Many people associate obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) with television and film depictions of characters who are very tidy, concerned with cleanliness, and scared of germs. While this can describe some people with OCD, it doesn’t necessarily describe everyone with this condition.
That’s why at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates in the greater Boston area, our team of mental health professionals is committed to reducing stigma and improving education about OCD and other mental health conditions. If you think you might be suffering from OCD, this blog post can help you separate fact from fiction by debunking four myths about this disorder.
Myth 1: Being neat and tidy means you have OCD
If you’ve ever heard someone refer to being “a bit OCD” when they tidy up, you might have assumed that being neat is the same as having obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, OCD is a much more serious condition than merely having a tidy personality.
While some people may naturally be neater than others, the difference is that OCD is a serious mental illness that can cause severe anxiety and emotional distress. Additionally, not everyone with OCD is concerned with order and cleanliness. Some forms of OCD don’t involve these tendencies at all.
Myth 2: OCD is the same as being afraid of germs or getting dirty
OCD manifests in different ways for different people. Generally, people have a combination of obsessions (obsessive fears) as well as compulsions (coping rituals).
While fear of contamination is a well-known obsession, others include:
- Fear of harming others or themselves
- Fear of being sinful
- Fear of themselves or others dying
Similarly, repeated hand-washing, cleaning, and rearranging things are commonly known compulsions. However, they can also include:
- Tapping or touching objects
- Repetitive movements and actions
- Checking and rechecking things
However, not all people with OCD suffer from both obsessions and compulsions. Pure obsessive OCD (Pure-O) involves extremely obsessive and intrusive thoughts without necessarily involving visible compulsions.
Myth 3: People with OCD just need to “relax”
Unfortunately, many people have the mistaken belief that people with OCD are in control of their compulsions and just need to relax or be more rational. However, mental illnesses like OCD are serious conditions that are caused by a combination of genetics, life experiences, and other risk factors.
Like any illness, OCD is not your fault. Additionally, while stress can sometimes exacerbate OCD symptoms, it doesn’t cause OCD, so simply relaxing won’t fix the problem.
Myth 4: OCD can’t be treated
One of the most damaging myths about OCD is that it can’t be treated or that it’s an unchangeable part of someone’s personality. While OCD is a chronic mental illness caused by specific changes to the brain, there are treatment options available to try and retrain the brain.
Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters to help calm your OCD symptoms. Similarly, certain types of psychotherapy can help provide you with support to manage and cope with your symptoms. Here at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates, we recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help control your thoughts and habits.
If you’re struggling with OCD, it’s easy to feel hopeless when faced with the intense anxiety and discomfort caused by your obsessions and compulsions. But with treatment, you can reduce the severity of these symptoms. When you’re ready to treat your OCD, contact Dr. Mohammad Munir and our team at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates by calling one of our offices or using our appointment form.