Breaking Down the Top 8 Myths Surrounding OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive thoughts or images, which cause anxiety and distress, and behavioral compulsions that attempt to reduce the distress. While OCD affects millions of people worldwide, it is often misunderstood, and misconceptions about the condition continue to persist. At River Oaks Psychology, we are committed to providing effective OCD treatment and increasing awareness of how this condition affects one’s quality of life. Let’s talk about some common OCD myths. Understanding the truth about OCD is essential in order to provide accurate support and empathy for those who struggle with it.


Myth #1:  OCD is only about cleanliness.

Contrary to popular belief, OCD is not always about cleanliness. While some individuals with OCD may experience obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors related to hygiene, many others struggle with a wide range of obsessions and compulsions that have nothing to do with cleanliness. These can include things like obsessive worrying about harm to oneself or loved ones, checking behaviors such as repeatedly making sure doors are locked or appliances are turned off, and seeking reassurance that nothing bad will happen. It’s important to recognize that OCD takes many different forms, and those who struggle with the disorder deserve understanding and support no matter what their specific symptoms may be.


Myth #2:  You can easily tell if a person has OCD.

Not true! While some people may have compulsions that are visible, many people with OCD often feel ashamed or embarrassed by their compulsive behaviors, which can make it difficult for them to share their experiences openly. Hiding OCD symptoms may involve avoiding situations that trigger anxiety, trying to perform rituals more discreetly or masking outward signs of distress. Although it’s understandable why someone might want to keep their struggles a secret, it’s important to remember that seeking help and support is a crucial step toward managing symptoms of OCD. With proper treatment and understanding, those living with this condition can lead fulfilling lives without shame or stigma.


Myth #3:  People with OCD just need to relax.

Engaging in relaxation techniques may offer temporary relief but it does not offer a long-term solution to the underlying issue. Treatment for OCD involves mental health therapy and sometimes medication management to address the root cause of the disorder. Next time you come across someone struggling with OCD, remember that addressing the symptoms calls for professional treatment, rather than just a suggestion to “relax.” It’s important not to minimize the seriousness of what someone is dealing with by offering simplistic suggestions like “relaxing” or “taking it easy.”


Myth #4: OCD is a choice.

OCD is NOT a choice. It is a serious mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. People with OCD cannot simply turn off their intrusive thoughts or stop their compulsive behaviors as easily as flipping a switch. It’s not a matter of willpower. OCD behaviors can be time-consuming, interfere with daily functioning and relationships, and cause significant impairment. OCD arises from a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. It’s not due to personal weaknesses or character claws. Rather than blaming individuals for their symptoms, it’s essential to understand OCD as a complex disorder that requires compassion and evidence-based treatment approaches.


Myth #5:  Someone with OCD will have the same obsessions their entire life.

OCD obsessions can certainly change over time. They can evolve and shift into something completely different from what they were previously fixated on. This could be because of a variety of reasons like changes in life circumstances or stressors. What might have once been a constant worry could subside and make way for something new to obsess over. It’s important to recognize these changes and address any new obsessions with a mental health professional to receive proper treatment.


Myth #6:  People with OCD don’t understand their actions are irrational.

This is false. Many people with OCD understand that their thoughts or behaviors are irrational, but they cannot control them. They may know that checking the locks on their doors multiple times or washing their hands excessively isn’t rational, yet they still feel the intense, relentless urge to do so. This contradictory experience can lead to a lot of confusion and self-blame, as well as difficulty explaining their behavior to others who might not appreciate the deeply ingrained nature of these symptoms. It’s important to remember that just because someone with OCD knows their actions don’t make sense doesn’t mean they can simply stop doing them. Rather than telling someone that their behaviors are irrational, it’s important to have empathy for those living with OCD.


Myth #7:  OCD is caused by a traumatic childhood.

Many people with very positive childhood experiences still develop OCD. It is not always caused by a traumatic childhood. While childhood trauma can be a contributing factor for mental illnesses in some cases, research has shown that OCD stems from a combination of genetic, neurobiological, and environmental factors. For example, studies have identified specific chemical imbalances in the brains of individuals with OCD and have found evidence that certain regions of the brain are more active in those with the disorder. Additionally, high levels of stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions can also increase one’s risk for developing OCD. Therefore, it’s important to recognize that there is no single cause for this complex condition and that treatment must be tailored to address each person’s individual needs and circumstances.


Myth #8: OCD isn’t treatable.

Completely false. It’s essential to know that OCD is treatable, and there is hope for healing. While it can be a tough thing to deal with, there are plenty of evidence-based treatments available. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be particularly effective at helping people manage their symptoms. This type of therapy focuses on changing the thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to OCD. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is another well-known therapy proven to be effective for people who struggle with OCD. Additionally, certain medications have also shown promise in reducing OCD symptoms. The key is finding the right combination of therapy and medication for each individual, which may take some time and effort. But with professional help and perseverance, many people have successfully overcome their OCD and use techniques for managing their thoughts and anxiety. If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, don’t lose hope – we can help! At River Oaks Psychology, we want you to feel comfortable reaching out to begin your treatment journey. You CAN reach your goals.


It’s so important to debunk common myths about OCD to increase public awareness and reduce the stigma associated with the disorder. It can help people recognize early warning signs and seek appropriate treatment. Spreading awareness also encourages individuals struggling with OCD to feel less ashamed. Knowing that they’re not alone in their struggle is an important step towards recovery for anyone dealing with this. Let’s talk more openly about OCD, educate ourselves and others, and work toward a world where people living with mental illness feel supported, understood, and empowered to seek help.


Written by Lauren Presutti

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