Maybe you have a roommate who constantly worries that she left her hair straightener turned on – even if she remembers unplugging it earlier that morning. Perhaps your spouse is so fixated on keeping a section of the house clean – say, a countertop or swath of floor – that he or she ignores an overflowing sink or a full trash can. You might have a friend who likes to count things – mailboxes, cracks in the sidewalk, lampposts. Or maybe your father confided in you that he experiences intrusive and disturbing thoughts he can’t cast aside no matter how hard he tries.
There’s a good chance these people have obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD – a brain-behavior disorder that affects approximately 2 to 3 percent of the population, according to Jeff Szymanski, a clinical psychologist and executive director of the International OCD Foundation. And if you don’t know much about OCD, the comments you offer could come across as hurtful, ignorant or dismissive instead of curious, helpful or empathetic.
Here are some phrases to think twice about saying to a friend, family member or acquaintance with OCD.