We’ve all heard someone describe their clean home as OCD, right? Or the myth that everyone who has OCD has a fear of germs? Maybe you’ve heard that everyone is ‘a little OCD’? Read on to find out the truth about OCD, from someone who actually has it

It’s thought that 1-2% of the UK population has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), approximately 740,000 people, and yet it’s a term used every day to label behaviours that aren’t really OCD. With so many misconceptions, and the stigma that surrounds it, education and awareness of this disorder, that so many people live and struggle with, is key. Not only will more people with OCD get the help they need, but the wrong ideas that surround what the condition is will change!

So, what is OCD?

OCD is an anxiety disorder that affects people in two ways: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that can be about anything. They cause anxiety and fear, and sometimes people are too ashamed to speak about them. Compulsions are something people do repeatedly to rid themselves of the thoughts and anxiety, which can, again, be about anything but some of the well known ones are: washing hands, asking for reassurance, making sure the door is locked, mental rituals, and tapping.

OCD affects 12 in every 1,000 people in the UK

1. Everyone’s a little OCD

OCD affects 12 in every 1,000 people in the UK. People confuse the fact that they like something in a certain way with OCD, however people with OCD don’t want to have it, so their compulsions are not something they want to do. You can’t be “a little OCD” – you either have it, or you don’t.

2. OCD is the clean and neat illness

Most people with OCD don’t care about neatness. For some people, their OCD latches on to keeping things clean and tidy, but that is because of a fear of contamination, or to prevent something bad from happening, not a liking for things to be neat and clean.

3. OCD is just being a germaphobe

A germaphobe has a fear of germs, but many people with OCD have no issue with germs and can shake hands, use public toilets, and not worry about germs at all! Some people with OCD may become obsessed with germs, but it’s because of the intrusive thoughts making them fear them, not the germs themselves. They will act on their compulsions, i.e. clean and avoid things, but it’s not because they are a germaphobe.

4. OCD is a choice

OCD is far from a choice, it’s a disorder. Nobody would choose to live with intrusive, mean, scary thoughts every day. People with OCD can’t control these thoughts, and they act on their compulsions to try to end them. Sometimes the compulsions are strange and people feel embarrassed about doing them, but they can’t help it.

Some people with OCD may have violent, scary or strange thoughts, but people with OCD won’t act on them because acting on them is their worst fear

5. You can see someone who has OCD

Some people act on their compulsions physically, but for a lot of people it’s all in the mind. They might have to repeat words or numbers in their head, or they might pray a lot. Most people with OCD will act on mental compulsions as well as physical ones. Just because you can’t “see” OCD, doesn’t mean someone doesn’t have it.

6. OCD is just about a few things

OCD is a disorder that can latch on to anything and is forever changing. One day someone could be obsessing about the house being burgled, and the next they believe they have killed someone. OCD creates fear, false memories, and anxiety, which are both constant and distressing.

7. OCD is where people hear voices

OCD is just intrusive thoughts that are hard to deal with and cause a vast amount of anxiety and worry. It’s not the same as hearing voices that aren’t there; it’s their own thoughts working against them. Some people with OCD may have violent, scary or strange thoughts, but people with OCD won’t act on them because acting on them is their worst fear.

8. OCD is about being organised

Most of the time, people with OCD can’t be organised because most of their day is taken up with obsessions and compulsions. Making lists and trying to stick to them when living with OCD is hard, as you don’t know what it’s going to throw at you next. People with OCD might obsess about trying to stick to a list or deadline, but this is because of the intrusive thoughts they have, not because they are organised.

OCD can affect anyone at any age

9. People with OCD don’t know that what they are doing is irrational

Most people with OCD know that their thoughts and compulsions are irrational. They know that just because they think something is going to happen doesn’t mean it will, and they know that acting on their compulsions won’t stop or prevent something, but they can’t risk it. This is what makes OCD so distressing for sufferers.

10. OCD only affects young people

OCD can affect anyone at any age. Most of the time OCD starts when someone is younger, but it can also start in adulthood. For some, OCD can start after having a baby for both men and women, because of the responsibility to protect the child. It can also start after something traumatic happening, such as illness or a death.

Stacey Barber is a mental health blogger with OCD and PTSD, whose goal is to help, educate and inspire people regarding their own and others’ mental health. Visit fixmeinfortyfive.com to read more from her.