CW: This post will discuss obsessions and intrusive thoughts related to OCD, as well as ableist language related to OCD and other mental illnesses.
If you're apart of fan culture, you've probably said the word "obsessed" before. In fact, I am guilty of this myself. "Omg, I am obsessed with Stranger Things," "this book has me obsessed!" "Here are my latest fall obsessions." The word is everywhere, and is very much used colloquially in day to day life. But, my relationship with the word has changed overtime. And now, I see it as more of a negative word, with negative connotations. This is all stemming from the fact that, if you have OCD, you know that the word "obsessed" is much more than simply liking a tv show.
People struggling with OCD have to deal with many people mis-using language related to our disorder. The sentence: "I am so OCD" gets on my last nerve. It is insensitive, stereotypical, and nine times out of ten, the person using it does not have OCD or know anything about OCD experiences. If you're a neat person, that does not necessarily mean you have OCD. STOP USING THAT SENTENCE. But, a word that gets used very much in common language that I have started to have some problems with, is the word "obsessed."
The truth is, many of the people using this term colloquially probably have never experienced what a real obsession is. Obsessions take over your life. They consume you. They cause you unimaginable stress. Liking avocado toast, or enjoying some new trends during fall, are not obsessions. For someone who sees obsessions as such a negative thing, this word being thrown around like it's no problem is a little hurtful. In fact, the dictionary definition of obsession says: "an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind." The word most important here is "intrudes." This denotes that an obsession is unwelcome. It is not positive.
One of my largest obsessions right now is related to a tv show I like. But, these obsessions do not give me joy. I am constantly thinking about the people on this show. I feel the need to watch this show to ignore my problems instead of facing them. These obsessions have made me petrified that this show will take over my life, and so I have resorted to avoiding content related to this show, and the celebrities that I really love. Celebrities who I look up to, have now sent me into panic attacks. All because of an obsession.
I'm not writing this to get any sympathy. Similarly, I'm not writing this expecting that this word will be completely taken out of everyone's vocabulary. I completely recognize that there are bigger problems than the use of this word. There are a lot more offensive words that people still use that harm groups of people, and those should be dealt with first. We should be ensuring that marginalized individuals with mental illnesses get the help they need, and we should be paying great attention to folks with lesser-known mental illnesses to ensure that they are not stereotyped. Using "obsession" is not the biggest issue at hand right now, I totally get that.
However, I have been thinking a lot recently about how common mental-illness language appears in people's vocabulary. These words seem so simple to people who do not deal with these illnesses. People don't understand that for people with mental illness, these words become dirty. We don't want to hear them used as jokes, we don't want you to undermine them.
I'm not sure how to go about a solution to this problem. Because like I said, I'm not expecting a word that is so commonly used to magically disappear. Please do not feel like I'm calling you out if you use this word, or that you're a bad person because you use this word, because that is not the case. I have used this word in the past as well. But, I do think it is important that we are more conscious about how the language we use affects others. We should be willing to listen, we should be willing to learn. As more people are working to break the stigma of mental illnesses, changes need to be made. If it does not consume your life and make your life extremely difficult, then you cannot be "obsessed" with something. Keep that in mind.
For more information related to OCD, visit The International OCD Foundation
Struggling with your mental health? Visit Mind Your Mind for Canadian and International Resources
Emily @ Paperback Princess