Bob Levey/Getty Aly Raisman
Aly Raisman is opening up publicly about her struggles with OCD for the first time.
Speaking with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman on the Armchair Expert podcast Thursday, the two-time Olympian discussed her experience with the disorder.
“When you say you have OCD, I like that — I mean, I’m sorry you have OCD, but I mean it makes me feel like I’m less alone in that because people don’t really talk about it a lot publicly, at least what I see,” the gymnast said after Shepard, 45, mentioned that he also has OCD.
“But I struggle with it, too,” Raisman, 26, said. “And I learned recently — like I always thought OCD was I have to touch this x amount of times or I have to do this x amount of times before I leave the room, but I’ve also learned that OCD is classified with like ruminating thoughts or obsessive thoughts or catastrophic thinking. I have that.”
“I’m really trying to work on that right now because our minds sometimes go to the worst-case scenario,” Raisman continued, adding that it can be difficult for people without OCD to understand that kind of thinking.
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“I feel like for people who don’t understand it, they’re like, ‘Just don’t think about it.’ I’m like, ‘It does not work like that!’ ” Raisman shared. “It’s so hard because I’ve been trying to really educate myself on the way that our minds work just so I can help myself, but also just so I can better talk about it and better understand it on a personal level with my family or my friends, but also just on a public level as well.”
The gold medalist said that she finds learning about the mind “fascinating,” because “so much of the time, our minds don’t really realize what’s made up and what’s real.”
“That’s what I struggle with so much, is that fight or flight response where it could be something so small and my body is reacting as if like a tiger is trying to eat me,” added Raisman, who has been candid in the past about attending therapy.
“I think it’s more common than we realize,” Raisman said of OCD, adding that the conversation was “my only time ever talking about it in an interview, so I’m really glad we’re talking about it because I know a lot of my friends struggle with it. I know a lot of people struggle with the ruminating thoughts and the catastrophic thinking.”
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“It, in my opinion, relates to like trauma and PTSD,” Raisman said. “Unless you’re getting to the root of the problem of why you are not feeling safe or out of control, you’re going to keep having OCD and it’s going to manifest into other ways of your life.”
Raisman shared that during her gymnastics career, her OCD manifested itself in routines and good-luck regimens before meets.
“But then, for me, it kind of became a problem where if I had this good luck thing, and I was traveling internationally and I forgot it, or something happened and it broke, I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, what do I do now?’ ” Raisman recalled. “So it’s just different moments in my career where I was obsessive about it.”
“I also think that’s what made me successful in my gymnastics career, where I was so OCD with like, ‘I have to go back and do it again. It has to be perfect,’ ” she said. “And then it kind of goes into learning about perfectionist trauma, too, of always having to be perfect.”
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Raisman said that now she tries to learn as much as she can about how her mind works.
“I think of it almost like as peeling back the layers of the onion,” she explained. “At the first moment I’m like, ‘Ah, I feel better about this one part.’ And then I’m like, ‘Wait, then this relates to this or this.’ I’m just fascinated about learning about how our minds work. It’s so interesting to me.”
Following the conversation, Raisman called it “my favorite interview I’ve done” on Instagram.
“I think I was the most vulnerable & honest in this interview. I talked about a few things I’ve never shared publicly before,” she wrote in the caption alongside a screenshot from the video call.
“Thank you @daxshepard & @mlpadman @armchairexppod for having me on the podcast. I recently have found that I enjoy doing podcast interviews because there is so much more time to go into detail & discuss so many topics! If you can relate to some things I struggle with I hope it helps you in some way & I hope you remember you’re not alone.”