Obsessive Facts and Fiction

We CAN'T Just Snap Out of it!


There are a lot of myths or false beliefs about people with OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Here, we separate OCD facts from fiction.FACT: It is not true to think of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as the result of a "weak" or "unstable" mind. Far from it, in fact. In order to maintain the control it takes to cope with OCD, sufferers usually have to be very strong-minded people.

FACT: OCD affects 1 in 40 people, including 1 in 200 children, although most have very mild to moderate levels of the disorder. At it's most debilitating, OCD causes people to stay shut in their homes for months or years!

FACT: It seems to be that in every culture worldwide, about 2 to 3 per cent of the culture will have OCD at some time in their life.

FACT: On average, most OCDers will live with the disorder some 17 years before they get help.

FACT: The average age of diagnosis ranges from 19 to 25, and some OCD sufferers may reach their thirties and beyond before learning the reason for their repetitive thoughts and actions.

FACT: For a long time, OCD was referred to in the medical community as "the secret disorder" because patients didn't want to talk about it.

FACT: There is little doubt that OCD often runs in families. However, it appears that genes are only partially responsible for causing the disorder. If the development of OCD were completely determined by genetics, pairs of twins would always both have the disorder, or both not have it, but this isn't the case. If one identical twin does have it, there is a 13 percent chance that the other twin will NOT be affected.

FACT: Researchers still do not know how the drugs work in treating OCD! However, after decades of using them to treat patients, they DO know that they work, even if they are unsure why.

FACT: There are many health professionals out there who are not well informed about OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms are often missed, so it's important for people to get information from various sources. The symptoms ARE relatively common, the disease IS very real, and there is NOTHING to be ashamed of.


Public awareness of OCD has increased over the years, but there are still many misconceptions about the illness.

FICTION: It is NOT true that OCD and other anxiety disorders can be overcome if the patient tries hard enough. For people who suffer from OCD, trying really hard doesn't do a thing.

FICTION: It is wrong to think OCD can be cured. However, a combination of drugs and behaviour therapy can effectively decrease the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms and bring peace of mind (literally) to the sufferer.

FICTION: It is important to note the differences between a sex offender and a person with OCD having sexual fantasies: It is wrong to think the two are the same. The OCDer with this manifestation never actually commits an immoral or criminal act - often fearing doing the act, and will go out of their way to admit the deviant thoughts.

FICTION: You should not feel that just because you check several times to see if you've switched the cooker off or return to a door to make sure it is locked that you have OCD. You may have quirks that you think border on the compulsive. Perhaps you're over-neat, keep old shoes or clothes in case they come back into fashion, or maybe as a child you insisted on taking your own pillow when staying at a friend or relative's house. OCD goes well beyond the strange habits that most people have. It's all about the length of time and energy these behaviors take - someone may have a very neat desk, but someone else may have a home environment where the ordering of things takes hours and becomes ritualistic... that's OCD.

FICTION: Most people think that OCD sufferers are ONLY fixated on cleanliness - wrong. Some experts have speculated that there may be different types of OCD, and that some types are inherited while other types are not. Also, people with OCD might well fit into one behavioral category, but more likely they'll experience a variety of compulsions during a lifetime.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 4). Obsessive Facts and Fiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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