Monday, 7 July 2014

Misconceptions about OCD

What concerns me even more than a lack of awareness about OCD, is the fact that people think that they are aware, but are being given inaccurate information.

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is an anxiety disorder, involving, as the name suggests, obsessions and compulsions. I am not going to go into detailed definitions, as many books and websites cover this area already, much more effectively than I am able to. I just really wanted to make a few points.

To begin with, OCD takes many forms. In my own case, I do excessively wash my hands, which is one of the main stereotypes. I worry about hygiene, but particularly anything relating to bodily fluids. Many people with OCD do not do this. They may not be obsessed with hygiene at all - or, even if they are, may deal with their obsessions in different ways. I do not alphabetically sort my CDs, or count tiles, or any behaviours of this nature. Others with OCD do, because they do not have the same type of OCD as me. Some people have many types of OCD, but I don't have most of them - only really the obsessions which I have developed relating to aspects of hygiene. It is also wrong to assume that any obsessive behaviour in someone who has been diagnosed with OCD, can be attributed to the disorder. People with OCD often have other mental health issues, which is true in my own case, and some of an individual's obsessive behaviours may result from the other illness or illnesses. It may also not be due to a mental health problem at all. Everyone has some "obsessions", whether or not the person suffers from mental illness.

OCD is not the same as OCPD, which stands for Obsessive Compulsive Personaltiy Disorder, and is a separate diagnosis, although the two overlap and have many features in common.

OCD awareness is not, in my opinion, helped either by television programmes which sensationalise the illness, or Facebook pages which go to the opposite extreme, quite possibly in a misguided attempt to rectify the negative image given by the programmes in question. A while ago, one of these pages did a "campaign", which involved continually posting photographs of healthy looking people, with positive information about their lives, and then a final line saying: "I have OCD." Whilst I can understand that they were trying to make the point that people with OCD are not "freaks", and that you might not even know about the illness just by looking at the person - without any actual information about OCD, and how it does impact upon the lives of sufferers, this does not spread awareness and is, at best, irrelevant. Also, in the real world, OCD can be very visible, and it might not do people any harm to look at hands like mine, since that would quickly dispel any myths about OCD being "glamorous". Moderate to severe OCD, as with any mental health issue, has a much more debilitating effect on the lives of sufferers than milder cases of the illness. I would guess that many of the people who were represented as the so-called "faces of OCD" had milder forms of the illness, which is why they managed to live such full lives in spite of OCD. I cannot say for sure, however - since, as I mentioned before, no information was actually ever given relating to these people's experiences of OCD as such.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  Please note that I also have a
poetry site and a Facebook poetry page.