Expert discusses the common misconceptions about obsessive compulsive disorder

June 28, 2017, Baylor College of Medicine
Repetitive hand-washing is a common OCD symptom. Credit: Lars Klintwall Malmqvist/public domain

While most people have heard of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), there are many misconceptions about what it truly means to have it. A Baylor College of Medicine expert discusses these common misconceptions and gives her advice on the best treatment options for OCD.

"OCD is characterized by having compulsions and obsessions that are caused by unwanted, intrusive thoughts. Individuals don't want these thoughts, and it causes anxiety and they engage in repetitive rituals, which don't bring them any joy or pleasure. It's something that they do because they feel like they have to in order to get rid of that thought," said Dr. Elizabeth McIngvale, assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor.

She explained that one of the misconceptions about OCD is that there is just one, general type but in reality, there are many different categories of the disorder. Some of the main categories are:

  • Contamination OCD: This often includes the of germs, the fear of blood-borne illnesses and the fear of household or environmental contaminants.
  • Scrupulosity OCD: This is a form of OCD where individuals find themselves engaging in repetitive rituals around prayer, morals or beliefs. They get stuck in these types of behaviors and do them with a moral or religious base.
  • Checking OCD: Individuals with this type of OCD may repetitively check their locks or their household appliances and engage in a lot of checking rituals to prevent something bad from happening.
  • Symptomatic OCD: This can be very similar to hypochondriasis where individuals have intrusive thoughts that they have contracted an illness of some type and get sucked into engaging in compulsions around fears of having a disease.
  • Perfectionism OCD: This form of OCD can involve rereading or rewriting documents for hours, checking to make sure that everything is done right even though the individual knows it is done correctly.
  • Sexual intrusive thoughts: These are unwanted, intrusive thoughts around sexual behaviors that individuals often find grotesque, appalling or repulsive, and they engage in different rituals to get rid of the thought.
  • Harming intrusive thoughts: Individuals fear that they might violently harm somebody or act out even though there is no history and/or intent to do so. A compulsion for individuals with this type of OCD is often to get rid of all the sharp objects in their house or remove all of the items that could be used as weapons.

Another big misconception about OCD is that it is a personality disorder, said McIngvale. There is a personality disorder called obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) but it is much different than OCD, she said.

"Obsessive compulsive personality disorder, in my opinion, is often what society thinks OCD is. People with OCPD might organize their closet perfectly, have all of their items color-coded and organized by type or category, or if you open their fridge all of their labels are lined up perfectly and everything has a place. However, individuals with OCPD often talk about the fact that there's not an unwanted, intrusive thought and there's no fear attached to these behaviors. They just organize things a certain way or do these kind of compulsive behaviors because it makes them feel better," McIngvale said. "However, with OCD, it is something that individuals don't enjoy – there's nothing they like about it, they are doing it because they feel like they have to in order to get rid of the intrusive thought or fear. It is debilitating and draining and not something that makes the individual feel better and more productive when they are done."

McIngvale also emphasized that it is incorrect to use OCD as an adjective. She gave the example of the improper use of the term as when someone says, "My co-worker is so OCD."

For who think that they have OCD, McIngvale recommends finding a behavioral therapist who specializes in exposure with response prevention therapy, which is a specific form of cognitive behavioral therapy that is offered for OCD. It is the most researched, effective and well-known treatment for OCD. She added that the individual also meet with a psychiatrist who specializes in OCD for medication options for OCD.

"Unfortunately, OCD is one of the that takes, on average, about 25 years for people to get a diagnosis and proper treatment, but I really want to make sure that everybody with OCD knows that there is hope and there is help available," McIngvale said.

Explore further: People who go to bed late have less control over OCD symptoms

Related Stories

People who go to bed late have less control over OCD symptoms

June 20, 2017
A late bedtime is associated with lower perceived control of obsessive thoughts, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

The surprising truth about obsessive-compulsive thinking

April 8, 2014
People who check whether their hands are clean or imagine their house might be on fire are not alone. New research from Concordia University and 15 other universities worldwide shows that 94 per cent of people experience ...

Researchers discover brain inflammation in people with OCD

June 21, 2017
A new brain imaging study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows for the first time that brain inflammation is significantly elevated - more than 30 per cent higher - in people with obsessive-compulsive ...

Gambling and obsessive-compulsive behaviors linked

February 16, 2015
Problem gambling and obsessive-compulsive behaviors share genetic as well as behavioral links, according to a study by researchers at Yale, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. ...

Obsessive-compulsive disorder questionnaire may give clues to other mental health problems

May 13, 2014
A shortened version of a questionnaire used by psychologists to assess risk factors for obsessive-compulsive disorder also may help determine the risk of depression and anxiety, according to a Baylor University study.

Don't worry, be happy: Just go to bed earlier

December 4, 2014
When you go to bed, and how long you sleep at a time, might actually make it difficult for you to stop worrying. So say Jacob Nota and Meredith Coles of Binghamton University in the US, who found that people who sleep for ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals stronger people have healthier brains

April 19, 2018
A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Overcoming bias about music takes work

April 18, 2018
Expectations and biases play a large role in our experiences. This has been demonstrated in studies involving art, wine and even soda. In 2007, Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed musician, illustrated the role context ...

Study suggests we can recognize speakers only from how faces move when talking

April 18, 2018
Results of a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli at the University of Massachusetts Amherst should help to settle a long-standing ...

Scientists disconfirm belief that humans' physiological reaction to emotions are uniform

April 18, 2018
How do you feel when you're angry? Tense? Jittery? Exhausted? Is it the same every time? Is it identical to how your best friend, co-worker, or barista feel when they experience anger? In all likelihood the answer is no, ...

How mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative

April 18, 2018
Mental health diagnosis should be a collaborative and useful process, not a meaningless label - according to new research from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the University of East Anglia.

Does pot really dull a teen's brain?

April 18, 2018
Pot-smoking teens may not be dooming themselves to a destiny of dim-wittedness, a new review suggests.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2017
250mg of healthy adult male facial skin surface lipid liquid pheromone by mouth alleviates OCD, borderline personality disorder, onychophagia, and more. Why not treat your patients with the liquid pheromone on the end of your noses, gentlemen? After all, you overlook it each time you examine a patient.
The liquid evaporates off an airborne sub-pheromone which causes emotional poisoning: superstition, suspicion, arrogance, stupidity/astonishment, mistrust, and jealousy. Artificial jealousy emerges in osculation partners of treated OCD patients. Use supplied air respirators when collecting, storing, and administering pheromone. Ventilate well. Use oscillating fans to break up plumes of effective airborne plume concentration. Isolate patients (who all reek) to avoid cross contamination for 40 days.
Pheromones work insidiously. Transparent, odorless, and tasteless to the conscious mind, they are almost undetectable. Artificial emotions are always perceived as real.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.