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How to Debunk Common Myths About OCD

 Friends hanging on train tracks (photo: Warren Wong)
Friends (photo: Warren Wong)

For many people, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is controlling and mood-altering. 

OCD can be challenging, but luckily there are time-tested activities that have been shown to help people with OCD. 

One such activity is traveling. Traveling can help people with OCD live for the present day instead of focusing too intensely on the past or the future. 

In some cases, people never expect to have OCD, as the symptoms can be highly variable. 

Many different stereotypes surround this condition, making it difficult for people to identify and self-diagnose their OCD. 

The myths associated with OCD are plentiful and inaccurate, potentially leading to difficult conversations between people with OCD and their family members. 

Read more about how misunderstanding and poor communication skills can lead to familial fighting at BetterHelp

OCD: Debunking the Stereotypes

Myth – People who have OCD need to be neat 

Many people jokingly say that they are OCD when they are cleaning up and making things neat.

While these jokes may not be intended to be harmful or malicious, they are hurtful to people who genuinely do experience symptoms of OCD.

OCD is a real mental health disorder characterized by patients’ high levels of emotional agony and anxiety. 

While some people with OCD have cleanliness routines, this is not true of all people with OCD.

For those patients who do adhere to cleaning routines, they do not particularly enjoy them. Instead, they feel like they have no choice but to follow these regimens. 

Explaining to family members that not all people with OCD have neatness compulsions is a great first step in helping them understand the illness.

Additionally, it may help if you advise them to no longer joke about neatness associated with OCD since it can be hurtful to those who have the condition.

Myth – A person with OCD will display obvious symptoms

There are people we meet each day who have OCD but display no signs of the condition.

When receiving the proper treatment and in other select scenarios, they can often hide their symptoms around other people. 

The best treatment option available for many people with OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERPT). To read more about this technique, visit the following link

Additionally, some patients never show symptoms of OCD, even when they are alone.

Pure-O, or Pure Obsessional OCD, is a type of OCD characterized by mental compulsions only. Due to the lack of physical compulsions, people with Pure-O may never realize they have the condition. 

It is vital to help your family and friends understand that if a person does not display physical compulsive behavior, they may still have OCD.

OCD presents in different ways, and we must recognize OCD in all its forms to properly care for the mental health of people who experience it. 

Myth – people with OCD just need to relax

To people who do not live with OCD, the condition’s symptoms may appear to be quite outrageous and funny.

For instance, people who must constantly wash their hands might hear friends say simply, “stop washing your hands.” 

This can be quite hurtful, as it minimizes their symptoms and delegitimizes their condition.

Having OCD does not simply make you a quirky person; it makes you a person with a mental illness who may need some help managing the symptoms. 

Helping friends and family to understand that shaking OCD symptoms is no simple task can go a long way in promoting harmonious relationships.

Knowledge is the foundation for understanding. Helping family and friends understand OCD is an excellent step in the right direction. 

People who are more knowledgeable about the condition can be more accepting of OCD symptoms and can help others learn more about OCD. 

If you have been diagnosed with OCD or think you may have it, know there are effective treatment options available, including Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and medication. 

You can learn to manage your symptoms, so you can live according to your values (not your fears). 


This story is brought to you in partnership with BetterHelp. 

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