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3 Misconceptions About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Debunked

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"I'm so OCD."

We hear people say it playfully or, worse, proudly, when getting rid of clutter around the house, keeping kitchen counters spotless, organizing desk in the office, or color-coordinating clothes inside the closet.

Somehow, this has started to become a popular expression today, showing how very little we truly know about obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD.

So what is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a serious mental health problem. The National Institute of Mental Health defines it as a chronic and long-lasting condition in which a person suffers from strong obsessions, which are irrepressible thoughts, urges, and mental images that cause severe emotional distress. These trigger compulsions or repetitive behaviors in response to an obsession.

Check out three of the most common misconceptions about OCD.

OCD Is All About Cleanliness

Contrary to the popular notion, OCD is not just about cleaning, symmetry, and making sure everything's in place. It's a broad-spectrum mental illness with several types and subtypes.

The main forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder include the following:

• Checking: repeatedly checking thing in fear of error or harm
• Contamination: excessive cleaning or hand washing in fear of contracting an infection or illness
• Hoarding: the inability to discard useless or worn out possessions
• Ruminations: prolonged thinking of senseless, unproductive ideas
• Intrusive thoughts: Involuntarily thinking of things that are distressing, horrific, and repugnant in nature

People With OCD 'Like' Things Neat And Clean

People with OCD might have cleaning rituals, but this does not mean that they take pleasure in doing so. They simply have no choice because otherwise they will be gripped with an incapacitating level of anxiety and emotional suffering.

This is also why experts believe it's politically incorrect to say "I'm so OCD."

"OCD is one of the top ten debilitating disorders that causes an unimaginable amount of stress and interference. Saying you have OCD because you love to clean completely invalidates someone's experiences," Noah Berman, Ph.D., an OCD specialist, and a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, explained.

OCD Is A Rare Condition

"At least 1 in every 200 kids and teens has obsessive compulsive disorder, and it can strike as young as 4 years old. This is about the same number of children who have diabetes — but no one considers diabetes to be rare," OCD expert Jeff Szymanski, Ph.D., the executive director of the International OCD Foundation, said.

In the United States, approximately 3.3 million people have OCD, which is 0.3 to 1 percent of the pediatric population and 2 percent of the adult population. This means one out of 50 American adults have OCD, and twice as many have had OCD at one point or another in their lifetime.

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