There are many misconceptions about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that are simply not true. The term OCD gets thrown around a lot – most of us have heard someone jokingly say, “I’m so OCD”. OCD is not a personality quirk. It is a serious mental illness marked by obsessional thoughts and high levels of anxiety and emotional distress.
Obsessions are unwanted thoughts that you can’t seem to get out of your head. The more you try to not think about the ‘thought’, the more the thought stay with you. These obsessional thoughts can cause the individual to engage in a compulsion in an attempt to reduce his or her discomfort. Compulsions may be outward actions such as hand washing and checking or they may be mental acts such as trying to ‘figure something out’. People with OCD do not choose to have obsessive thoughts and they do not enjoy their compulsions. They do them to try to get relief from crippling anxiety
Many individuals with OCD recognize that their thoughts and fears may be irrational, but OCD can make it feel very real. It can fill you with constant dread that something awful is about to happen. Imagine if your brain was worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong, ignoring the likelihood of whether or not it would actually happen, and disregarding any rational objections to challenge these thoughts. This is what OCD is like.
OCD is more common than you probably think and you’ve likely encountered many individuals with OCD without realizing it. Approximately 1 in every 40 adults and 1 in 200 children in America have OCD. Unfortunately, many people do not pursue OCD treatment because they’re self-conscious, ashamed or believe it cannot be treated. OCD is treatable and the first line of treatment is exposure and response prevention.
OCD and mental illness remain stigmatized and misunderstood. You can make a difference. Educate yourself about mental illness and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you believe that you or a loved one may be struggling with a mental health issue.