Obsessive-compulsive disorder is mental illness that affects up to one in 100 people in the United States. Most people know that OCD is defined by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, but there is still a lot about this disease that is not well understood by the general public. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- All “neat freaks” have OCD.
Even though cleanliness is a common compulsion for OCD, this is not the only thing that OCD is defined by. Not all people with OCD will experience the compulsion to clean. Likewise, just because someone focuses on cleanliness in their daily life doesn’t mean that they are affected by OCD. The difference is that if someone has cleanliness as a personality trait, they still have control over their actions—however, someone with OCD will not be able to stop themselves from constantly washing their hands or excessively cleaning household items because they are experiencing an unrelenting, debilitating anxiety to do so.
- OCD is a disease that only affects women.
It is a common belief that OCD is more common in women than men. However, this is untrue, as the disease affects both sexes almost equally. The reason for this myth is probably because men are generally less likely to open up about their condition, and many will go undiagnosed because of this. According to the International OCD Foundation, OCD affects men, women, and children of all ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds at the same rate.
- OCD can be cured.
Even though it is possible for patients to eventually gain control over their disease, this does not mean that there is a “cure” for OCD. Learning how to cope with your disease and be able to lead a relatively normal life requires a lot of work. Getting to this point usually involves a combination of medications and behavioral therapies before thoughts are able to be modulated, successfully labeled, and controlled.
- OCD is caused by stress.
Many people believe that if people affected by OCD would just “chill out,” they would be okay. This is not the case. Even though major stressors can trigger symptoms of OCD, especially in cases of traumatic incidents such as the death of a loved one, stress is only able to exaggerate the already-present disease, not create it.
- It’s obvious when someone has OCD.
Since OCD can come in a variety of different shapes and forms, it will not look the same for everyone. Some people with OCD might experience the compulsion to clean, while others might be obsessed with putting everything in alphabetical order. Some feel the need to hoard items for no specific reason. While people who are close to these individuals would notice these symptoms, you may never notice them in people walking down the street or even coworkers whom you see every day. A big component of OCD involves the disturbing thoughts they experience—and this, especially, is not something that you could possibly know unless they told you.