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We define our words, but they don't define us.

Avoid—Medical Appropriation

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)



We would recommend adding a content warning when speaking about this term. Please read the guidance on how and when to warn people before using this term in any context.

a mental illness usually embodied by unwanted repeated thoughts (obsession) coupled with repeated behaviour, routine, or action (compulsion)


OCD is commonly misused to highlight personality quirks or fussiness, usually involving a preference for order or cleanliness. Use of 'OCD' as a noun or adjective in this manner diminishes the actual condition, resulting in reductive and over-normalised perception of a someone with these specific mental or psychiatric disabilities.


By conflating arbitrary quirks or behaviours with OCD, we are invalidating OCD as a medical condition and the people who experience it. Generally by using medically appropriative language, we are invalidating the existences of people with OCD, minimising their experiences, perpetuating violence against people who experience mental or psychological disabilities. Using this language perpetuates those systems and language of harm, regardless of our intent.

Usage Tip

Be more specific. Typically we can find an alternate definition by taking time to reflect on what emotion we're really feeling. In this case, be particularly aware if the behaviour is actually unwanted or uncontrollable.

Alt Words

  • conscientious
  • exact
  • fastidious
  • fussy
  • meticulous
  • nitpicky
  • particular
  • precise
  • quirky
  • thorough

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