As you know, many people have misconceptions about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). As part of OCD Awareness Week we want to help dispel common myths about OCD, but we need your help. Would you be willing to partner with us to help spread the word about what OCD really is?
Here are some common myths and facts that you can share on social media and use to engage others in conversation:
MYTH: WE ARE ALL “A LITTLE BIT OCD” AT TIMES.
FACT: OCD is not a personality quirk or a character trait — it is a very real mental health condition that affects about 2 to 3 million adults, and half a million youth, in the US alone. While many people can have obsessive or compulsive traits, OCD stands for obsessive compulsive disorder, and people who are diagnosed with OCD cannot simply “turn it off.” Research has shown that their brains are wired differently than the brains of people without OCD, and as such OCD strongly influences their thoughts and actions.
MYTH: OCD IS NOT THAT BIG A DEAL, PEOPLE JUST NEED TO RELAX AND NOT WORRY SO MUCH.
FACT: Having OCD is not simply an overreaction to the stresses of life. While stressful situations can make things worse for people with OCD, they do not cause OCD. People with OCD face severe, often debilitating anxiety over any number of things, called “obsessions.” This level of extreme worry and fear can be so overwhelming that it gets in the way of their ability to function. To try to overcome this anxiety, people with OCD use “compulsions” or rituals, which are specific actions or behaviors. These compulsions are not activities a person with OCD does because they want to, but rather because they feel they have to in order to ease their fears. OCD is not about logic — it is about anxiety and trying to get relief from that anxiety.
MYTH: OCD IS JUST ABOUT HAND-WASHING, CLEANING, AND BEING NEAT.
FACT: Triggers related to cleanliness and symptoms related to washing make up only a small part of the range of OCD triggers and symptoms. People with OCD can have obsessions related to a wide variety of things, including losing control, hurting others, unwanted sexual thoughts, and many more. Similarly, the anxiety caused by these obsessions can be lessened by different compulsions, such as “checking” (e.g., re-checking door locks, repeatedly making sure the oven is off), “repeating” (e.g., doing the same action or ritual over and over to be sure it was done “correctly”), and “counting” (e.g., doing things in certain numbers, counting items to certain numbers).
MYTH: PEOPLE WITH OCD ARE JUST “WEIRD,” “NEUROTIC,” OR “CRAZY” AND THERE IS NO HOPE FOR THEM TO EVER LEAD HAPPY, FUNCTIONAL LIVES.
FACT: With proper treatment, it is very possible for people with OCD to lead full and productive lives. Many people respond positively to behavioral therapy and/or medication. Specifically, Exposure and Response Prevention or ERP is considered the first-line treatment for OCD. Additionally, medication (such as anti-depressants like SSRIs) may also be recommended for people with OCD. Family therapy can also be very beneficial since family members (including parents, siblings, and spouses) often play a major role in recovery. Finally, many individuals report that support groups are very helpful. Support groups provide a safe, understanding place for people with OCD to feel less alone, as well as to teach and learn from their peers. People with OCD use one or several of these options to help them manage their OCD, as well as the support and understanding of their loved ones.
ADDITIONAL FACTS ABOUT OCD:
- 1 in 100 adults are estimated to have OCD.
- There are as many children in the US with OCD as there are children with diabetes.
- OCD can emerge at any time from preschool to adulthood, but most commonly appears between ages 10-12 or in late teens/early adulthood.
- OCD-related conditions include hoarding disorder (HD) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) as well as hair-pulling disorder and skin-picking disorder.
- About 70% of patients with OCD will benefit from either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or medication. However, obstacles to getting effective treatment for OCD include:
- Hiding symptoms due to embarrassment and stigma.
- Lack of proper training in health professionals.
- Difficulty finding local therapists who can effectively treat OCD.
HOW TO USE THESE FACTS?
Stigma is one of the biggest problems faced by people with OCD, but oftentimes, people don’t realize that their words or actions are stigmatizing or trivializing the suffering of those with OCD. The next time you hear someone say that someone or something is “so OCD,” engage them in conversation about what OCD really means and why what they’re saying is dismissive and inaccurate.
Educate yourself about OCD, and work to raise awareness in your community however you might feel comfortable.
Visit the the OCD Awareness Week page to learn more ways that you can get involved in raising awareness about OCD.
I have suffered from OCD since I was 8 years old. My good fortune was that in 1988 I went on a double blind study for Prozac and it worked wonders. I have been on it since then and have had my OCD under control. I would like to know if there was any ways I could help people with OCD near where I live in Morris County, NJ
I am replying because it seems we are about the same age. I was diagnosed in 89 when I was 36. My ocd revolved around unwanted sexual thoughts. It destroyed the part of my life when I was supposed to be finding a husband and creating a family.
We have struggled for 3 years to find a therapist that can help our child who takes insurance, the ones who do have not helped and one has made things worse, and she is getting worse. We cannot afford to pay cash for the few qualified therapists who do not accept insurance and are getting worried. We feel we have no where left to turn.
You can search for OCD treatment options by using our Resource Directory: https://iocdf.org/find-help/
You can even search specifically for someone who indicates that they accept private insurance or would offer low-cost treatment.
She might be able to do ERP herself, even if she’s still a child. The whole point of therapy is to teach the sufferer the skills she needs to self-treat, and if you can’t find a therapist, you can learn together as a family. The book I used is Jonathan Grayson’s *Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,* but there are many good ones out there. Just make sure that whatever book you use is about exposure with response prevention–believe it or not, there are some well-known books on OCD that leave it out or give it minimal attention. But ERP is the process that puts OCD into remission.
Another great resource is the work of Jon Abramowitz, who emphasizes that it’s the person with OCD who treats their own illness–the therapist is just there to help them learn how. He has a website and has several videos on YouTube. (A few clips of his are even featured on IOCDF.org.)
Last but not least, there’s a recent documentary called *Unstuck* about kids with OCD. It’s not available on DVD yet, but you can see trailers and interviews about it on YouTube. One of the kids in the documentary, Vanessa, and her father and sister made a long YouTube video about doing ERP as a family.
I had OCD since I was 15. In the early 1980’s my diagnosis was Fear of Rejection and Separation Anxiety. They didn’t have the OCD self test then either. I clearly had OCD.
I took the self test two years ago for the first time. It’s been over 3 decades I’ve suffered with this disorder. Decision making and do many other difficulties because of it. How can I enlighten my family members who never understood what was wrong with me?
Don’t worry too much on making your family understand, because they either will or they wont. Sit down with the people closest to you separately and explain to each of them what OCD is and how you suffer with it. if you feel one family member in particular will not understand, tell them with someone who already knows and will help you through it. the family member will be more likely to go along with and mimic the other person, as it is a natural instinct to copy others when we ourselves don’t know what to do. but most importantly, just try to work on yourself and your own recovery, and surround yourself with those who support your mental health.
I have a daughter who was recently diagnosed with OCD. I found the prior article very helpful. I’ll help her in any way I can.