OCD is arguably among the least stigmatized anxiety disorders in the U.S., featured on everything from sitcoms to quirky detective shows. But just because it’s fairly prevalent in pop culture doesn’t mean that it’s widely understood. In fact, there’s a lot that the average person (even one with OCD) gets wrong about this condition. Whether you’re struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder yourself or you want to gain a better understanding about what your family member, friend, or significant other is going through, here are a few things most people get wrong about it.
People with obsessive compulsive disorder are just neat freaks
One of the most important things to understand about this condition is that it’s heterogeneous, meaning that it manifests itself differently in each person. It’s true that some people with this condition do obsess over cleanliness or have a fear of germs. But many people with this disorder don’t obsess about cleaning at all. Essentially, obsessive compulsive disorder takes advantage of what a person values most by making it their biggest fear. Those who care immensely about their families may struggle with obsessive thoughts about losing a loved one. Others deal with religious, social, or sexual fears. And while people without this condition know these fears aren’t rational, someone who has this condition will often have trouble separating these fears from reality. Just because you like an organized house, that doesn’t mean you have OCD. And conversely, having OCD does not mean you have an obsession with cleanliness.
The signs of obsessive compulsive disorder are always obvious
In some people, this is true — particularly if they have yet to receive treatment. While cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD is often quite effective, people with anxiety disorders rarely seek out treatment. And since anxiety disorders affect 18% of the population, that’s a lot of folks who aren’t being helped. That said, the signs of this condition may not always be clear to others regardless of where an individual is in regards to treatment. Many people do exhibit physical rituals, like arranging or touching objects or repeating physical movements, but those undergoing treatment may try to suppress these signs. And those with pure obsessional obsessive compulsive disorder (also referred to as Pure-O or primarily obsessional) experience compulsions that are limited to their own minds, so they may never show any physical signs at all. Unfortunately, people with this type don’t even realize that they’re suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. These individuals often struggle with obsessive and irrational fears about relationships, sex, violence, health, and more.
It’s something you’ll grow out of or can be solved by “chilling out”
First of all, OCD cannot be cured. It’s a chronic condition. However, it’s something that can be managed with the help of a therapist and, in some cases, medication. However, that doesn’t mean that treatment is simple. It may seem like it’s easy for someone to just stop having these thoughts or performing these rituals, but it’s truly not a choice for those who suffer from this disorder. It’s important to think of this disorder not as a personality quirk but as a real disease. Unfortunately, the representation that this condition does get in the media often frames it as a joke. Those who deal with it on a constant basis know that it’s anything but. If you have a friend or family member who’s dealing with an anxiety disorder, the best thing you can do for them is to better understand their condition and help them seek treatment to manage it.
When it comes to mental health, widespread awareness will likely be an uphill battle for some time. But by dispelling popular myths about the disorders that impact those we care about, we can make a lot of progress. To find out more about this and other anxiety disorders or treatment methods that might work for you or someone you love, contact reputable therapists in your area.