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Misconceptions Surrounding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

By Michelle Jung, Communications Editor

Graphic by Madeline Lee, Graphics Editor

When some hear the acronym OCD, they immediately think about clean-freaks. However, nowhere in the acronym is “clean-freak” to be found.

OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder — any type of obsession is included in its definition. For example, one may have the fear of germs, of losing control, of harming someone else, or of sinning. A hoarder — one with a fear of discarding objects — might have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Most people believe that OCD is just a behavioral quirk. To combat common misconceptions about OCD, David Adam of The Guardian stated that, “...OCD is a severe and crippling illness, and one defined as much by the mental torment of recurring strange thoughts as physical actions such as repeated hand-washing. On average, OCD patients can waste up to six hours a day on their obsessions and four hours on their compulsions.” He added, “A Brazilian man called Marcus had OCD that centred on obsessive thoughts about the shape of his eye sockets, so much so that he was compelled to touch them constantly with his fingers. Marcus prodded himself blind.”

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a heterogeneous disorder — symptoms affect each person differently. Many people say that they “are OCD” because they are neat and organized. However, people who are really diagnosed with OCD are not merely neat and organized. An article in The Mighty asked, “Do you wash your hands until they bleed, having to count to 70 three times before they feel clean? Have you spent thousands of dollars on clothes and objects only to have them suddenly feel “unclean,” and you have to throw them out?” These are some everyday realities for those with OCD.

Some people may also say that they are slightly OCD. However, there is no such thing as being even slightly OCD. You have it, or you don’t. If you spend more than one hour each day performing your compulsion, then you probably have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Furthermore, it is not likely that everybody who claims to have OCD actually does. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has shown that about 2.2 million people in the United States are affected by OCD. This means that only about 1% of the population in the United States actually has OCD.

Hayden Carroll was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder when he was 8 years old and has since received therapy. “Many people are bothered when things are not the way they like them. That is kinda how life works; things you don’t like bother you, that is why you do not like them,” Carroll stated. “When you have OCD, the trigger is not reasonable, it is not something along the lines of ‘they messed it up, I have to fix it or it will annoy me,’ it is more along the lines of ‘if I don’t make sure my collection of vintage potato chips is in chronological order, someone will date-rape my future daughter.’”

People who have OCD also believe that not performing a certain action may be a life or death situation. OCD is not a simple thought process; it is a mental fight that is naturally triggered if something doesn’t feel correct. One simple change in a lifestyle could become a nightmare.

OCD is much more life-threatening than society makes it out to be. The misconception that merely being a neat freak qualifies one with OCD is largely inaccurate. So when you hear someone mention OCD, try to determine whether it is just a behavioral quirk or truly the said disorder.


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