Pyjamas, jumpers and other products sporting the words ‘Obsessive Christmas Disorder’ should be pulled from sale immediately, a charity has said, after multiple retailers were called out for trivialising mental illness.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (or OCD) severely affects around 750,000 people in the UK, with many adding to calls that it not be treated as a “joke”.
Boohoo is the latest to face a backlash for selling a set of pyjamas showcasing the phrase. They have since disappeared from the online store.
Last week TK Maxx pulled a line of ‘I have OCD... Obsessive Christmas Disorder’ kitchenware, while Pink Boutique removed its line of ‘OCD Christmas jumpers’ earlier this week and issued an apology for any offence caused.
Charity OCD UK has been leading the charge on getting the items pulled from sale, tweeting retailers and educating them on the illness.
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, spokesperson for the Mental Health Foundation, called for retailers to pull any lines featuring the phrase immediately.
“We’ve come a long way in terms of public attitudes towards mental health and reducing stigma, but when we see slogans trivialising serious conditions like OCD, it reminds us there’s still a long way to go,” he said. “As an immediate action, we would urge retailers to pull any lines with these slogans.”
Jo Loughran, director of Time to Change, told HuffPost UK it was “disappointing” to see a mental health problem used as part of a Christmassy ‘joke’ – especially as you’d never see a physical health problem made fun of.
While casually using the phrase OCD in this way may seem harmless, she said, it could actually prove damaging to those with the illness, diminishing the seriousness of what can be a very debilitating illness.
Emily Heath, who has OCD, told HuffPost UK she wants to see the products pulled across the board. “Not just in a reactive response to outrage,” she said. “They need to really understand why people don’t want OCD to be a joke.”
A spokesperson for Boohoo told HuffPost UK: “It was never boohoo’s intention to cause offence. We are taking steps to educate the teams on this illness and raise awareness within the business to ensure that this does not happen again.”
OCD can cause persistent thoughts and images that cause distress. People with the condition might also feel compelled to ritualistically check things.
The 29-year-old marketing executive added: “It is insulting to people who are diagnosed with the illness when brands like this belittle the seriousness.
“We need to do better, I can’t think of any other mental illness that is repackaged and sold to people as a funny affectation.”
Dr Kousoulis said we’ve come a long way in terms of public attitudes towards mental health and reducing stigma, but added that seeing slogans trivialising serious conditions like OCD reminds him there’s “still a long way to go”.
“There are still too many young people who don’t feel able to ask for help because they fear being misunderstood,” he said. “The fact that savvy retailers are unaware that this might cause damage shows that there needs to be a lot more understanding around mental illness.”