For many years now I have been well known as the persnickety person who tells others off for using certain language in certain ways. I strongly believe that the language we use can cause damage or do good, and we need to be very conscious of how that happens.

When I see or hear POs drop “…my OCD…” into conversations, I notice every single time, and I am disappointed every single time. Even worse, when they say “a little OCD” or “not very OCD”. And even worse again when they have “OCD” somewhere in their marketing or (the horror!) their actual business name.

Sure, sometimes people who say “oh that hurts my OCD” might actually have OCD. When called out, many people say “I do have a diagnosis” as their defence, but most of the time they say that I still call bullshit. If they did have OCD, they would hopefully understand what it is and how it affects people, and they wouldn’t use the language about it in that flippant way.

It’s the same with other mental illnesses, although OCD seems to be the one used most as a humblebrag or a way to define someone’s personality or quirks. Others are usually used as insults, which is a different topic and thankfully I don’t see it done within our industry. People who don’t like seeing things lined up asymmetrical will use OCD to describe that dislike or discomfort (and sound proud of it). People who have specific ways they do things will use OCD to describe those preferences.

I won’t go into all the detail about what OCD actually is, as I’m not a mental health professional and others will describe it better, but I will say it’s not about obsessive cleanliness or orderliness. I will also say that it can be a fatal mental illness and people do lose their lives because of it. It’s a deadly disease that should not be taken lightly. It can affect every single aspect of a person’s life, and disable them significantly.

So when someone says “Oh I can’t look at that – it hurts my OCD!” when seeing a picture of a tiled floor with one tile around the wrong way, they are dismissing the serious nature of this mental illness. Would you say “Oh I’m a little bit cancer-y so I can’t go to the beach without an umbrella”. Or “I’m a bit diabetes today so please no sugar in my tea”? Nope, because we don’t have those conditions (and if you did you still probably wouldn’t say it) and saying things like that is really disrespectful to the people who do.

I believe strongly that no-one should use a mental illness to describe a personality type or a quirk or preference, and I think those of us that work in this industry should be particularly aware of the sensitivity of this. Professional Organisers have a responsibility to the community to show respect for those with mental illnesses. Given that a lot of our clients suffer from mental illnesses and neurodiversities, using the terms flippantly really doesn’t show them the respect they deserve, and colours the whole industry in a colour I really don’t want us to be.

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