Dispelling OCD Myths

Myth: People With OCD enjoy their obsessions.

FACT: OCD sufferers do not enjoy obsessions or performing compulsions. Most obsessions cause extreme distress becasue they are egodystonic, which means they conflict with the person's identity.

For example, a religious OCD sufferer may develop an obsession about being posessed, blaspheming, or being a "bad" person. These obsessions conflict with their true values.

Myth: You can see all compulsions.

FACT: A compulsion is an attempt to relieve anxiety. Not all compulsions can be observed by others. Many OCD sufferers deal with mental compulsions such as researching, mentally reviewing, repeating thoughts, using "good" thoughts to neutralize "bad" ones, and asking for reassurance.

Learn more about the "invisible" side of OCD in the video below:

Myth: OCD is about washing your hands, cleaning, checking doorknobs, and meticulous perfection.

FACT: OCD involves wanting to get a sense of certainty. Often suffers want to know whether or not a feared outcome is going to occur. Compulsions are performed to relieve the anxiety, but they only intensify the anxiety over time. OCD manifests differently in different people. Since nothing in life is certain, anything can become an obsession.

Common obsessions include:

  • fear of losing control
  • fear of hurting others
  • fear of hurting yourself
  • fear of unwanted sexual thoughts
  • fear of being a different sexual orientention
  • fear of contamination
  • superstitions (magical thinking)
  • sensimotor (hyperawareness and monitoring of bodily functions)
  • fear of illness
  • fear of an environment not being "just right"
  • fear of having already made (or making) a moral error
  • fear of being possessed or blaspheming
  • fear of accidentally saying something inappropriate
  • fear of not understanding what is being said or read
  • fear accidentally hitting someone while driving
  • feeling responsible for others (hyperresponsibiity)
  • fear of metaphysical contamination
  • existential fears about reality
  • and many, many more

"The simplest, or perhaps the most all-encompassing conceptualization of OCD is to understand it as a deficit in uncertainty tolerance." - Jon Hershfield

Myth: Understanding why an obsessional fear is irrational will make it go away.

FACT: You cannot reason with or talk away an obsessional fear. Talk therapy or trying to disprove an obsessional fear is considered reassurance. Sufferers seek reassurance from family members or by researching. Seeking reassurance is a compulsion and strengthens the disorder. Thus, seeking reassurance is counterproductive.

Myth: All therapists can treat OCD.

FACT: Few therapists are trained in recognizing and treating OCD. It takes the average OCD sufferer 14-17 years to receive a diagnosis.