Obsessive-compulsive disorder, commonly referred to as OCD, is a mental illness that manifests through recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that OCD affects approximately 2.2 percent of the American adult population. This means about 1 in 40 adults suffer from this potentially debilitating condition.
Despite increasing awareness about various mental illnesses in recent years, there is still an abundance of OCD stereotypes perpetuated by society and the media that hinder the understanding and treatment of OCD.
These stereotypes paint the picture that OCD is nothing more than a character trait or being a little quirky. But this could not be further from the truth! OCD is a crippling condition that can severely decrease your quality of life and lead to other complications like depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.
Debunking the Myths Surrounding OCD
In order to break down the barriers that stand in the way of proper diagnosis and treatment of OCD, it’s important to debunk some of the most common myths about OCD:
Myth #1: OCD is all about being clean and organized.
Fact: While some people with OCD may be obsessed with cleanliness and organization, this is not the case for everyone with the disorder. There are many OCD subtypes that don’t have anything to do with cleanliness or orderliness. Some people with OCD may actually be a little bit messy or disorganized.
Myth #2: People with OCD are perfectionists.
Fact: Perfectionism is a personality trait, not a mental disorder. While some people with OCD may strive for perfection, they do so as a response to intrusive obsessions.
Myth #3: OCD does not get better.
Fact: OCD is a highly treatable condition! Although there is no permanent cure, with proper diagnosis and treatment, most people with OCD can experience a significant improvement in their symptoms and lead normal lives.
Myth #4: Everyone experiences “a little OCD” sometimes.
Fact: It is common for people to joke about being “a little OCD” if they have a tendency to be neat or organized. However, being neat and organized does not mean you have OCD. People with OCD are driven by obsessive thoughts that lead to time-consuming compulsive behaviors and can significantly interfere with their day-to-day lives.
Joking about OCD trivializes the seriousness of OCD and can be hurtful to those who suffer from the condition. It also perpetuates the false idea that the disorder is nothing more than a quirk or personality trait that people enjoy.
Myth #5: OCD is a positive thing.
Fact: People may assume that OCD is a good thing because it leads to seemingly positive outcomes, like being neat or organized. But in reality, it is a serious mental illness that can lead to severe impairment.
People with OCD may spend hours engaging in compulsive behaviors to counteract their obsessions. This can lead to interference with work, school, and personal relationships. This myth is particularly harmful because it can also prevent people with OCD from seeking treatment.
Myth #6: It’s easy to tell when someone has OCD.
Fact: OCD is a very complex condition, and it’s never easy to tell if someone has OCD. In some cases, OCD obsessions can occur without any visible compulsions. People with OCD can also become extremely good at hiding their symptoms out of fear of judgment or embarrassment.
Myth #7: There’s only one type of OCD.
Fact: The first thing people think about when they hear the term “OCD” is someone who is excessively clean or organized. However, there are many different subtypes of OCD, and not all are about orderliness or fear of contamination. Other common subtypes of OCD include checking, symmetry, and rumination.
Myth #8: People with OCD just need to relax.
Fact: As with any other mental illness, people with OCD cannot simply “snap out of it” or relax their way out of the condition. OCD is a serious mental illness that requires professional medical intervention.
OCD is not something to be taken lightly, and it is certainly not something anyone would choose to live with if they had a choice in the matter. Unfortunately, OCD stereotypes overshadow the bigger picture and make it harder for people who suffer from OCD to be taken seriously and get the help they deserve.