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07. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

A lot of people assume that having OCD means liking things organized or hating germs. It tends to be treated like a quirk or an endearing trait. But it’s so much more than that. It’s the one thing that prohibits me from being free of myself.” – Whitney Amazeen


Note: The source for these myths is a list created by Psychology Today. As always, I have attempted to address each myth myself, however, along with borrowing some information from the original list.

1. Loving your things neat and tidy makes you "so OCD!"

So, the primary distinction between cleaning because you like things neat and tidy, and you'd rather not have things any other way, vs. OCD is the word dread. The person who cleans because it brings them joy is not the one who suffers from OCD. The person who cleans because they fear that something drastic/dreadful will happen if they don't clean is the one who has OCD.

Saying "you're so OCD" or "my OCD is kicking in" when you just want to be organized and neat doesn't help the stereotype, and only makes light of a serious mental illness.

Well Organized Closet

2. OCD isn't particularly serious.

Is it not? If the sufferer keeps going back to their house the moment they get to their car to check if they turned off the stove 20 times in a row, thereby making them late for work. They know they're late for work, but the dread of leaving the stove is SO OVERWHELMING the moment they reach the car that it outweighs the fear of being late (or even being fired) in the moment... is it not a serious condition of the mind?

The media likes to make light of OCD as something amusing, or benign. "Characters with OCD or implied OCD in TV shows or movies often only portray the compulsive side of the disorder and miss the obsessions or fear and distress that precede the compulsions. An example of this can be seen on The Big Bang Theory in the character of Sheldon Cooper. In the show, he can be seen needing to knock three times without interruption or not letting anyone sit in his spot. The knocking takes a humorous approach and does not address any emotions beyond irritation when it cannot be completed and gratification when it can. This makes it appear as if compulsions are performed because people like or want to do them, which is not the case." [source]

Image by Annie Spratt

3. People with OCD lack willpower.

OCD isn't something that you can simply "willpower" your way out of. Just like how people with ADHD can't "just focus more", or people with depression can't just not-be-depressed simply because you tell them to be happier.

The dread of not partaking in the rituals/routines is SO overpowering that willpower doesn't stand a chance. OCD is not something that can be overcome without help from a professional. Even after getting professional help, it requires patience and hard work on the part of the sufferer: chipping away at the illness one step at a time, one ritual at a time.

What is required of others around the sufferer (their friends, their family, etc.) is patience, education (about the disorder) and understanding.

Support Group Session

4. There’s no way to get better from OCD

Not true. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is considered the first-line treatment for ADHD; however working with a clinician is the best thing to do since they may be able to prescribe medications to help ease the symptoms as the sufferer engages in CBT to improve their life and work through the compulsions.

Video Consultation

5. OCD can be useful

I would disagree. OCD is never truly useful. Because of the amount of dread it generates, and the stress it puts the sufferer in in terms of real-world consequences (job loss, not leaving the home, etc.): It most certainly is NOT useful!

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