Myths about OCD

ocd1. you can spot someone with OCD.

No – for some folks it might be obvious, (eg; handwashing or repetitive actions).  But often it’s internal; for example, worrying if you’re going to harm someone or write something blasphemous. Obsessions and rituals go way beyond checking things and handwashing. Just because you collect stamps does not mean you have OCD.

2. folks with OCD are always super-organised and tidy.

Germ phobia can be one expression of it, but that’s not the same thing.  In fact, up to two-thirds of sufferers are also hoarders; which can be the opposite of neat.

3. it’s caused by parents or an unhappy childhood.

As with many mental health disorders, this can be a factor.  But there’s a whole load of other elements, from biology to stress.

4. religion gives you OCD.

They can both involve rituals; and someone with OCD may be attracted to religion for this reason, but it’s absolutely not the same.

5. we’re all a bit ‘OCD’.

No – it’s not a catch-all phrase for having quirks or wanting things a certain way. If I want to sit in a particular chair and it’s not available, I may feel annoyed or very slightly unsettled.  But if I’m suffering from OCD, then not being able to sit in that seat will cause me massive, debilitating anxiety. I may feel that something terrible will happen to me or those around me.  So it’s a lot more than a preference.  BUT it doesn’t mean that;

6. people with OCD are just weird.  Often the things they worry about are the same as the rest of us; it’s just that they get out of control.  Same with the rituals: who hasn’t double-checked their front door or got upset when someone uses ‘their’ mug.

7. it’s only an issue for adults.

It’s estimated that at least 1 in every 100 children and teens has OCD.

8. you can’t get help for it.

Actually it responds well to therapies such as CBT and medications and it can often be managed. This requires a whole heap of work and persistence; but it’s very possible.

9. people with OCD just need to chill out or pull their socks up.

No – it’s not about willpower or being somehow ‘weak’. Very little in life can be boiled down to “simple choices” and in the case of OCD brain chemistry is a significant factor.

10. sufferers don’t realise they’re behaving oddly.

Often they can see exactly how illogical their behaviour is;  which makes it even harder to deal with.

11. people with OCD are dangerous to themselves or others.

They don’t carry out their thoughts or fears – in fact, their obsession is with preventing them.


More info:

OCD Action: ( information, advice and support to people with OCD). ( helpline:020 72264000) (see link)

2 thoughts on “Myths about OCD

  1. Hmmm, I have OCD, I am not very clean and tidy but I cannot withstand dirt and people who have been too much in their clothes, I take 2 showers a day and wash my hands a lot. I also hate incomplete patterns, so it’s a compulsion about closure and completeness.

  2. Thanks Henry: I struggled with hand-washing for a long time and you’re right about the desire for closure and completeness. Even doing a crossword, I hate leaving spaces blank: maybe it’s a way of trying to sort what feels like a messy brain?

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