Often, the term OCD is tossed around without much thought behind it. People will say they’re OCD about organizing their spice racks or cleaning their closets. Using the term this way, though, is dismissive of people who truly struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder. Here, we dispel some myths and share some facts about the disorder known as OCD.
What is OCD? OCD stands for obsessive-compulsive disorder, a serious mental illness that impacts as many as 1 in every 40 adults in the United States each year. About half of these cases are classified as severe. It’s more common than celiac disease, but unfortunately, most people don’t understand the illness. OCD is an anxiety-related condition that causes the person to experience uncontrollable, recurring thoughts and behaviors that they feel they need to repeat over and over. Because OCD is so misunderstood, people who have OCD struggle with a stigma that can have a negative impact on their lives. That’s why it’s important to promote a better awareness of what OCD is and is not.
Here are some things OCD is not:
- It’s not a quirky personality trait. Many people can be obsessive or compulsive at times, but people with OCD have a disorder they cannot control. Their brains are wired differently than other people, and OCD influences the way they act and think. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder are not weak-willed, and it’s not helpful to suggest that they just stop doing and thinking the things they do and think. A chronic illness can’t be cured by calming down, and people with OCD have great difficulty overcoming their disorder without treatment. Even with treatment, people with OCD have to deal with this chronic condition for the rest of their lives.
- OCD is not an overreaction to stress. Stressful situations can exacerbate the symptoms of OCD, but they don’t cause the condition. The level of anxiety people with OCD face is severe, sometimes to the point of being debilitating. To overcome the anxiety, people with OCD use compulsions, which are specific behaviors or actions they feel are necessary. It’s not possible to talk someone with OCD out of their compulsions, because these actions are not based in logic. Rather, they’re a way to try and get relief from crushing anxiety.
- It’s not just about being overly concerned with cleanliness or extremely organized. There’s an OCD stereotype of germophobes obsessed with handwashing and germs, or people who compulsively clean or organize their homes. In reality, this type of behavior is only one type of OCD symptom. OCD triggers can have to do with a wide range of fears, including losing control, hurting others, or committing a sin. People with OCD may be afraid of certain numbers, words, or colors, or they could fear they’ll become sexual predators. With such a wide range of obsessions, it makes sense that there would also be a broad assortment of compulsions as well. These include checking things like door locks or that the stove is off, repeating the same action over and over, or counting, either doing things in certain numbers or counting items to certain numbers. Other compulsions include handwashing, praying, hoarding, or tapping or touching objects. Whatever the compulsion may be, it’s not something the person enjoys; it’s a way to alleviate anxiety and feel safe.
- OCD is not always obvious. You may know someone with OCD without realizing it. Often, people with OCD hide or suppress their symptoms, and if they’re receiving proper treatment, they may be able to successfully keep them under wraps. Additionally, there are people with OCD who don’t demonstrate visible compulsions. There’s a subtype of OCD known as Pure-O, or Pure obsessional OCD, and it involves compulsions that happen inside the patient’s head. Often, people with Pure-O don’t realize they have OCD because they don’t have symptoms that match what they know of the disorder. While they don’t behave compulsively, they struggle with recurrent, persistent, intrusive, unwanted thoughts, images, and urges, often centered on sexuality, religion, or aggression. They may also be concerned with symmetry or contamination. Even though they don’t act out, these obsessions cause significant anxiety and distress.
People with OCD can be successfully treated and go on to lead full, productive lives. About 70 percent of people with OCD benefit from psychological therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, or a combination of the two approaches. For people who do not respond well to therapy or medication, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been shown to be effective.
If you’re interested in learning more about OCD or TMS, visit the BrainsWay Knowledge Center. A global medical technology company, we’re focused on developing cutting edge medical devices to advance the level of treatment offered to patients. BrainsWay’s advanced flagship technology, Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS) is expanding mental health treatment beyond what was thought possible. Non-invasive Deep TMS treatment directly stimulates deeper and broader areas of the brain, and it’s been proven effective in treating conditions like depression and OCD. Contact us to talk to a BrainsWay team member, or visit our website to find a provider near you.
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