Common Myths and Misconceptions
American culture is slowly catching up to the truth about OCD. Movie and television depictions of characters returning over and over again to the sink or shower to scrub invisible dirt from their bodies have given OCD its colloquial name, the “hand-washing disease.” But, as parents of children with OCD know all too well, the reality of OCD is neither as funny nor as simple as these depictions suggest. The most common misconceptions about OCD and people with OCD include the following:
They are just eccentric
They can stop it if they want to
It's a self-esteem problem
They just need to relax
Stress causes OCD
Childhood trauma causes OCD
They'll never get better
What most members of the general public don't realize about OCD from watching movies and TV is that real life obsessions and compulsions can be far more complex and insidious than the innocuous behaviors associated with such labels as “fussy” or “neat freak.” OCD can be a debilitating disorder, especially for children and adolescents. As more affected adults and teens speak out about their disorder, the old stereotypes of the silly, hopeless hand-washer or the picky but charming perfectionist are being replaced with more accurate imagery and information about how people of all ages are challenged by this disorder.
One of the byproducts of the increase in sharing by real people of personal stories and challenges on TV and the Internet is the new openness in many different media about people living and thriving in spite of their disabilities, including OCD. For example, the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation's teen program, Organized Chaos, hosts a national media campaign featuring an attractive, vivacious “ordinary” college freshman speaking honestly about her own journey with OCD. Children and teens greatly benefit when positive role models speak openly about their lives with OCD.
Among the sites visited by parents and children dealing with OCD are online groups run for and by people facing the same challenges. The Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation (OCF) hosts “Organized Chaos,” an OCD support site especially for teens.