Raise your hand if you have ever heard someone say “I’m just a little OCD.” This could be in passing, maybe as they are organizing their desk space, checking the lock on their door or washing their hands for the fifth time that day. Now, we are all a bit particular about something in our lives, but this does not necessarily mean we are all “just a little OCD.” In lieu of OCD Awareness Week, the 11th-17th of October, I thought I would share some common misconceptions surrounding it. Before we continue…
What exactly is OCD?
OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is a long-lasting disorder where someone has reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that they feel the need to repeat over and over (National Institute of Mental Health, 2019). This can come in many forms, from unwanted, violent thoughts to excessive cleaning to counting a certain number of times. However, it is important to remember that no one with OCD is the same. While one person might feel the urge to clean or count, another may be consumed with unwanted thoughts and/or mental images.
To raise further awareness and education, here are three common misconceptions I have noticed surrounding OCD and the people who have it.
- We are all a bit OCD sometimes: If a friend came up to you and said that her dog died, you wouldn’t reply with “well, everybody’s pets die sometimes. By saying that “everyone is a bit OCD sometimes” can dismiss and devalue someone’s personal struggle with the disorder. Being neat and having OCD don’t always overlap and it’s important to differentiate between the two.
- Everybody with OCD is clean, neat and obsessed with hand-washing- Before being diagnosed and further educating myself on this disorder, I had the same perception. However, as mentioned above, everybody’s experience with OCD varies. For me, rituals usually consist of ordering items in a certain way and compulsive counting. For someone else, it could be repeatedly checking if the oven is turned off or their front door is locked and secure. It is important to remember that it manifests differently in everybody and can also change as time goes on.
- It’s just not that big of a deal, just relax- Have you ever tried to wrestle an alligator into tiny pajamas? Yeah, me neither. Although, I imagine it would be similar to when somebody tells me to relax; impossible. Some people may assume that stress is the root cause of OCD. While stress and reacting to stressful situations can make it worse for people living with this disorder, it is not the cause of it.
Above all, life is a learning curve. We all make mistakes and create misconceptions about something or another, myself included. That being said, let’s take this time to address these stereotypes, educate ourselves and others and continue to end the stigma!
Guest Blogger: Mollie Clupper, Public Ally
Mollie Clupper is working as a Public Allies AmeriCorps Apprentice for MHA. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with her fur-niece.
Sources: National Institute of Mental Health (2019). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml