I believe the most common term in the realm of mental health discussions on social media is depression, with OCD coming in as a close second. Many of us have been in situations where we mistakenly equate traits like cleanliness, organization, and perfectionism with OCD. Just as depression has been glorified and celebrated, many myths and misconceptions revolve around this mental health phenomenon. While I’m not a mental health professional, let me share my insights on this trend.
So, my readers, what exactly is OCD?
OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (“obsessions”) and behaviors (“compulsions”) that they feel the urge to repeat incessantly. These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress. You may try to ignore or stop your obsessions, but that only increases your distress and anxiety. Ultimately, you feel driven to perform compulsive acts to ease your stress, trapping you in the vicious cycle of OCD.
Technically speaking, obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include fear of germs or contamination, unwanted, forbidden, or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or harm, aggressive thoughts towards others or oneself, and the need for symmetry or perfect order. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include excessive cleaning and handwashing, ordering and arranging things precisely, repeatedly checking on things, like verifying if the door is locked or the oven is off, and compulsive counting.
Some of this might seem relative, right? But here’s the key: not all rituals or habits are compulsions. Sure, everyone double-checks things sometimes, right? However, a person with OCD generally: can’t control their thoughts or behaviors, even when they recognize them as excessive; dedicates at least 1 hour a day to these thoughts or behaviors; doesn’t derive pleasure from performing the behaviors or rituals but may feel brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause; experiences significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviors.
As I’ve been emphasizing, OCD is often misunderstood, with common myths perpetuating misconceptions. Firstly, it’s not solely about cleanliness and organization; it encompasses a wide range of obsessions and compulsions. Secondly, it’s not something everyone has a bit of; it’s a clinical disorder that significantly interferes with daily life. Thirdly, individuals with OCD can’t simply “snap out of it”; it’s not a matter of willpower but a condition causing distress. It can begin in childhood and persist into adulthood, making early intervention crucial. It’s not solely about anxiety; it involves intrusive thoughts and irrational fears too. Importantly, this isn’t a sign of weakness or character flaw; it’s a mental health disorder influenced by various factors. People with OCD don’t enjoy their compulsions; these behaviors are distressing. Fortunately, it is treatable through therapy and, if necessary, medication, allowing many to improve their quality of life.
I believe it’s essential to combat these myths and promote accurate information about any mental health phenomenon, especially in an era where information is abundant and accessible everywhere. This helps reduce stigma, encourages early diagnosis, and provides proper support to individuals living with such conditions. So, the next time someone tells you that you have OCD for being tidy or organized, let’s work together to break the stigma and promote awareness.