OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is often misunderstood by everyone, including some health professionals. OCD is a type of anxiety disorder that can be debilitating and prevent a person from completing everyday activities at work, home or school and enjoying a social life. Here we’ll explore some of the common misconceptions about OCD and OCD patients.
Myth #1: People with OCD are neat freaks that wash their hands a lot.
Truth: The symptoms of OCD can manifest in all types of repetitive behaviors and thoughts. They don’t necessarily have to do with cleaning. Procrastination, avoidance, indecisiveness, asking repetitive questions and always looking for reassurance are some other symptoms of OCD. Hoarding is also a symptom of OCD, and hoarding behavior is not often associated with repetitive cleaning.
Myth #2: OCD always involves repetitive behaviors.
Truth: While OCD often involves doing something repeatedly, it also involves thinking something repeatedly. It’s possible that someone’s OCD symptoms may be almost entirely mental and that they don’t actually display any behavioral symptoms. Someone may soothe their obsessive, anxiety-promoting thoughts by counting or reciting to themselves, or performing other rituals in their heads.
Myth #3: People with OCD are mostly women.
Truth: Men and children both get OCD, and the ratio of men to women with OCD is almost the same. The only difference is that OCD can develop earlier in boys and usually doesn’t develop in women until they are in their 20s, but that isn’t always the case.
Myth #4: OCD is easy to diagnose.
Truth: People with OCD can be very good at hiding their symptoms. They may be embarrassed about rituals or repetitive behaviors. Not all providers know how to recognize symptoms and can confuse them with other anxiety disorders or ADHD. OCD symptoms can go through periods of getting better and then worse again, and compulsive behaviors and the theme of obsessive thoughts can change over time.
Myth #5: Everyone can be a little OCD.
Truth: Using OCD as an adjective to describe cleanliness, organization or the occasional obsessive thinking is significantly downplaying the symptoms of someone that really suffers from this disorder. Being a little more organized than usual in some cases or keeping unusually high standards for cleaning doesn’t mean that you or someone else has OCD.
Myth #6: People with OCD don’t realize their thoughts are irrational.
Truth: Most people with OCD are keenly aware that their obsessive thoughts are irrational, but they cannot stop the anxiety-provoking thoughts or the compulsive thoughts or behaviors that temporarily soothe their anxiety. Because sufferers of OCD know that their thinking is irrational, they may hide their symptoms from others.
Remember that anyone can develop OCD – men, women and children, and they may not always show compulsive behaviors. People with OCD can also appear to be depressed, agitated, hopeless and secretive. If you think you or a loved one might have OCD, talk to a professional who has worked with OCD patients. Understand that there is no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed about obsessive thoughts or rituals, and get the help needed to start feeling better as soon as possible. For more information about OCD including symptoms, treatments and medications, visit our OCD Conditions Page.