intrusive thoughts that come with it don’t just disappear because you’re tired. You continue to carry out the compulsion for as long as it takes, until your brain tells you it’s okay to stop. That can be in ten minutes, it can be an hour, or it could be even longer. If anything, when you’re tired, it just gets worse.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that this article struck a chord with me. I admit that I’m incredibly lucky to have gotten as far as I did with my recovery, but others aren’t that lucky. For so many people with OCD, this bitch of an illness destroys their lives. In my case, the truth of the matter is that had it not been for me getting the help when I did back in 2016, there’s a chance I wouldn’t be here now. There are people who, unlike me, haven’t been so lucky. How on earth is it okay to say that the public needs something – an illness – that destroys someone that much?

The irony of this whole thing? 100%, I would have been able to handle this whole pandemic a lot better if I didn’t have the thing this article says we all need. Having contamination based OCD – or any form of OCD for that matter – during a global pandemic is not useful. It’s fucking torture. My hands are dry, cracked and bleeding on a daily basis, I haven’t left my house in three weeks, and I’m trying my absolute best not to Dettol wipe my groceries. I’m drinking A LOT more than I should, in the hope of shutting up my brain and because it helps me feel normal. I’ve spent numerous nights crying because of the fear of this bastard and of a virus, and the fact that I can’t drink wine with my best friend, go for a cup of tea at my Mum’s house or cuddle my baby fur-sister. But you know, apparently I need all of that, so it’s fine.

I feel this article conveys the idea that once this is all over, we can switch off our OCD and go back to normal. Another little touch of irony is that for those of us with OCD, it will not switch off. If anything, it’s been turned up stupidly loud to the point where you can’t concentrate on anything else. I worked ridiculously hard to get to the point where I did in my recovery, and I feel as though this virus is very slowly pushing me back to square one. I’m terrified of how long this lockdown will last, but I’m also terrified of how bad my compulsions will get once things go back to normal and public gatherings start again.

I appreciate that I’m a bit of a hypocrite when I say OCD isn’t just about hand-washing, given that it’s the main component of mine. However, what I want to get across is the point that I don’t just wash my hands a lot. The intrusive thoughts happening in my mind while I’m washing my hands and using copious amounts of hand sanitiser are what I want to draw attention to. The hand washing is just half the story.

So, my message to The Wall Street Journal? Educate yourself. Just because something is written by someone with a Stanford education, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right. Before you publish an absolute piece of drivel like this, consider the people that are actually living with OCD. This article does nothing more than reinforce the stigma around OCD – that it’s all about cleanliness and hygiene. That it’s a quirk or a personality trait for people who like things clean and tidy. OCD is not a personality trait that comes in useful during a global pandemic. It’s an illness. It tortures, it bullies and it ruins lives. The sooner you get that into your heads, the sooner we’ll stop being subjected to damaging articles like this.

If you’re in need of any additional support regarding OCD, be sure to check out OCD-UK’s website.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.

17 thoughts on ““We All Need OCD Now” – My Thoughts on This Week’s Wall Street Journal Article

  1. Omg!!!! This fills me with SO much rage. Obviously whoever wrote this knew nothing about OCD or mental illness and just went off typical stereotypes. I’m sorry for anyone who has been negatively affected by this rubbish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so scary to think the person who wrote it is actually professor of psychiatry! Such an cruel approach to OCD and just completely unhelpful. Thank you for reading xx

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      1. Oh definitely, I’ve experienced a fair few of them in my time as I’m sure we all have and it’s surprising how damaging it can be when they don’t show any compassion.

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  2. I have the feeling that many people either think that people with mental illness are hopeless cases or overreacting about “normal” things, depending on the diagnose or what they hear about it / someone. Many forget that they could be this one having the problem because many can’t understand it and don’t want to. I guess there are mainly two ways to understand an illness, you had it yourself or you get in contact with many people having it and just in general by listening to others and trying to understand their point of view and situation. I guess most can’t or don’t want to do this. I masked my problems until they almost took over control. People often forget that they are talking about human beings, about individuals with feelings, thoughts and a life.

    I am also working on my problems for some months as a recovery process as well and I wish you strength to continue your fight because I know it is hard. Thank you for sharing. No one deserves or “needs” any kind of illness, but some of us aren’t that lucky. I hope my words are right and not telling the opposite of what I wanted to say because I wanted to support you and also send some love. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment 🙂 I just feel as though the whole article is ignorant and completely insensitive to anyone that is genuinely struggling – not just with OCD but with any other mental health condition as well. I was exactly the same as you in that I masked my problems for a long time until they started getting worse. I completely agree with you, especially that people forget that we’re talking about human beings and there’s more to us than just chemicals and mechanics. Thank you for your support and I wish you all the best in your recovery too, and thank you so much for reading. x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Gosh. This is simply shocking – especially that it’s Wall Street Journal…and as you said it’s the opinion of an actual professor of psychiatry.
    Some people have already told me that I was “lucky” for having OCD because I have already gotten used to excessive hand washing, but seriously, it is like telling someone with anorexia how lucky they are because they are slim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know that’s what shocked me the most I think, that it’s a genuine professional saying it. I sympathise as I’ve had a few similar comments thrown my way and I know the people who’ve said them don’t necessarily mean it maliciously, but it still hurts and it’s again a complete disregard of the fact that OCD (or any mental health condition for that matter) is in fact an illness and not a personality trait or a quirk. Thanks for reading xx

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      1. Well, to be honest if “average people” told me such things, I would not be offended but it’s shocking to see a professional who has such an opinion. Like…most of the people are not familiar with OCD and that’s not their fault but this guy should have known what it felt like…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is – it actually frightens me that this person is a professional in the field. These kind of opinions are hard enough to change among the general public, and having the same ignorant views come from someone who allegedly knows what they’re talking about is just going to undo any work that’s been done for reducing the stigma. Thank you for reading xx

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  4. This is just AWFUL! Why not just say we should all be agoraphobic, so we don’t leave our houses? What other mental health diagnosis can they use to describe what things we should do? You know, mental health diagnosis that really seriously affect people? This makes me so angry! The fact that was written by someone who is a professional in psychiatry is so sad. You’re right, OCD isn’t just hand-washing. OCD is obsessive thoughts and actions that bother you so much that it affects your life in negative ways. What we’re supposed to be doing during this pandemic is supposed to be HELPING us, not HURTING us, which is what OCD does. It hurts.

    Thank you for speaking out about this. I don’t know if this writer was trying to be “funny” (because, you know, it’s fun to joke about OCD!) or what, but being a mental health PROFESSIONAL, they should have known better. I agreed with everything you said 100%!!!

    Emily | http://www.thatweirdgirllife.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still don’t understand how they had the audacity to post something like it. OCD is a horrible illness as it is but particularly during this time I’m sure there’s loads of people struggling, including myself. To say it’s something we need is just insulting. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment 🙂 xx

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