Clearing up Misconceptions About OCD

The term OCD has broken into main stream culture over the past few year, though I am not sure everyone who uses the term knows what it means. OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental health disorder that has been given its own category in the latest edition of the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual 5th Ed (the bible for mental health practitioners) in order to focus on the uniqueness of the disorder. It is made up of obsessions and compulsions that are upsetting enough to interfere with normal functioning. In order to receive a diagnosis of OCD an individual might have obsessions, compulsions, or both.

Obsessions are defined as persistent or urgently reoccurring thoughts that are intrusive, inappropriate and/or distressing. They are out of the individuals control and are not typically real life worries. The obsessions may be about something that an individual does not believe in or support, which makes them all the more distressing. Many people have obsessions that are sexual in nature, about religious ideologies, or about contamination.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or rituals that are performed in response to the obsessions or a rigid set of rules. They are done to reduce stress or to prevent something negative from happening. Examples include hand washing, counting, and unlocking/locking doors.

Some OCD thoughts or behaviors may seem pretty typical, like rechecking to make sure a door is locked. This is an absolutely normal behavior and doing so doesn’t mean you have OCD. I think something to keep in mind is whether your thoughts or behaviors are interfering with your everyday life. An individual diagnosed with OCD may recheck a locked door 30 times before they leave, constantly making them late.

For an individual who has OCD it can be an extremely frustrating and distressing disorder. I have heard many people downplay the disorder and say things like “I like to be organized, I’m OCD about that.” I really want to encourage people to think before they use this kind of terminology because there is a huge difference between being diagnosed with a mental health disorder that affects your life and choosing to be picky.

If this post hits a chord with you, don’t hesitate to check in with your doctor. There are many treatment options for OCD, including therapy and medication and the prognosis is good. Obsession and/or compulsions don’t need to rule your life.



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