OCD Alphabet

Most of my writing about mental health has been quite serious lately, so I thought I’d take a break and do something more lighthearted. I often think in metaphors, especially as it concerns OCD, so I’ve challenged myself to use every letter of the alphabet to describe what this condition is like. I’m pretty sure I’ve tweeted some of these too.


OCD is an ass. Come on, I have to say it.


If you’re not into swearing, this one’s for you: OCD is a bully. Now I’m gonna swear again. OCD is a bullshit artist. Lies! Don’t listen to the lies!


OCD is like an evil cartoon. You can see the contours of your world, but they’re exaggerated and made nightmarish.


OCD is a donkey.*

*See letter A


Toxic earworm. Enough said.


When my OCD is manageable, it’s like a low-grade fever. I can function well, but I sense its presence, if only lightly.


When my OCD is annoying, I think of my thoughts as a cloud of gnats.


A helix. It just keeps twisting. Or maybe a double helix? It’s in my DNA.


The inevitable will happen if I don’t ritualize.


OCD is a jackass.*

*See letter A


OCD is like a never-ending knock knock joke. You know your rituals are ridiculous, but you can’t help but ask “Who’s there?”





Can a leopard change its spots?*

*See letter A


OCD as Mobius strip. Or perhaps a Mobius strip club. You keep going in, but it just makes you feel bad.


Noooooooo! That’s not exactly a metaphor, but it’s often what I say when I’m in the throes of ritual hell.


People with OCD are said to have sticky thoughts. That’s because the disorder is like an oil slick that has drenched our neurons, making it difficult to move from one thought to the next.


OCD is a puzzle with a missing piece. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been searching for that piece forever. Let’s face it; I’m never gonna find that piece. Also, sometimes the entire puzzle changes. Alkjweorufkljsadf!!!


?????? They don’t call it the doubting disease for nothing.


My convoluted rituals and thinking patterns put me in mind of a Rube Goldberg machine.


One must imagine Sisyphus happy. Or not?


OCD is a turncoat. Now I need to write a short story with a war theme and all the soldiers represent different obsessions and compulsions, and I’ll lose track of every single one, and the casualties will be many, and now I have a lot of work to do.


Staying with the war theme – OCD is a usurper, a usurper of rational thought.


When my symptoms were severe, I was often pulled into the OCD vortex.


When my symptoms are mild, my OCD is a persistent whisper.


Let’s go with a broken xylophone here. If I only hit it just right, the notes will sound perfect.




Zonkey, zebrass, zedonk – take your pick. Think of the stripes as the convoluted nature of OCD, and the assery is, well, the asssery.*

*See letter A


Your turn.



I love reading and likely own more books than I can possibly read in a lifetime. This doesn’t deter me from buying more books, however. Setting aside whether I should talk to someone about my book problem, I’d like to discuss how OCD affects my love of reading. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and because the universe often allows you to find what you’re looking for (confirmation bias perhaps), I stumbled across this piece about OCD and Reading  by Janet Singer.

OCD is notorious for attaching itself to everything you love. That’s the source of its power. For me, I’m often concerned about losing my support system, my family and friends. I worry about losing them to accidents or disease. When I read, I’m often confronted by trigger words. For a long while, if I saw words like “death” or “cancer” or “heart attack,” I’d immediately have to stop reading and start ritualizing. Even now it’s difficult to write those words. Sometimes whole scenes about tragic events can stop me from reading.

Some might suggest reading more lighthearted books as a cure for what ails me. But that’s not it. Reading for me is a rewarding experience because of the communion I feel with others while doing it. Even explorations of darkness bring light. One feels less alone when reading about struggle. The writer seems to say, “We’re in this together.” There’s a devastating beauty amidst the suffering.

And that word — “communion” — represents another idea that keeps percolating. I’ve been reading quite a bit about language, words, reading and listening, and the recurring theme in all these books and articles is that of communion. Talking and listening, reading and writing, words themselves bring people together.

Here’s one of my favorite lines from When Breath Becomes Air, a neurosurgeon’s meditation on confronting death: “I had come to see language as an almost supernatural force, existing between people, bringing our brains, shielded in centimeter-thick skulls, into communion.” That line explains why reading is so important to me, and why I hate when OCD interrupts this intimate exchange. Fortunately, I’m able to read with less ritualizing these days, and that’s wonderful because I need to buy more books.