Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental illness that affects as many as 1 in 100 U.S. adults, it’s marked by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Despite its prevalence, OCD is one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions.
Here are the truths on OCD, instead of the myths:
Myth 1: All neat freaks have OCD: A common sign of OCD is an obsession with cleanliness, such as constantly washing your hands. “But a cleanliness complex can also be a personality trait,” says Jeff Szymanski, PhD, executive director of the International OCD Foundation. “And that’s part of the confusion. If it’s a personality trait, you can choose to do it or not. If you have obsessive compulsive disorder you’re doing it out of unrelenting debilitating anxiety.”
Myth 2: OCD is all about cleanliness: While a fixation on keeping things clean may be a common compulsion of OCD, it is not the only one and not everyone with OCD has it. Other compulsions include hoarding items, checking and rechecking that you didn’t make a mistake, fearing something bad and repeating routines such as going in and out of a door.
Myth 3: OCD is rooted in your childhood: Many people mistakenly believe that those who exhibit signs of OCD grew up in dysfunctional homes and have poor self-esteem as a result. “What happened in your childhood has very little to do with having OCD when you grow up,” Szymanski says. However, OCD does tend to run in families and researchers believe genetics may play at least some part in its development, as well as experiences.
Myth 4: OCD is a woman’s disease: According to the International OCD Foundation the condition affects men, women and children of all ethnic and racial backgrounds at the same rate.
Myth 5: Tests can confirm OCD: OCD can’t be diagnosed with a blood test or a scan. However if a mental health professional suspects that you have OCD they will probably ask you a series of questions, looking for the three signs of OCD. Beginning with asking whether you have obsessions, whether you exhibit compulsive behaviors and if you do, whether they get in the way of your normal activities.
Myth 6: OCD isn’t treatable: “OCD is definitely treatable,” Szymanski says. The first line of treatment is exposure and response prevention, a face-your-fears type of therapy. Some people also need a combination of behavioral therapy and medications. It can’t be cured, but OCD can be controlled with proper treatment.