The Danger of “I’m so OCD!”

Blog Award

The following post is the second in our series of entries submitted for the 1st Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award. This piece is by Caitlin Millett, a 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Image credit: Alan Levine (Flickr)

Image credit: Alan Levine (Flickr)

Have you ever heard a friend exclaim “I’m being so OCD right now!” when they can’t help but double check for their house keys before slamming the front door? It seems that this phrase has become a cultural colloquialism, it is used so often.

Luckily, most people who say “I am so OCD!” do not, in fact, have a debilitating anxiety disorder marked by uncontrollable obsessive thoughts and behavioral compulsions, the hallmark features of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Though the term obsessive-compulsive is often misattributed to those of us who are perhaps too meticulous, prone to anxiety, or a combination thereof, we as a society have familiarized ourselves with the term through our exposure to literature and media to the extent that it is now a part of our lexicon.

Goodbye Sun; Hello SAD

Neuroscience

By: Caitlin Millett, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Program

SAD_manIt’s that time of year again- the end of daylight savings and the beginning of the dark season. As is ominously stated in Game of Thrones: Winter. Is. Coming.

While the majority of us look forward to seasonal festivities, millions can also expect feelings of depression, fatigue, irritability and poor sleep.

This form of mental illness, commonly known as the winter blues, is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is disproportionately represented in populations furthest from the equator. It is estimated that 1-2% of North Americans have a mood disorder with a seasonal pattern, with 10% of New Englanders versus 2% of Floridians affected. Symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, low concentration, sluggishness, social withdrawal, unhappiness and irritability.

Decades of research has uncovered the culprit behind this debilitating illness: lack of sunlight and disruption of circadian rhythms.