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Debunking the myths of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
by TeenHelp September 9th 2016, 12:45 PM

Debunking the myths of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
By Cassie (Cassado) and Jenny (coolkid98)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is "an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions)." [source]. OCD is widely known about, but it is also commonly misunderstood. Some of these misunderstandings can make people living with the disorder reluctant to talk about it or seek help for it. This article is going to discuss the truths that accompany the many myths of OCD.

Myth: OCD is caused by stress.
Fact: While excessive stress can contribute to OCD, stress is not the cause. Contrary to many beliefs, OCD is actually an anxiety disorder that is caused by physical changes in the brain. The exact cause is not yet known, but it is thought that a person with OCD has trouble with serotonin and dopamine in the orbitofrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, striatum and the thalamus. Like many mental health conditions, OCD can also be hereditary.

Myth: OCD is all about being neat and orderly.
Fact: Some, but not all people with OCD like things to be neat and orderly. However, this is not the only part of having OCD. Some people count to a specific number, or in multiples of a particular number, while some like either even or odd numbers. People with OCD can also struggle with intense intrusive thoughts, which can be destructive and very upsetting. It is important to remember that everyone's experience with OCD is individual and unique.

Myth: All people who are serious about cleanliness have OCD.
Fact: Universally, OCD is most commonly associated with cleanliness. However, not everyone with an immaculate house has OCD. For some people, cleanliness is a personal preference. For those living with OCD and struggling with cleanliness, it is anxiety provoking.

Myth: OCD and perfectionism are the same thing.
Fact: Perfectionism and OCD both vary among different individuals. Perfectionism is a need to be perfect through tasks such as grades or volunteering, whereas OCD is more subjective. Someone with OCD doesn't want to be perfect through performing their rituals; they'd rather perform them to temporarily calm their anxiety.

Myth: Everyone has a little bit of OCD in them.
Fact: Many people believe this to be true because of their daily routines. For instance, someone might come home from work and put their car keys and coat in the same place every day. This means that putting their car keys on the counter and hanging their coat up is part of their daily routine and nothing more. It is done simply out of habit and not caused by anxiety, unlike OCD rituals.

Myth: People with OCD find it easy to stop obsessing about things.
Fact: Obsessive thoughts are difficult to work through and can even become debilitating for some people. Many people cannot rest until they've calmed the obsessions down by performing compulsions. A lot of people struggle with a severe fear that something bad will happen if they do not perform their compulsions to their anxiety's liking.

Myth: OCD is just a personality trait.
Fact: This is far from the truth; OCD isn't a personality trait, it is a mental health condition. Those with OCD cannot simply 'turn it off' and the OCD affects a person's thoughts and actions. An example of how OCD can influence a person's behavior or actions is the thought of something bad happening, which could cause a person to perform rituals such as counting their steps in order to calm their anxiety.

Myth: OCD is caused by experiences in childhood.
Fact: Some people believe that OCD is caused by experiences in childhood such as being brought up in dysfunctional homes, but this is not the case. However, OCD does run in some families, and researchers believe that genetics may cause some of its development. Research suggests that there are some slight differences in the brain of someone with OCD to the brain of someone who doesn't have OCD.

Myth: Only women get OCD.
Fact: Although more women get OCD than men, OCD affects people of different genders, ages, ethnicity, and backgrounds. While most signs of OCD can start at any age, they are typically first seen between the ages of 10 to 12, or between the late teens and early adulthood.

Myth: Being strongly religious can cause OCD.
Fact: Despite many religions involving rituals, which can be compulsive, these are not symptoms of OCD or causes of OCD. People who are strongly religious are just as likely to develop OCD as non-religious people. Some religious people may have OCD symptoms interlinked or related to their religion; it is important to note that the religious belief itself didn't cause the OCD.

Myth: Children don't get OCD; only adults do.
Fact: This is far from the truth, for example, in the United States of America, 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children have OCD [source]. Children can have OCD and the main difference between OCD in adults and in children is that children aren't often able to identify the cause of their behavior or thoughts (or that their behaviors or thoughts are unusual).

Myth: OCD is not treatable.
Fact: OCD is treatable; often the first treatment of OCD is exposure and response prevention, which is therapy where individuals face their fears under controlled conditions. Other treatments include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medications. However, OCD cannot be cured; it can only be controlled with treatment.

These common misconceptions and stereotypes of OCD can make it hard for individuals with the disorder to reach out and ask for help. This could be because they are scared, embarrassed, may not know how to go about getting help, and they may not realize that their symptoms are serious and that they can be treated. It is important for those with OCD to seek treatment and help from a therapist or other mental health professional. There is a list of hotlines one can go to, to seek support and advice local to them.
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