A mental health disorder we often hear about is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Unfortunately many who have heard of it, often only associate it with someone who is fussy or a neat freak. Others might think that it can be easily controlled, but in fact this is not always the case. Indeed, there are a number of false impressions about OCD which reflects a lack of education about it. Let us see below the definition of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and three myths which we will bust.

OCD is a disorder that as the name implies, is characterized by the individual experiencing obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions refer to recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images, which are experienced as intrusive. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts, which the individual performs in response to the obsession. Some OCD related disorders are characterized by preoccupations or body-focused repetitive behaviors (APA, 2013). It can have a debilitating effect on the level of functioning of the individual and can affect various areas of the person’s life.  

Myth 1 – OCD is about being a neat freak and cleanliness 

Although a common sign of OCD is an obsession with cleanliness, with the classic example being someone washing their hands excessively, this is not always the case. Other compulsions may be hoarding objects, constant re-checking and repeating certain routines such as walking in and out of a door repeatedly. OCD is not just about keeping oneself clean, as it also causes the individual unrelenting debilitating anxiety.

Myth 2 – OCD is caused by life stressors

It causes uncontrollable fear and anxiety and when such an individual goes through a stressful period, these symptoms increase. However, stress by itself does not cause OCD. Similarly, some may think that it is caused by environmental factors like dysfunctional homes and poor social support; however, this has little to do with developing OCD. Research has shown that it may run in families, which means that the genetic makeup can also play a role in its development.

Myth 3 – OCD cannot be treated

As we saw above, OCD can be very debilitating for the individual. Unfortunately, some people may think it can be easily controlled by relaxing and stopping the obsessions – but it is not that simple. People with OCD may not seek treatment due to being embarrassed about it and perhaps believing it cannot be treated. It is for sure treatable and this includes a combination of behavioral therapy that includes exposure and response prevention and the use of medications to reduce the symptoms.

Above we explored three myths around OCD. Despite its commonness, it is one of the most misunderstood health conditions. This may be because of stereotypical portrayals in the media or ideas which are not based on a realistic truth. OCD is a chronic condition, but it can be controlled and well managed with the right treatment.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Charlot Cauchi is a Gestalt Psychotherapist at Willingness. He has experience working with adult clients with mental health difficulties, anxiety and depression, loss and grief, traumatic experiences, stress and relational issues. 

References American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association.