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OCD Myths vs Facts: 10 Misconceptions Debunked

With all that modern medical science knows and understands about this disorder, there is just as much misinformation and misconceptions that the general public has. The more bad information that exists out there, the worse people battling the disorder have to suffer without the appropriate treatments or therapy. In this article, I aim to debunk some of the most common misconceptions about OCD, shedding light on the reality of this often misunderstood disorder.

misconceptions about ocd

Common Misconceptions about OCD Debunked

Let me now introduce you to a few of the most common misconceptions or sources of misinformation about OCD. Hopefully, you can leave from here better informed about what’s real and what isn’t for those that have to manage an OCD in their life.

Myth #1. OCDs Just Focus On Cleanliness

There is a serious belief that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders tend to only really be related to keeping things clean. While this is certainly one variety of this increasingly common condition, this isn’t at all the primary focus of those that suffer from this condition.

This misinformation has gotten so bad that it is also believed that everyone that is very adamant about keeping things clean and specifically organized shares some OCD. This is likely derived from people claiming that they have OCD about something (as a punch line) or that they are “borderline OCD” about something else. This lighthearted look at this debilitating condition is not only likely highly offensive to those that are suffering through it every day, but it is also a jab at the kind of mental distress that someone who has this disorder is asked to constantly endure.

Myth #2. More Women Have OCDs than Men

There has been a lot of research into the common people affected by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and the truth is that everyone can develop it just as readily as anyone else. It is unlikely anything more than a half-sexist view has perpetuated the idea that more women than men are likely to develop OCD in their lifetime.

While it has been established that this condition could affect anyone, the initial development of symptoms are not as widespread as those that could be affected. While it is not entirely uncommon that OCD symptoms could start earlier, the common age range in which initial signs of the condition tend to present themselves is 10-12.

Myth #3. OCD Is a Result of a Bad Childhood

Many people believe that there are common threads between PTSD and OCD. If not experienced traumatic and life-altering events, that person just had a horrible upbringing which would then play a significant role in how their anxiety disorder would develop. This might be an underlying cause for something like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), but it does not hold water when it comes to finding the root of OCD for the sufferer.

It is believed that the horrible upbringing resulted in lower self-esteem and social anxiety. This condition makes a person more susceptible to developing OCD. This, however, isn’t the case. While genetic connections are still being more closely examined to this day, it is unclear if genetics plays a role in immediate family members developing OCD.

Myth #4. OCD is a Personality Quirk or Habit

Another prevailing misconception is that OCD is merely a personality quirk or a habit that can be easily controlled or changed. In reality, OCD is a clinically recognized mental health condition that requires proper diagnosis and treatment.

While habits and rituals may be a part of OCD, the key distinction lies in the distress and disruption caused by these behaviors in the lives of individuals with the disorder. Unlike regular habits, OCD-related compulsions are often driven by intense anxiety and fear.

Myth #5. OCD is Similar to Being a Perfectionist

There might be overlaps between OCD and perfectionism, but they are not the same. Perfectionism is a personality trait, whereas OCD is a clinically diagnosed mental health condition. OCD involves distressing obsessions and compulsions that go beyond typical perfectionist tendencies.

Myth #6. There Are Tests to Confirm OCDs

Unlike many of the medical conditions that exist in the world, there is no blood test or scan that can determine whether someone is suffering from OCD or not. Trained medical professionals can take information that you can provide and develop a working theory as to whether or not you have the disorder. This isn’t at all some sort of definitive test, though your doctor is looking for an answer to three distinct questions.

Do You Have Mental Obsessions?

Do You Have A Compelled Behavior That Corresponds To That Obsession?

Does This Obsession/Compulsion Affect Your Normal Life?

Myth #7. OCDs Are Caused By Stress

Some people are misguided by the belief that there are ways that a person with OCD can just turn off that part of their brain and relax for a little while. The trouble is, there isn’t a lot of restfulness for those that have this condition, as it is an ever-present obsession in the brain and that is only removed or quelled by the compulsive activity that follows. Shortly thereafter (depending on the individual of course), the process will repeat itself. There isn’t turning off that portion of someone’s cognitive process.

This makes it a bit unreasonable to consider that stress is somehow a driving factor in the presence of the obsession or the compulsion to satisfy it. Stress, as we know, is not at all good for anxiety disorders. It is not, however, the root cause or hidden solution to curing OCD for those that suffer from it.

Myth #8. OCD Is Mostly In Adults

As was earlier established, there is no rhyme or reason as to who gets OCD and why they get it. Gender, age, race, and background seem to have no bearing on the development of the disorder, so it seems surprising then that people believe it is uncommon for a child to develop it. Statistics suggest that 1 in every 200 people under the age of 18 has a form of OCD. This condition could start as young as four years old.

Myth #9. OCD Is All About Physical Compulsions

Contrary to popular belief, not all OCD symptoms are visible physical compulsions. Many individuals experience mental compulsions, such as mental rituals or intrusive thoughts, which can be equally distressing and time-consuming. Acknowledging these hidden compulsions is vital in understanding the complexity of OCD.

Myth #10. Everyone Has A Little OCD

Using phrases like "I'm a little OCD" to describe minor habits fosters the misconception that OCD is a minor personality trait shared by many. In truth, OCD exists on a spectrum, and while many people may have certain quirks or preferences, it does not equate to having OCD. Minimizing the disorder's severity can be detrimental to those genuinely struggling with it.


Now that you have at least some of your facts straight, you can see just how many people and in what ways Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder affects the world. While scientists and doctors are learning more about this condition all the time, and the treatments are evolving in successful pathways, there is still currently a long way to go to find a cure or official course of universal treatment for everyone. It is through combating the bad information about OCD out there that real productive work can continue.


Q: Can OCD symptoms vary over time?

A: Yes, OCD symptoms can fluctuate in intensity and may present differently during various stages of life.

Q: Can OCD go away on its own?

A: While some individuals may experience a reduction in symptoms over time, OCD typically requires professional treatment for long-term management.

Q: Is OCD a lifelong condition?

A: While OCD can be a chronic condition, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can lead to significant improvements and better management.

Q: Can OCD be cured completely?

A: There is no definitive cure for OCD, but with proper treatment and support, many individuals can experience a substantial reduction in symptoms and better quality of life.

Q: Can stress worsen OCD symptoms?

A: Yes, stress can exacerbate OCD symptoms. Learning stress management techniques can help manage the condition.

Q: Can I still have a job with OCD?

A: Yes, many individuals with OCD can hold successful jobs with proper treatment and support.


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