On Awful People, Jour-no-lism, and the Epidemic of ‘Faux-C-D’

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mental health / ocd

I’ve just posted two newspaper opinion pieces from the same newspaper, published on the same weekend. One, by a doctor, describes OCD pretty accurately: a “living torture, leaving many sufferers with a sense that they are trapped in their own minds”. He gets it spot on when he says “being a tad fussy about lining up … soft drinks doesn’t even begin to merit the diagnosis.” Being clean and tidy? Good for you. I wish I were. Does that mean you have OCD? I’m afraid it doesn’t.

It’s sad that I must repeat myself, over a year on, in the 21st century, that OCD isn’t a cute little quirky trait. It’s crap. It really is. Dr Max seemed to get it across. What a pleasing article, I thought, and promised myself I’d write a blog post about the positive press in the week.

Then Sunday hit.

Liz Jones has long been a fixture of my Sundays. She’s quite a dreadful woman who writes, with absolutely no compunction, guilt, or shame, about her life. Nothing is safe. Her boyfriend, for example. Her ex-husband. Her wardrobe. A sentence like ‘I went to see my bank manager about my bankruptcy wearing my gorgeous Joseph jumper and Prada heels’ is not unheard of. (I made that sentence up, but it’s representative of the things she writes. I am too upset to google her. But you can, at your leisure!) She’s poor, from giving her nieces and nephews extravagant presents. She buys horses, for god’s sake. I do enjoy her witterings on about how she has no friends and has failed at life and has no money, as she holds down a well-paid, high-powered, full-time job and has a boyfriend.

People who confuse being a bit tidy with having OCD are actually suffering from self-diagnosed faux-c-d. I can’t claim credit for faux-c-d; a friend coined it and I’m nicking it. Sufferers of FCD often revel in their cute little ways. They often draw attention to the fact that they’ll have their tins of soup lined up precisely. “I’m so OCD!” they’ll gush, in the kittenish way they have. I once went on a date with someone who described himself as “a bit OCD” about going to the gym. “Why?” I asked. “Do you feel something like bad will happen if you don’t go?” He looked at me as though I had just said something very unreasonable. “No,” he said, witheringly. “I just like going, that’s all.” I never heard from him again.

My OCD, for which I have been an inpatient, and am currently receiving therapy for, involves the fact that I think my dad is going to rape me (he won’t). Or that I am going to sexually abuse children (I wouldn’t). I am terrified of harm coming to my loved ones. It also involves thinking about murders I may or may not have committed, about death, guilt, and punishment, and lots of apologising. My compulsions include ‘cracking’ my joints to the point that they’ve started to give up on me, and I have to see an osteopath. Even during the appointments with her, I’ll be twisting my joints, usually in tears. I have NO CONTROL over it. Nor would I wish to draw people’s attention to it. Whereas FCD folk will be perversely proud of their quaint ways (“oh gosh, how embarrassing, but I’m really OCD about it”), I wouldn’t DREAM of bragging about it. I don’t even like writing it down here, in case it comes true.

There is a personality disorder called OCPD – Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. It is, as the name suggests, a personality disorder. I don’t know an awful lot about it to be honest – I therefore won’t be writing about it with any authority – but from what I gather, it involves fastidious perfectionism and attention to detail. That could cover Paul Hollywood and his FCD. It is not OCD, though this is a contentious issue.

Liz Jones, however, is just plain wrong. I have OCD – quite severely – and I even went to the Cake and Bake Show at Excel Centre on Sunday as I enjoy baking. It gets messy sometimes. Well, I’m actually quite a  messy person (see https://diaryofanocd.wordpress.com/guest-blogging/maria-this-is-my-ocd-tell-me-yours/). I enjoy eating all kinds of things, “disgustingly unclean” pork included, which automatically disqualifies me from having OCD: “the true OCD sufferer will carefully weigh up whether their hunger is greater than the need for a clean plate. The latter wins, almost every time.” Not when I’ve dined with my friends with OCD, it hasn’t!

I realise Liz Jones writes provocative articles to get a reaction, and I’m reacting. She has therefore done her job. But imagine the damage this will do to someone who hasn’t been diagnosed yet, and just thinks they are a psychopath! That happened to someone I know: she went to the doctor and said “I’m a psychopath. Lock me up”. Liz Jones likes putting brown paper down in the footwell of her car. There is no comparison really.

I know Liz Jones has struggled with anorexia, and I feel sorry for her for that. But how would she feel if, turning down a cake, I said “ooh, not today, I’m feeling a bit anorexicky!” She would surely feel the need to educate me on what a serious and debilitating illness it is. Well, Liz, back atcha. Get educated.

The Author

Hello! I'm Brigid. I live in London and work in a primary school. My ambition is to be a children's author and illustrator. I also like listening to 80s music and dancing like a loon. My heart dances to vintage dresses, mini coopers, brass bands and hula hoops. Proud owner of goldfish and a pink ukulele. This blog is a mishmash of my general life. I hope you enjoy it.

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