OCD is a mental disorder. Like all mental disorders not only has it a huge stigma attached. It can also be fearfully misunderstood. This is because it cannot be seen by the visual eye, so therefore it can be harder to diagnose. For the sufferer, who will have no doubt thought they were losing their mind up until diagnosis, it will be very difficult to come to terms with.
They’ll have known for some time that something could potentially be wrong. However, their brain can trick them into thinking all is normal, so the diagnosis of a legitimate mental illness is often a shock. It typically first starts to significantly interfere with a person’s life during early adulthood. Although problems can develop at any age. No two cases are ever the same. They are all unique to the individual sufferer. Below is a summary of the familiar ‘facts’ which are often quoted in relation to obsessive compulsive disorder. They are, as we will discover in the book, myths which can prevent us from really understanding 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. These can interfere with work, school, or a person’s social life. 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, handwashing.
Truth: OCD manifests itself different 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 to 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. Also, 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’re 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 the disorder experience symptoms of the disorder during their childhood.
Myth: People with OCD worry about things non-sufferers don’t
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 is not treatable
Truth: This is not the case; I cannot stress enough that long-lasting recovery is achievable. Many sufferers of the disorder do not seek treatment because they are embarrassed, or they think there is nothing that can be done to help them. Within the Guide to Therapies chapter of this book, I explore many different forms of therapy, all of which have been successful in relieving the symptoms of OCD and helping sufferers move onto a positive recovery path.
You will be able to find lots of information about different mental health conditions on The Wonderment throughout the year. Don’t forget to join the conversation over on social media too. You can find us on TikTok, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and Twitter.