Recently, Target, the discount retailer, came under scrutiny for a sweater it was selling for the holiday season. The garment in question has "OCD -Obsessive Christmas Disorder" written across the front. 

Unfortunately, like many mental illnesses people use the phrase OCD casually, not really understanding what it actually means to have the disorder. I don't believe that there was a concerted effort to disrespect people with the disorder, but I think that the lack of information on the debilitating disease causes people to not take it seriously.

According to Psych Central, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and disturbing thoughts (called obsessions) and/or repetitive, ritualized behaviors that the person feels driven to perform (called compulsions). Obsessions can also take the form of intrusive images or unwanted impulses.

People diagnosed with this mental disorder spend an inordinate amount of time being anxious as a result of their thoughts which lead to distracting behaviors. Common compulsions include excessive cleaning (e.g., ritualized hand washing); checking, ordering and arranging rituals; counting; repeating routine activities (e.g., going in/out of a doorway) and hoarding (e.g., collecting useless items). While most compulsions are observable behaviors (e.g., hand washing), some are performed as unobservable mental rituals (e.g., silent recitation of nonsense words to vanquish a horrific image).

There are several famous people who admit to having the disorder, and in some cases it has been said that success has derived from the condition. Common types of obsessions include concerns with contamination (e.g., fear of dirt, germs or illness), safety/harm (e.g., being responsible for a fire), unwanted acts of aggression (e.g., unwanted impulse to harm a loved one), unacceptable sexual or religious thoughts, and the need for symmetry or exactness.

What often leads to the demise of a person afflicted with the disorder is the lack of performance and productivity. The disorder causes people to take repeated actions and steps to resolve something in their mind. This may mean five minutes here or 10 minutes there doing a ritual to ward off something bad from happening or retracing their steps to make sure they didn't overlook something.

But with everything there is a silver lining. For employers, you may find that jobs that require repetition and double-checking may be suitable for some people with OCD. For example, someone with OCD may excel in a job that focuses on quality control or a position that requires long periods of time working alone.

An employer who is able to tap into the positive traits of any disorder will achieve measurable success and productivity from employees. Far too often, employers focus on the negative attributes of a disorder, but OCD has proven to be a disorder that can be very beneficial when such energy is directed and harnessed.

Getting back to Target: the company doesn't plan to remove the sweater, which brings about another discussion I want to point out. There was disapproval by some consumers, particularly those who have a mental illness. However, their voices weren't truly heard. I suspect this is because corporate America listens when they believe that their bottom line will be impacted. What I'm saying is that there simply aren't enough people who are vocal about their mental illness to make it a cause.

If the statistic is correct that there are one in four people who have a mental health diagnosis, there should be a groundswell from the public when they feel that mental health isn't being taken seriously. If we are truly talking about 25 percent of Americans having some sort of disorder that would add up to a lot of consumers. But as long as the stigma keeps those of us with mental health challenges quiet and in the shadows, we will continue to experience discrimination. This may be the real lesson that I got from the ugly sweater.