I don’t really have too many friends.
Sure, I have a lot of acquaintances and people who I know from church, school, or other various settings. But good friends? As in people I text or email or see on a regular basis? That’s a pretty short list.
Why I am mostly antisocial
It’s not totally everyone else’s fault, and it’s not that I’m trying to be snooty or exclusive or whatever. It’s just that I’m an introvert and I have OCD. Combined, that means I’m not really comfortable hanging out with lots of friends all the time. Not only is it emotionally exhausting, but I worry that maybe I will say something wrong or incorrect, offend someone, get somebody sick, or get sick from another person.
There are so many reasons why I find it hard to be a good friend with my OCD. Maybe my brain is somewhere else, thinking fifty miles per hour about an obsession or a compulsion I want to do to prevent or counteract something. Maybe I just feel like I would rather be at home because I have to finish the last two episodes of a series I started and now MUST complete before I can feel good about life again. Maybe I feel like the place we are or going to be is dirty or gross or will get me sick. Maybe I’m feeling a phantom illness coming on and don’t want to be out “just in case” it is real. Or maybe I just don’t feel like talking and being friendly that day.
How others see us
And then there is how those of us with OCD are perceived by our friends. For those who know we have OCD, they might feel awkward or not know what to say. Some are afraid to offend or don’t want to force us to do anything that might exacerbate our condition. This is nice but also might prevent our friends from inviting us to do something that we might actually be okay with doing. It also can create weirdness where none is needed.
So, for those of you who don’t have OCD and have a friend with it, try not to be weird about it. Don’t be so over cautious that you make things awkward. Just be normal but understand that maybe your friend might not want to hang out all the time. He or she might need a week’s notice before doing something. Don’t judge them. Just take them as they are and be happy when they do want to see you. Don’t try to solve their problems or tell them to get over it. And don’t guilt trip them into coming over or doing things when they don’t want to or can’t.
Lastly, just to be on the safe side, please don’t tell them in the middle of a conversation (or at all) if you or a family member or anyone you associate with is sick. To be on the really safe side, just don’t even talk to them at all in that case. Stay away. (Not all people with OCD have anxiety related to sickness, but it’s better to avoid the subject just in case.) Sure, maybe you think it’s fine, but the person with OCD may very well take a few step backs, hold a grudge, and be bitter that you would even come near them if the possibility of spreading sickness existed. Just giving you fair warning.
When you both have OCD
Sometimes it is funny, though, to have a friend with OCD. Especially if you have it too. I am lucky enough to have a friend who also has OCD, and it is awesome. We can talk about our exposures or obsessions or issues without feeling judged or misunderstood. We can encourage each other. And it’s almost like we have our own secret club because we know what’s going on beneath the surface. We notice each other’s compulsions, even when others can’t. We can try and help the other person avoid or deal with a trigger as it comes. And we don’t take it personally when the other person is having a rough day and can’t deal with being best friends at that moment. Either that, or we can be the person to help out. It’s really beneficial.
When you are trying to be friends with someone but they have OCD (and you don’t know it)
If you don’t know that your friend has OCD, well, that’s weird because why and how did you end up reading this post? Random coincidence? But for real, if you have a friend or are trying to cultivate a friendship with someone and you think they may have OCD or are a little standoffish, it’s probably better to give them space. Maybe extend an invitation and then leave it up to them to respond. It may take a week or two or more for them to get back to you, but they are likely mulling it over. Don’t rush it. Don’t spring things on them. Don’t show up randomly at their front door. And don’t push them. Be nice and don’t get mad at them. It’s likely that they have a lot going through their mind and the last thing they need to is to worry about offending someone with whom they didn’t even initiate anything in the first place. Just be patient and understand that while maybe you are or maybe you aren’t destined to become best friends, it’s okay to not push things one way or the other.