For most of us, the objects we interact with on a daily basis are just that: mundane stuff we're barely aware of.
The receipt the cashier hands over with our change at the cash register. The earphones through which we listen to podcasts. The plate that we eat dinner from. The pillow on which we lay our head to sleep. Few of these items may seem significant in any way — but for people living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), they could mean everything.
Though we often think of OCD as being about cleanliness, that's a big (and problematic) overgeneralization. While extreme worry about germs and the drive to re-check many times that something (like locking a door) was done properly can be symptoms of the disorder, the main criteria for OCD is right in the name — it's about obsessions (unwanted, intrusive thoughts you can't stop repeating) and compulsions (irrational drives to do certain things), according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Crucially, those who deal with OCD experience these obsessions and compulsions all the time: Their symptoms last at least an hour a day and truly interfere with their daily lives, notes NAMI. So no, your passion for keeping a tidy kitchen doesn't count as OCD.
Seemingly insignificant objects and experiences be a big deal for OCD sufferers — they can trigger exhausting, debilitating symptoms; but they can also put them on the path toward recovery, experts and OCD patients say. We spoke to seven women and one man who have faced OCD and asked them about the "thing" that symbolizes their ordeal. Ahead, they share their powerful stories.