The condition known as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, affects about 1 in every 100 individuals around the world. The two primary characteristics of OCD are obsessions and compulsions, or repetitive and obsessive thoughts followed by compulsions to act on these thoughts. Unfortunately, a lot of individuals that live with OCD also deal with one or more additional mental illnesses, such as anxiety or depression, as well. The Southlake, TX psychiatrist team at Dr. Messina & Associates helps individuals navigate and overcome mental illnesses such as these by providing patients with the appropriate counseling and tools necessary to accomplish this. There are plenty of misconceptions that surround most mental illnesses, especially when it comes to OCD. We are going to bust some of the myths that surround OCD and learn more about what it actually means to live with this condition.
One of the most common misconceptions about OCD includes the presumption that it just means that someone is a “neat freak” and just does not like germs. Feeling the need for cleanliness is just one of many obsessions that may manifest in someone dealing with OCD. There are numerous other compulsions that come with OCD that differ from person to person, and if someone is very concerned with keeping everything spotless all the time, that does not mean that they definitely have OCD. The DSM-5, which is the manual of mental illness diagnoses criteria, does not have the fear of germs or the need for cleanliness listed as a measure of OCD. Intense fears about something bad happening to oneself or loved ones, the fear of losing self-control and harming others or oneself unintentionally, and the fear of misplacing items that are needed are all common obsessions that can be displayed in an individual with OCD. It is not uncommon for people to casually say they have OCD because they love to clean, which has just perpetuated the misconception that this is the primary characteristic of this condition.
The next misconception regarding obsessive-compulsive disorder is that people are not able to function in a normal manner when living with this condition. When it comes to OCD, it is also common for compulsions to not be actual physical acts that one can visibly see, but rather mental ones that are ticked off internally. It is completely doable for people to live their daily lives normally with OCD, especially with suitable treatment. Exposure and response prevention, or ERP, is under the umbrella of cognitive-behavioral therapy and is one of the first treatment approaches that is typically used in those that have been diagnosed with OCD. ERP has shown to have a fantastic success rate in reducing the symptoms of OCD by exposing the patient to the things that may activate their obsession and instructing them on how to avoid following through with a compulsion. Other forms of CBT have also been proven to be extremely helpful in overcoming certain struggles that those with OCD face and there are medications, such as SSRIs, that have shown to have a highly positive impact on it, as well.
The term OCD is thrown around pretty freely sometimes when an individual is describing how they feel the need to clean all the time and have things organized in a certain manner. People who have been diagnosed with OCD by a medical professional make up about 2% of the worldwide population. It is a very real condition that many do struggle with and put in a lot of effort to overcome, and it is not just about having higher tendencies of needing cleanliness. Claiming to have OCD when it has not been diagnosed diminishes the experiences of those who do live with this condition and it spreads the many stigmas surrounding this mental illness as well as many others. Every individual does not have some level of OCD, but there are many that do and perpetuating the myth that everyone has some form of OCD makes it much more difficult for those actually with it to receive the necessary assistance in treating it. Every single person living with OCD, or any mental illness for that matter, deserves the highest quality treatment so that it does not consume their life.
The final misconception surrounding OCD is the claim that this disorder remains the same forever and cannot change over time. Obsessions and compulsions change for a lot of people as time goes on, and symptoms can even vary in day-to-day life. Someone’s obsession, such as the intense fear of something bad happening to their friends or family, might change to the severe anxiety of something happening to their significant other or child as they get older. While there is no absolute cure for OCD, the awareness of having this condition and following a beneficial treatment plan can completely manage and diminish it considerably over time.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a very real condition that so many people around the world live with and navigate every single day. OCD is not a one-size-fits-all condition, which is why it is so important to find a trusted mental health professional to help with getting a diagnosis and guide you in the healing process if you suspect you are living with OCD. Stigmas and misconceptions surrounding all mental illnesses are unfortunately still very prevalent, but with consistent and proper education and work on breaking these stereotypes, people all over the world can become the best support system possible for those in their lives that deal with OCD or another mental illness. Breaking these stigmas also allows individuals to be less intimidated when it comes to reaching out for help, which is a very positive thing.
If you are in need of help, Dr. Messina & Associates is highly equipped and ready to walk with you during the journey of healing.
We specialize in anxiety and depression in children, adolescents, and adults and continues to provide psychological and psychiatric services in-person in our DFW (Southlake) Offices, as well as online.