Why it’s not OK to say “a little bit OCD”

As wordsmiths, translators need to use language and terminology as correctly as they possibly can. And that’s why I believe we shouldn’t perpetuate the common misconception that it’s good to be “a little bit OCD”. Because it’s totally wrong to assume that being a super-organised person who pays attention to every detail and likes everything to be just so means you’re a bit OCD.

OCD is a debilitating disorder that can ruin people’s lives and tear families apart. It’s also a lifelong condition. You can get better, certainly. That’s why sufferers go to years of therapy. But it also has a nasty habit of coming back. Again. And again. And yet again.

Some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder take drugs every day of their lives to help them subdue that voice in their head that makes them repeat the same boring rituals over. And over. And over. Ten times. Fifteen times. A hundred times. Sometimes for hours on end until they are relatively happy they have done the action correctly and can move on to the next. And what might that action be? Sure, it could be the clichéd one of washing your hands repeatedly. Some OCD sufferers do that so much their hands are constantly red, cracked and bleeding. But it could be turning a light switch on or off. Tapping the walls before leaving a room. Getting out of a car. Going up and down the stairs. Turning the page of a book. Putting shoes on. Just imagine what it would be like if you had to do these actions more than once because otherwise your mother might die.

If you wouldn’t want to suffer from a bit of cancer or Alzheimer’s, or be a bit diabetic or disabled, do everyone suffering from OCD and their loved ones a favour and stop saying how great it is/would be to be a bit OCD.

For more details on why it’s not a good idea to use the expression “a little bit OCD” please read these articles published in the Guardian and the Huffington Post.

If you think you have OCD, or are concerned that a family member or friend might be suffering from this disorder, you may find the following links useful:


OCD Action

Anxiety Care

OCD Types

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

Explore this blog by starting with the categories page

2 thoughts on “Why it’s not OK to say “a little bit OCD”

  1. Nikki:

    The phrase “a little bit OCD” is not in my vocabulary—not because I defend the disease, but because I consider it a vapid phrase that is unproductive and means nothing. I would just say “I’m obsessive”. Psychology and medical terms have a way of trickling down to lay parlance. Is that something that started in the 80s or has it always been around?

    Now, as to not stepping on anyone’s toes, I’m not so sure. We currently live in a world of inclusion, diversity, awareness, sensitivity, and human rights. Instead of fostering freedom, it cripples free speech and conviviality. It gets to a point that self-censorship and political correctness hobble us—unless we are willing to brave a tirade.

    It used to be that people could make light of serious issues and be greeted by a snicker or two.


    1. Hi Reed, I get what you’re saying and agree with you that political correctness often can and does go too far. My school-age daughter occasionally picks holes in things my mother and I say because, as you mentioned, the world is becoming more inclusive and tolerant of diversity and the older generation can sometimes put their foot in it.
      I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in the UK people often say “I’m a bit OCD” about cleaning, keeping things neat and tidy, being a perfectionist, etc. This has been exacerbated by a TV programme called “Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners” that has nothing to do with OCD. So unlike some of the serious issues you were referring to, the situation we have now is that the vast majority of the population has no idea what OCD really means and I don’t think that’s OK.
      OCD can make you do strange repetitive actions that can attract a lot of stares and derision. It is fuelled by anxiety and what the sufferers need is understanding. By perpetuating the myth that we can all be a bit OCD when the disorder actually affects only 1-3% of the population, we are not providing people with OCD an environment in which they will feel comfortable telling their friends and colleagues abut the OCD. And, therefore, we fail to give them the support they so desperately need.
      Right now in the UK the charity MQ: Transforming Mental Health is tackling the stigma around mental health and doing research to help treat and prevent mental illnesses in young people. I swore to help and this post is part of that commitment.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.