OCD 101 — Busting A Few Myths
OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a widely known mental illness. However, it is also one of the most highly misunderstood disorders around. We often say things like, “I am so OCD about my daily routine” or “My husband is very particular about arranging the books in a particular order. You would almost think he has OCD.” Perhaps, it is our ignorance of what this illness really is that we have come to associate it with an obsession with order and cleanliness. OCD affects one in a hundred Americans, and yet, many people are unaware of the true nature of an individual with OCD. Hence, it is time to bust a few myths that we usually associate with OCD, and gain an awareness of what it truly is.
Myth #1 — All Cleanliness Freaks Have OCD
It is true that those who have OCD are usually obsessed with keeping things clean. For example, washing your hands repeatedly is associated with OCD. But, truth is that it can be a personality trait as well. Usually, if it is a personal trait, one can have some control over it. But, if you have OCD, then any kind of anxiety will trigger your OCD behavior. Another fact is that, though OCD is about cleanliness, one can be obsessed with other things, too. For example, checking multiple times for mistakes, fearing accidents, or even hoarding items.
Myth # 2 — OCD Is Caused By Stress
Several people think that OCD is caused by stress. The common belief is that people suffering from OCD can’t relax, and they end up obsessing about small things. But the truth is OCD triggers an often uncontrollable surge of anxiety and fear. Stress might aggravate the whole situation, but it can’t be said that the disease is caused completely because of stress.
Myth #3 — It Happens Because Of Some Incident In Your Childhood
Another common myth associated with OCD is that it occurs in people who had a rough childhood — whether that’s having problematic parents, or having maintained a negative self-image. But, OCD has nothing to do with dysfunctional childhood. However, research has proven that OCD might be passed on from one generation to another. There is a chance that the disorder runs in the family.
Myth #4 — People With OCD Make It Obvious Even In Public
Obsession is often in our thoughts, while compulsion in the actions. Though it sounds simple, OCD is a lot more complex than this. Though we associate washing hands several times or checking for fire and accidents with OCD, sometimes OCD patients might have issues that are completely mental. They might have bad thoughts, and they might need to keep repeating something that might lessen the fear. Nobody close to them might even know what’s going on in their minds. OCD cannot be understood completely from outward behavior. It is defined by the profound internal fear in the patient’s mind. For example, there might be two people who have OCD, and both clean their kitchen obsessively. However, the internal reasons might be different for them. One might have a fear of salmonella and another might have fear of social judgment.
Myth #5 — OCD Cannot Be Treated
Most people think that OCD cannot be treated. Even worse, patients suffering from OCD often feel very ashamed to even confess it because they fear what society might think of them. However, if they can gather the courage to get treated, there are several ways to do so. The very first step to treat OCD is to identify the core fear. A combination of therapy and medications works for most people and helps them control the symptoms. Though it cannot be cured completely, therapy helps control it.
Myth #6 — OCD Is Funny
OCD is often showcased in social media or popular literature as something to laugh about or take lightly. This representation of OCD is dangerous because it feeds to the overall ignorance and misconception on the disorder itself and those who have it. In reality, individuals who have OCD are often under severe mental stress and frustration. If it is not treated in time, it prevents people from taking part in social engagements or retaining their jobs. It even takes away their ability to have fun with things that they liked previously. Patients often go into clinical depression and even attempt suicide.
To help people with OCD, it is important for everyone to know its implications. If you know someone who has it, don’t hesitate to help them by being kind, compassionate, and understanding, letting them know that treatment will help them lessen the symptoms of OCD.
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