You Probably Don’t Have OCD, And This Is Why
Welcome to Life Noggin.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m
so clean, I’m OCD!”?
You might think that having OCD just means
being a neat freak… but actually, obsessive-compulsive
disorder is a serious ailment that only affects
about 2 percent of the population.
People with OCD are plagued with unwanted
thoughts, behaviors, or mental images that
repeat over and over.
They might feel like objects in a room have
to be perfectly aligned, or they may worry
obsessively about harming others, even if
they would never actually do anything.
And yes, some people with OCD obsess over
germs and cleanliness, but it’s different
than just wanting your house tidy.
For those with the disorder, their obsession
feels out of their control.
It can be debilitating, and cleaning won’t
solve the problem.
The obsessions are typically intertwined with
compulsions — repeated actions the person
has to do just to function.
If someone is obsessed with germs, they might
wash their hands over and over, even after
they logically know that they are clean.
Or if they’re obsessed with safety, they
might force themselves to check that the doors
are locked and the stove is off dozens of
times before they can leave the house.
They might also feel the need to repeat a
certain word, or count all their steps.
Although OCD can take many forms, there are
some things that everyone with the disorder
has in common.
In order to be diagnosed, the obsessions or
compulsions must be extremely time consuming
and take up at least an hour a day.
Almost everyone with OCD knows their thoughts
aren’t logical, but they can’t stop themselves.
And they usually don’t enjoy their compulsions
— it’s just the only way they can reduce
their anxiety and stress.
For those suffering, it can hurt to hear others
use the term OCD without understanding what
You might say you have OCD because you like
things to be organized, but it’s a passing
thought that you could shrug off.
Having real OCD means not being able to let
go of those thoughts.
Lots of studies have shown that those with
OCD actually have slightly different brain
function than those without.
Although scientists are still learning how
the disorder works, many think it has to do
with changes in a circuit of the brain called
the corticostriatal pathway, which regulates
habit and repeated action.
Recent studies have focused on trying to find
medications that bind to receptors in that
If the studies are successful, they may be
able to develop medications that specifically
target OCD symptoms.
This would be a huge leap forward.
Currently, doctors typically prescribe general
antidepressants for OCD.
They also recommend behavioral therapy.
This includes exposure therapy, where patients
are carefully exposed to fearful situations
without being allowed to act on their compulsions.
For the small amount of people who don’t
respond to either drugs or therapy, there
are more invasive procedures.
Around 300 people have undergone something
called DBS, or deep brain stimulation, which
is when electrodes are implanted in the brain
to control impulses in some of the corticostriatal
When the electrodes are activated, they cause
the brain of someone with OCD to have the
same neural activity as someone without.
The treatment has been a huge success.
Almost all DBS patients say the procedure
improved their mood and self-confidence, and
most regained a normal quality of life.
Although OCD can be debilitating, these types
of treatments offer hope that one day soon,
everyone with the disorder will be able to
find relief and take back control of their
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