Leonardo di Caprio has it. Often, he feels the urge to walk through doorways multiple times. So does Daniel Radcliffe. It used to take him as long as five minutes or more to turn off a light. Then there’s Charlize Theron who claimed that she would lose sleep thinking about other people’s disorganized cabinets. And of course, there’s Howie Mandel who refuses to shake hands with people he meets. This is what obsessive-compulsive disorder — known simply as OCD — looks like for different people.
“You have OCD!,” exclaimed my friend back in college. She was a Psychology major and we were talking about something I don’t even remember. I told her that the first thing I did when I got home from school was wash my hands. I told her that I did this, too, after I’ve read the papers. “What’s wrong with washing your hands?” I replied, “Don’t you know how dirty public transportation is? And how can you not wash your hands after touching a newspaper? Your fingers turn black from the ink!” I didn’t believe her ‘diagnosis’ of my apparent disorder and I could honestly say I didn’t suffer from OCD — until much later.
There are no recent statistics on OCD sufferers but according to a 1997 National Center for Biotechnology Information report, 2% of the global population suffered from it at that time. In the U.S., it affects about 1% of Americans. A Psychology Today article explains that OCD manifests in different ways, among them washing, cleaning, repeating, and orderliness.
BeyondOCD.org states, “Although it has been established that OCD has a neurobiological basis, research has been unable to point to any definitive cause or causes of OCD.”
For me, though, I know when things happen out of my control, OCD rears its ugly head. I become a scrubaholic. I want everything to be clean and I get upset when someone messes up my sparkling clean stainless-steel sink and clutter-free kitchen countertop.