You have probably heard of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which is a mental illness affecting as many as 1 in 100 adults in the United States. OCD is marked by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. How much do you really know about OCD? OCD is one of the most misunderstood health conditions, which may be due to stereotypical portrayals in the media. Additionally, many people have ideas about OCD that simply are not true. Here are some myths about OCD and some actual facts to learn more about this disorder:
- All Neat Freaks Have OCD: A common sign of OCD is an obsession with cleanliness, such as constantly washing your hands; however, a cleanliness complex can also be a personality trait. If cleanliness is a personality trait, then you have control over the behavior. If you have OCD, you don’t have control over the behavior and you are doing it out of unrelenting anxiety.
- Stress Causes OCD: Do you think that people with OCD should just relax and stop obsessing? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. OCD incites uncontrollable fears and anxiety. While stressful situations can exacerbate symptoms in people with OCD, stress alone does not cause it.
- OCD is Rooted in Childhood: Many people mistakenly believe that people 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,” says Jeff Szymanski, PhD, executive director of the International OCD Foundation. However, he notes, OCD does run in families and researchers believe that genetics play at least some part in its development.
- OCD is a Woman’s Disease: According to the International OCD Foundation, OCD affects men, women, and children of all ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds at an equal rate. While signs of OCD can start at any age, it is typically seen between the ages of 10 and 12 or between late teens and early adulthood.
- Tests can Confirm OCD: OCD can’t be diagnosed with a blood test or a scan. However, your doctor will most likely conduct a physical examination and various tests in order to rule out other medical conditions. If your doctor suspects that you have OCD, he/she will likely ask you a series of questions and look for three main signs of OCD:
- Whether you have obsessions or not
- Whether or not you exhibit compulsive behaviors
- Whether or not these behaviors get in the way of your normal activities