Stop using OCD as an adjective

May is mental health awareness month. This is of special importance to me because your dear Grammar Party blogger is crazy, psycho, nuts, mad, loony, insane, and any number of unkind labels people call the mentally disordered.

All of these labels can be hurtful, but one use in particular is prodding me onto my soapbox today. This is when people who do not have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) say they are “OCD” about something.

Example: I’m so OCD about keeping my desk clean.
Example: I’m OCD about making sure Fred does his share of the cooking.

OCD is not an adjective. It is not an alternate word for particular or concerned. OCD is a noun. It’s the name of a mental disorder. And I have it.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not embarrassed about having OCD. Some people have allergies. Some people need glasses. Some people have OCD. In fact, I think having OCD makes me a better copy editor. I can concentrate on minute details better than others can; and, when people hire me to edit their books, they can be sure I have thoroughly inspected every letter and punctuation mark on every page.

But OCD is not funny, and it’s not a subject to take lightly. It’s a serious disorder. And, much of the time, it’s plain sucky to live with. It keeps me from being able to drive a car because of severe anxiety or leave my apartment without double-checking the doorknobs, as a couple examples.

If I may speak on behalf of others with this disorder, I would ask that if you use OCD as an adjective, consider how that feels to people who actually have it and stop using it that way. If you hear others using OCD as an adjective, please remind them of the proper way to use it—as a noun to represent a serious disorder.

Language is a powerful tool, and sometimes it can be used to hurt people—even without the speaker being aware of the consequences.

Officially stepping down from my soapbox . . . now. Thanks for reading this post.

You can learn more about mental health advocacy at the website for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.