3 myths about obsessive-compulsive disorder, plus some facts

Ever said, "I totally have OCD?" Do you think you really have it, though?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a real mental health issue, but many of us talk about it in a joking way. Like, "I can't even work until my desk is completely organized and all of my pens are facing the same direction. I totally have OCD!"


All images via TED-Ed.

The truth is that OCD is actually a serious psychiatric condition and is so much more than being methodical or meticulous. People who have OCD have an actual disorder — they're not just "Type A" or perfectionists.

That's why Natascha M. Santos broke it down in this TED-Ed video, which you can watch at the end of this post.

Here are three of the most common myths about OCD.

Myth 1: Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors are synonymous with OCD.

There are two parts to OCD:

  1. Obsessions: Intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses.
  2. Compulsions: Behaviors people engage in to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions.

There's a difference between compulsive tendencies and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. OCD is time-consuming and can interfere with work, school, or a person's social life.

There are definitive criteria required for an OCD diagnosis, and those are different than someone who is, say, meticulous about certain aspects of their life.

Myth 2: The main symptom of OCD is excessive hand-washing.

It's easy to picture someone washing their hands a bunch of times every day when we think of OCD — that's one of the most common compulsions portrayed.

But OCD behaviors can take a lot of forms, such as:

  1. Obsessions: Fears of contamination and illness; worries about harming others; preoccupation with numbers and patterns; fear of death, or loved ones dying.
  2. Compulsions: Excessive cleaning and double checking; careful arrangement of objects; walking in predetermined patterns.

Myth 3: Individuals with OCD don't understand that they're acting irrationally.

Lots of us with OCD understand that the relationship between our obsessions and compulsions is irrational or harmful and, at the very least, inconvenient. But that doesn't mean it's easy or even possible to make them stop.

People who have OCD find different ways to cope or manage their symptoms.

It's hard to know that your brain is lying while feeling forced to obey its irrational commands. Fortunately, people with OCD can seek treatment, such as medications, behavioral therapy that gradually desensitizes them to their anxieties, and in some cases, electroconvulsive therapy or surgery if the OCD isn't responding to other treatments.

People who have OCD often use one or more of these options to deal with their obsessions and compulsions. And some people with OCD simply choose to live with their thoughts and actions, and that's OK too.

If you know someone who deals with obsessive-compulsive disorder, be patient with them. It's not always easy to understand, but it's a real mental illness that can be difficult to live with.

Bottom line: If you keep your home super-organized but don't think terrible things will happen if you leave a dirty dish in the sink — and if you're actually capable of leaving it there, even if you don't like it — you probably don't have OCD.

Check out Natascha's full explainer here:

Family

Image by Brent Connelly from Pixabay and sixthformpoet / Twitter

Twitter user Matt, who goes by the name @SixthFormPoet, shared a dark love story on Twitter that's been read by nearly 600,000 people. It starts in a graveyard and feels like it could be the premise for a Tim Burton film.

While it's hard to verify whether the story is true, Matt insists that it's real, so we'll believe him.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

"Clay's tallest story" is one we should all stop to listen to, no matter how much we think we know about mental health. What starts off as a forgettable fishing video quickly turns into a powerful metaphor about mental health.

What would you do if an unexpected gust of wind pushed your boat out to sea? You'd call for help. It's so obvious, why would anyone think differently? But when it comes to our mental health, things often appear so much more unnecessarily complicated. Thanks for the reminder, Clay!


Clay’s Tallest Story www.youtube.com

Heroes
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Approximately 10% of the population is left-handed, and the balance between lefties and righties has been the same for almost 5,000 years. People used to believe that left-handed people were evil or unlucky. The word "sinister" is even derived from the Latin word for "left."

In modern times, the bias against lefties for being different is more benign – spiral notebooks are a torture device, and ink gets on their hands like a scarlet letter. Now, a new study conducted at the University of Oxford and published in Brain is giving left-handers some good news. While left-handers have been struggling with tools meant for right-handers all these years, it turns out, they actually possess superior verbal skills.

Researchers looked at the DNA of 400,000 people in the U.K. from a volunteer bank. Of those 400,000 people, 38,332 were southpaws. Scientists were able to find the differences in genes between lefties and righties, and that these genetic variants resulted in a difference in brain structure, too. "It tells us for the first time that handedness has a genetic component," Gwenaëlle Douaud, joint senior author of the study and a fellow at Oxford's Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, told the BBC.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Pete the Plant is a maidenhair fern living in the Rainforest Life exhibit at the London Zoo, but Pete the Plant isn't like other plants. Pete the Plant is also a budding photographer. Scientists in the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) conservation tech unit has been teaching the plant how to take selfies.

The ZSL held a competition in partnership with Open Plant, Cambridge University, and the Arribada Initiative for the design of a fuel cell powered by plants. Plant E in the Netherlands produced the winning design. The prototype cell creates electricity from the waste from the plant's roots. The electricity will be used to charge a battery that's attached to a camera. Once Pete the Plant grows strong enough, it will then use the camera to take a selfie. Not too bad for a plant.

"As plants grow, they naturally deposit biomatter into the soil they're planted in, which bacteria in the soil feeds on – this creates energy that can be harnessed by fuel cells and used to power a wide range of conservation tools," Al Davies, ZSL's conservation technology specialist, explains.

RELATED: This plant might be the answer to water pollution we've been searching for

Keep Reading Show less
Innovation