OCD Myths Debunked: Misconception That People Still Believe

An estimated 2.3 percent of the United States population suffers from OCD. Misconceptions about the disorder abound, as they do for any mental illness.

Despite the prevalence of these OCD myths, they can have a demoralizing effect on those with the disorder. 

OCD is a childhood disorder, that is caused by stress, concerned more about being clean, OCD is incurable, and we are all little OCD are one of the common myths that people spread about OCD. 

In this article, we will tackle what is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and the top myths that people still believe in. 

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

An obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that causes people to feel compelled to do something over and over again because of unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (compulsions).

People who engage in repetitive behaviors, such as washing hands, checking on things, or cleaning, can harm their daily lives and social interactions, as well as their health.

Even those who don’t suffer from OCD can suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Daily life isn’t usually disrupted by these thoughts and actions. With OCD, people’s thoughts and actions become irrational.

Being unable to engage in certain habits can be extremely upsetting. 

People with OCD often believe that their obsessions are irrational, while others think they might be true (known as limited insight).

Even if they know their obsessions are irrational, OCD sufferers have a hard time letting go of their thoughts or refraining from their compulsive behaviors.

Obsessions and compulsions that take more than one hour a day, cause significant distress, and interfere with work or social functioning are necessary for a diagnosis of OCD.

OCD affects between 3% and 4% of people in the United States, and women are more likely than men to suffer from it.

At the average age of 19 years old, symptoms of OCD begin to appear in children, adolescents, and young adults.

Obsessions and Compulsive Behavior

Obsessions and Compulsive Behavior

Obsessions are persistent and recurrent thoughts, impulses, or images that trigger distressing emotions such as anxiety or disgust.

Many individuals who suffer from OCD are aware that their thoughts, impulses, or images are excessive or unreasonable. 

However, logic and reasoning cannot resolve the distress caused by these intrusive thoughts.

The majority of people with OCD attempt to alleviate their obsessions’ distress through compulsions, by ignoring or suppressing the obsessions, or by engaging in other activities.

Common Obsessions:

  • Fear of contamination as a result of humans or the environment
  • Sexual fantasies or images that are upsetting
  • Fear of snorting obscenities or making an insulting remark
  • Concern for order, symmetry, or precision at an abnormally high level
  • Intrusive thoughts about sounds, images, words, or numbers repeatedly
  • Fear of misplacing or throwing away something valuable

Compulsions are habitual behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels compelled to perform in response to an obsession.

Typically, the behaviors help a person avoid or alleviate the distress associated with an obsession. 

Compulsions can be excessive responses to an obsession (for example, excessive hand washing in response to a fear of contamination) or completely unrelated actions.

In the most severe cases, a daily routine may become impossible due to the constant repetition of rituals.

Compulsions that are often encountered include the following:

  • Hand washing, showering, tooth brushing, and toileting in excess or as a ritual
  • Cleansing household items regularly
  • Putting things in a particular order or arrangement
  • Monitoring locks, switches, and appliances regularly
  • Constantly on the lookout for affirmation or assurance
  • Counting repeatedly to a specified value

10 Common OCD Myths

10 Common OCD Myths

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness characterized by intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that affects as many as 1 out of 100 adults in the United States.

However, how much do you know about OCD?

Although OCD affects millions of people, it is a condition that is widely misunderstood. Due to media portrayals, many people have misconceptions about it that are simply untrue.

It is for this reason that we are dispelling some of the most common myths associated with OCD and providing you with the facts.

1. Every neat freak suffers from OCD

One of the most common symptoms of OCD is an obsession with cleanliness, such as constantly washing your hands or cleaning household items excessively.

However, according to Jeff Szymanski, Ph.D., of the International OCD Foundation, a cleanliness complex can also be a personality trait and that is a source of consternation. 

If it is a personality trait, you have control and you can choose whether or not to engage in the behavior.

If you have an obsessive-compulsive disorder, you are acting out of debilitating anxiety that is unrelenting

2. OCD is exclusively concerned with cleanliness 

While an obsession with cleanliness is a common compulsion of OCD, it is not the only one.

Other common compulsions include hoarding items, checking and rechecking that you did not make a mistake, fear of something bad happening, such as a fire or accident, and repeating routines such as entering and exiting a door.

3. People with OCD are simply weird, neurotic, or crazy. 

OCD patients can lead full and productive lives if they receive proper treatment. Behavioral therapy and/or medication has a high success rate in treating patients.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the first-line treatment for OCD, according to the National Institutes of Health.

People with OCD may also be prescribed antidepressants to treat their condition.

Family members often play an important role in recovery, making family therapy an excellent option. Most  people find support groups to be extremely beneficial. 

People with OCD can feel less isolated by joining support groups, where they can share their experiences and learn from each other.

In addition to these options, people with OCD rely on the support and understanding of their loved ones to manage their condition.

4. They simply need to  relax

There is no way around it. People with OCD have a difficult time letting go of their obsessive and intrusive thoughts. If left untreated, the thoughts can worsen and eventually control a person’s daily activities and relationships.

As a result, their personal and professional lives may be harmed. Some people, on the other hand, can mask their OCD and appear normal.

OCD isn’t a reaction to everyday life’s stresses. It is important to note that stress does not cause OCD. Obsessions, or recurring thoughts, cause severe anxiety in people with OCD. They may be unable to function due to extreme worry and fear. 

These compulsions are actions or behaviors that OCD sufferers perform to alleviate their anxiety.

To alleviate their fears, OCD sufferers engage in these compulsions. Fear and the desire to escape it are at the heart of OCD.

5. OCD is a childhood disorder

Many people believe that individuals who exhibit signs of OCD grew up in dysfunctional homes and as a result have low self-esteem.

What happened to you as a child has very little to do with developing OCD as an adult, Szymanski explains. 

However, he notes, the obsessive-compulsive disorder does run in families, and researchers believe genetics, as well as experiences, may play a role in its development.

6. OCD is uncommon in children

According to Szymanski, at least one in every 200 children and adolescents suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can begin as early as age four.

This is approximately the same number of children who have diabetes. Four or five children with OCD would be found in an average-sized elementary school.

Around 20 students with obsessive-compulsive disorder attend a medium to large high school.

7. We are all “a little bit ocd” at times.

About two to three million adults and 500,000 children in the United States suffer from OCD, which cannot be dismissed as a quirk of character or a flaw in one’s personality.

An OCD diagnosis means that a person cannot simply “turn it off,” even though many people have the same type of tendencies.

Because their brains are wired differently than those of people without OCD, research shows that OCD has a significant impact on their thoughts and actions.

8. OCD is a female-specific disorder

While more women than men may suffer from anxiety disorders such as OCD, the International OCD Foundation reports that OCD affects men, women, and children of all ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds equally.

While symptoms of OCD can manifest at any age, they are most frequently seen between the ages of 10 and 12 or late adolescence and early adulthood.

9. Tests can confirm the presence of OCD

In contrast to cancer and diabetes, obsessive-compulsive disorder cannot be detected through blood tests or scans.

However, your doctor will almost certainly conduct a physical examination and order tests to rule out other medical problems.

If mental health professionals suspect you have OCD, they will likely ask you a series of questions and look for three symptoms: obsessions, compulsive behaviors, and, if you do, whether they interfere with your normal activities.

10. OCD is incurable

Many people avoid seeking treatment for OCD out of embarrassment, which may contribute to the misconception that it cannot be treated.

“OCD is most certainly treatable,” Szymanski asserts. The first line of treatment for OCD is exposure and response prevention, or confronting one’s fears. Certain individuals require a set of behavioral therapy and medication.


Even though OCD cannot be cured, it can be managed with proper treatment. Stigma is a major problem for people with OCD, but many people fail to understand that their words and deeds are disempowering or belittling the suffering of those with OCD. 

The next time you hear someone say some myths about OCD, engage them in a discussion about what OCD means and what they’re saying is condescending and factually incorrect.

Do whatever you can to raise awareness about OCD in your community, and educate yourself about it.

Joe Davies