Getting to know OCD

It might be a trivial idea at first. You think that people with OCD have to constantly clean things or that a space must be rid of every speck and spot. But the truth is, it’s a disorder. It’s a disorder that affects 1 in every 100 children and ultimately inhibits the way they go about their daily lives. The symptoms can be obvious and visible or hidden and a little inconspicuous. Increasing awareness around the disorder allows for access to resources and support that students struggling with OCD require.

For those who may not know, or know a lot, about OCD, it is a compulsive disorder that causes the individual to experience distressing or intrusive thoughts. These distressing thoughts can take over their daily routines and lifestyles with tasks and behaviours to combat these thoughts. Individuals who experience OCD can understand and recognise that these behaviours and thoughts are irrational yet continue in their pursuit to satisfy them.

Now there is a difference between being superstitious and experiencing these thoughts. For example, one might feel the need to turn all the lights off in a certain order or pattern before they go to bed that night. That behaviour isn’t necessarily worrying, just a little careful maybe. But not getting enough sleep or missing work because of these small routines and behaviours is a sign that these thoughts and behaviours are impacting one’s life.

Students with OCD can develop anxiety. So, like most people, with anxiety, it’s a mental illness that affects their daily life just as much as OCD does. However, for students struggling with the disadvantages of OCD, they may also find that it inhibits their academic performance and focus. It’s important to chat to your students and doctors when the behaviours first start arising. OCD is very treatable, so detecting those unusual behaviours early won’t hurt!

But what am I looking for? There are two common signs to look out for when trying to determine if your student is experiencing OCD. The first is whether they express ideas about having irrational fears that something bad will happen. This may be the idea that if they don’t brush their teeth 3 times a night, that their teeth will fall out the next day. And the second is just that. Those repetitive behaviours or rituals that start to creep into their daily routines. Checking in with their teachers and the members of their support network to see if they’ve noticed anything might also give you some clarification.

Whilst sometimes mocked and joked about, OCD is a real and life-affecting disorder. Creating awareness and discussing its behaviours will assist in the endeavour to normalise it and remove the comedic stereotype of being a ‘clean freak’.