In this blog I would like to cover a summary of the familiar ‘facts’ which are often quoted in relation to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They are myths which can prevent carers from getting to grips with and really being able to understand the illness.
Myth: Everyone is a bit ‘OCD’
Truth: There are two parts to OCD:
Obsessions: The intrusive thoughts, pictures, or urges.
Compulsions: These are the actions and behaviours in which people might engage in to help release the anxiety caused by the obsessions.
There is a distinct difference between compulsive inclinations and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. The main word being obsessive. If someone has OCD, their lives will most likely be consumed with the obsessive thoughts and compulsions, which can interfere with work, school, and or a person’s social life leaving very little time for anything else. OCD has certain criteria required to make a diagnosis, that criteria will be different to someone who is, say, thorough about certain aspects of their life.
Myth: OCD is just about cleaning, hand-washing.
Truth: OCD manifests itself differently in different people, yes, there are a proportion of OCD sufferers who have a fear of germs which can result in hand washing or extreme cleaning compulsions. However, obsessions can fixate on almost anything from, fear of contamination and illness, worrying about harming others, preoccupation with numbers and patterns, fear of their own death or a loved one’s death. And, in the same way, so can the compulsions that accompany them.
Myth: Sufferers of OCD do not understand their behaviours are irrational
Truth: Most sufferers, do know that the relationship between their obsessions and compulsions are irrational and the compulsions can be potentially harmful to themselves and others around them. However, it is hard for them to know when their brain is ‘lying’ to them, whilst they are experiencing strong urges to obey its irrational commands.
Myth: Stress causes OCD
Truth: Whilst stress can exacerbate the symptoms in sufferers, OCD is a mental illness which can incite uncontrollable fears and anxiety which will most likely occur with or without stressful situations.
Myth: OCD is rare in children
Truth: Childhood-onset OCD is quite common, occurring in approximately 1% of all children. Furthermore, recent research indicates that approximately half of all adults with OCD experience symptoms of the disorder during their childhood.
Myth: People with OCD worry about things non-sufferers do not
Truth: Everybody gets thoughts and worries about a loved one being harmed, or themselves becoming ill, or what would happen if……? How many times have you personally touched wood for good luck, or saluted a magpie? Whilst you may do this occasionally, with the thought passing through as soon as the action is finished, someone with OCD will get trapped in a cycle, believing they have not performed the action correctly and have failed to warn off any bad things happening. Whilst most of us have the same worries as a sufferer, non-sufferers are less sensitive to them and, in comparison, can generally quite easily brush them off.
Myth: OCD only affects certain people
Truth: OCD can affect anyone regardless of gender, race, sexuality, or social background. It has no limits.
Myth: OCD is not treatable
Truth: Many sufferers of OCD do not seek treatment because they are embarrassed, or they think there is nothing that can be done to help them. However, I cannot stress enough that recovery is possible provided the sufferer truly wants it and is prepared to put in the amount of effort and energy that is required to work at it and not give up when things become overwhelming and difficult. Within chapter four ‘Guide to Therapies’ of this book, I will be exploring many different types of therapy, all of which have been successful in relieving the symptoms of OCD and helping sufferers to move onto a positive recovery path.
This blog is an excerpt from my book ‘Hope with OCD’, which is available on Amazon here.