Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) creates cycles of obsessive thoughts and ritualistic behaviors that can quickly take a toll on your quality of life. Unfortunately, misconceptions about OCD can sometimes prevent people from reaching out for the help they need.
Misconceptions about OCD, or any mental health conditions for that matter, can perpetuate harmful mental health stigmas.
In the spirit of breaking stigmas and spreading OCD awareness, Dr. Hadi Estakhri and our team at Allied Psychiatry & Mental Health in Newport Beach, California, created this guide to debunk five myths about OCD.
Here’s what you need to know.
Myth #1: OCD is just about cleanliness and organization
Fact: OCD involves intrusive thoughts (also known as obsessions) that lead to compulsive behaviors. Fear of contamination and desire for symmetry can lead to behaviors like increased cleaning and organization, but these aren’t the only obsessions and behaviors.
Other common obsessions include:
- Fear of contamination
- Fear of getting lost or losing items
- Unwanted taboo thoughts
- Desire for symmetry
These obsessions can lead to compulsive behaviors such as frequent handwashing, repeating words, counting, or reorganizing items. If you have OCD, you feel compelled to complete these behaviors to help mitigate the obsessive thoughts.
In other words, OCD obsessions and compulsions can focus on organization and cleanliness, but the relationship between obsessions and compulsions is far deeper than just wanting to be organized.
Myth #2: Everyone has a little bit of OCD
Fact: Having particular preferences or routines doesn’t equate to having OCD. Most people do have regular daily routines such as how you get ready each morning, where you go on your lunch break, or how you spend your evening after work.
The difference between a normal routine and OCD is that OCD involves distressing, time-consuming obsessions and compulsions that significantly impact daily life. With OCD, you feel compelled to complete the ritualistic behavior to help alleviate feelings of anxiety.
To be diagnosed, you have to meet the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) i.e., the presence of obsessive thoughts and/or compulsions that are time-consuming and impair your availability to function at work, home, or in social settings.
Myth #3: People with OCD just need to relax more
Fact: OCD isn’t a result of excessive worrying or an inability to relax. It’s a neurobiological condition with a genetic component. Telling someone with OCD to stop overthinking oversimplifies the challenges they face and ignores the underlying complexity of the disorder.
Myth #4: OCD is rare
Fact: OCD affects about 2-3% of the population, but it’s more common than you might think. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), OCD is among the top 20 causes of illness-related disability for people aged 15-44 worldwide.
Myth #5: You don’t need help for mild OCD
Fact: Of those diagnosed, 50% experience severe impairment, 14% experience mild symptoms, and about 34% experience moderate symptoms. Regardless of the severity, seeking professional help for OCD is crucial.
You don’t need to wait until your symptoms become unmanageable. Early intervention can prevent the escalation of your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms and if you have other coexisting mental health conditions, Dr. Estakhri may suggest:
- Medication to reduce anxiety (OCD is a type of anxiety)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Lifestyle modifications
If you’d like to explore your OCD treatment options, schedule a consultation at Allied Psychiatry and Mental Health today by calling us at 949-945-0927. You can also book an appointment online anytime.