A Laughing Matter?

laughingThose who struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and those who love and care about them see the pain it can inflict. They recognize the seriousness of the disorder and the very real suffering involved. If they are lucky, they learn to laugh at their situation sometimes, for laughter may be healing. What about, however, laughter that comes at the expense of those with OCD, or laughter that comes from stereotypes about what OCD is?  Is that a good thing?

This past week, I was perusing the posts on a professional psychologists’ page that I am a part of on a social media site. I notice that one of the psychologists has posted a photo of a flyer requesting participants for a study on OCD. It includes free treatment sessions. Every tab on the bottom edge of the paper has been torn off. Clearly, there are many folks who are interested. The bottom edge of the flyer is ragged.

Then I realize that, while the flyer is real, the post is a joke. It says something along the lines of:

Looking at this I can imagine that people with OCD would be …um… disturbed by how uneven the flyer tore.

The only comment on the post is a bunch of hysterical laughing emojis. You know, the ones with tears pouring off the little guy’s face because he’s laughing so hard. The thing is, I don’t think it’s funny at all. I don’t think this kind of thing is funny when it comes from the public, but I understand that the public has misinformed ideas about what OCD is. From a psychologist, I’m kind of flabbergasted.

I’ll admit, I’m kind of a serious person. Maybe I took it wrong. Maybe because I see patients in pain day in and day out I don’t find this kind of post funny. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived it at home. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of the stereotypes that make OCD seem like it’s all about having a finicky style, being neat, and needing everything lined up.

How a flyer is torn is the least of the issues for anyone I know or treat with OCD. In fact, it’s a non-issue. They’re more concerned whether that thought means they are going to kill another person, whether their unintended carelessness might cause a home to burn down, whether they might have accidentally hit someone with their car, whether they’ve offended G-d, whether they’re contaminated and about to become gravely ill (or make someone else ill), or whether their sexual orientation is what they’ve always thought it is – among many other concerns.

Seeing a psychologist – a mental health professional – perpetuate OCD stereotypes on social media beyond frustrates me. So I reply to the post, trying to be gentle, but not knowing exactly how to say what I want to say. I note that this isn’t what OCD is really about, that my patients probably wouldn’t even notice the raggedness of the flyer. I’m trying to say, “Hey, professional, please think before you post things that post fun or stereotype mental illness.” I feel timid, but I do it. Then I go to sleep.

By morning, I am sorry I’ve posted anything. The psychologist has replied, but, of course, is not appreciative of my comment. Instead, my comment is an opportunity to get deeper into the OCD humor – more sarcastic. The professional points out how many others have pointed out even more things about the flyer that would disturb folks with OCD. Thank goodness, notes the professional, that the folks I treat wouldn’t be disturbed by it!

I fight off an urge to fire something back. I do not try to educate any more. I sit with discomfort for most of the day. I do internet searches about why people act mean. I am an OCD advocate and I strive to put good information out there. There is so much work to be done to educate the public, and mental health professionals, about OCD. I don’t think the best use of my time is to respond to someone on social media who is just set on poking fun.

What I do is re-commit myself to educating. I re-commit myself to this blog. I re-commit myself to educating professionals and the public in whatever way I can. I will not let one mental health professional who was looking for a laugh (or even the little laughing emojis) deter me. OCD deserves to be seen and heard for what it is. It’s no laughing matter.



15 thoughts on “A Laughing Matter?

  1. Krista

    Sigh. Yes how completely not funny and inappropriate this other so-called “professional” was and thank you for sticking up for those of us who are dealing with OCD in our families. As someone who writes and performs comedy here in LA and appreciates a good laugh…..nope….SO not funny at all. Just mean. And you are right… so off the mark anyway in terms of what OCD really is. I really appreciate your stand and hope you feel less unsettled and more at peace with the way you handled it. I for one thank you, especially on behalf of my amazing 8 year old son. (Yeah maybe one day she’ll realize her laughs were at the expense of kids too!!)

  2. I am glad you posted a response. Although the professional might have needed to “save face” and therefore commit further to the original post, I have to think that on some level part of what you are saying sunk in to them. And to the other people reading the post! You are a true advocate for those with OCD!

  3. Paul K

    Thank you for your much needed hard work Angie. I don’t see how you could have handled it any better. You “took the high road” and didn’t let this misguided psychologist waste any more of your valuable time.


  4. I agree with the other commenters that you handled the situation well. I can certainly relate to how you felt. As an advocate for OCD awareness it is so frustrating to come across people who just don’t get it, particularly when they are “professionals.” We work so hard to get the right info out there that it always seems like a slap in the face when we come across such ignorance. Sigh. I’ve pretty much stopped commenting on those posts that are so way off base, and like you, choose to concentrate on continuing to educate and raise awareness of what OCD really entails. I appreciate all your hard work, Angie, both as a professional, a mom, and an advocate for those with OCD. Thank you!

  5. Anonymous

    Yes, the OCD jokes are so hard to view without getting angry with the blatant misunderstanding or feeling they are belittling the seriousness of the illness.
    I wonder if you’ve heard of ERP therapy?

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Oh yes, I’ve definitely heard of ERP. Blake’s been through it with good success when he was commited to getting better. And it’s the primary form of treatment I use for OCD patients in my psychotherapy practice. Best. – Angie

      1. Anonymous

        I just found your blog and haven’t had a chance to read too many of the posts yet, so I appreciate your kind response understanding that I likely would have found this out if I’d just kept reading. 🙂
        My younger sister has OCD and scrupulosity. Several years ago it became so severe that it affected every aspect of her life and she needed daily ERP therapy at a treatment center. The treatment center was a ways from our home, so I quit my job, moved with her, and became her primary caregiver during those 6 months so she didn’t have to be admitted to inpatient. I lived for her clear moments and relentlessly pushed her through the rest, even when all I wanted to do was hold her. I lost my best friend and little sister a million times everyday, but I lived for the glimpses. I was her protector-I didn’t want anyone to know about the experience before she was ready to tell them her story. She is the healthiest she’s ever been now and living her best life! She continues ERP therapy on a regular, but less frequent basis. She is amazing.
        I’m currently in therapy to process the experience, its’ residual effects on me, and my own anxieties that flared up during, and some because of, the experience. Part of my own ERP therapy is to talk about the experience on public blogs that discuss OCD and anxiety. I really do appreciate your patient & kind response. I look forward to reading more of your blog posts. Some of the few that I’ve read so far are so, so familiar that they’re hard to read. Thank you for your bravery in sharing.

      2. Well I am so glad you are here. You certainly are incredibly brave yourself! Your words here brought tears to my eyes. My older son has talked a lot over the years about losing his brother to OCD. OCD truly affects more than just the sufferer, as you have experienced. So glad your sister is doing so much better and so glad you are receiving help yourself to process this experience. Sending you strength! – Angie

  6. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for your kindness & support. The post about your older son’s college essay is how I first found your blog & immediately brought on tears. He is not alone.

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