Life with OCD: Can You Laugh About OCD?

A few years ago, right before my book, Being Me with OCD, was published, I got a new job. After a couple months, my department went out for happy hour, and I told one of my co-workers about my book.

“Is it funny?” he asked.

I wasn’t sure I’d heard right, so I repeated his question.

“Is it funny?” I asked back.

He nodded.

Funny? Why would he assume that? It’s about a mental illness! How it took over my life!

“No,” I said slowly, trying to be polite. “It’s not funny.”

“Oh,” he said. “I just thought—you’re funny, so I thought your book might be too.”

I love to laugh, and I love to make people laugh. I love quirky people. My husband’s impression of Jimmy Pesto from Bob’s Burgers. Bob’s Burgers itself. How my younger dog Gracie zooms in and out of the room like she’s being chased and how my older dog Tuffy rolls around on his back and snorts. But OCD? That’s never been a laughing matter to me.

I was silent about my symptoms for decades. Almost 11 years ago, after I’d struggled with intrusive thoughts for nearly 20 years, I was finally diagnosed with OCD. Until that day I thought I could never talk about those thoughts at all, let alone in a lighthearted way. In fact, on that day I didn’t talk much, either. I’d filled out an OCD questionnaire beforehand and when I met my psychiatrist I mostly cried and hinted at the theme of my obsessions.

It’s only been a few years since I started talking about my OCD in more detail. Gotta admit: I still cry almost every time I speak in front of a group. I’m fine on a daily basis, with the occasional bad thoughts and frustrations that come with them, but when I start digging into my past and sharing personal details I get emotional.

Something else has started to happen in the past few years, too: If I’m talking about OCD with the right person, I can laugh about it. I don’t like being laughed at, or having someone make a joke about OCD expecting me to take it lightly, but I can laugh about it the same way I laugh at something like Dumb and Dumber—with total abandon and tears streaming down my face. (Yes, I know I just aged myself with that movie reference.) I can laugh with people who totally get it themselves—mainly other people with OCD.

How about you? Are you at a place in recovery where you can laugh about your struggles?

Alison Dotson


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