Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or more often its abbreviation – OCD – must be one of the most misused terms that is bandied around with no true understanding of it. Example – ‘oh I wish I could be a bit less OCD about the smears on the windows!‘ It’s used in a casual way, it’s not actually saying that that person’s life is being controlled and made miserable by a compulsion to clean their windows, even when there are no smears.

The organisation OCD UK has loads of helpful information on their website about what it is, what it isn’t, where to find support and what causes it. No one actually really knows for sure, but it’s thought it’s probably a combination of factors.

Whilst some of the behaviours of OCD overlap with those of autistic people: a strong need for order and routine, a fear of change, heightened anxiety and repetitive thoughts and behaviours being just a few of them, the reasons behind these behaviours are likely to be very different, with some exceptions. Despite this, it is far from uncommon for autistic people to have been misdiagnosed with OCD initially.

  • Autism is a permanent neurological difference, from birth to death, whether we’re aware of it or not. It is NOT a mental health condition, nor is it a disorder. It doesn’t need fixing. Autistic people’s lives are made difficult, not by our neurological differences, but by the lack of accommodation for our perfectly reasonable differences by the societies in which we live.
  • OCD IS a treatable mental health condition that can occur at any time in life, briefly or chronically. It is incredibly debilitating for some, life-changing, in fact. For some of those people, with appropriate treatment and support, it can at least be controlled.

We, as autistic people, as a general rule, seek out repetitive activities/stims, as ways to reduce anxiety, whereas some of those with OCD experience intrusive thoughts that they are compelled to act upon in the form of repetitive activities, even though it may be causing them anxiety and unhappiness. That’s not to say that autistic people cannot also have OCD. In this scenario the autistic person would be described as having OCD as a co-occurring condition.

Remember, whether you have any or all of these official labels or not, if you feel comfortable as part of The Gentle Autistic community, if you feel like you belong, then you do, and you are welcomed by all of us.