This week is International OCD Awareness Week. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder that affects people of all ethnicities, genders, and age. About one in one hundred adults have OCD, so you most likely know somebody living with it, whether you realise it or not.
Despite how common this debilitating and frustrating disorder is, it remains incredibly misunderstood and misrepresented in media. When we misunderstand mental disorders, those suffering can feel isolated, so it is important to challenge stigma and educate ourselves for our friends and whānau.
What is OCD?
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is defined as having obsessive thoughts (obsessions) and performing deliberate repetitive actions (compulsions).
Obsessions are repetitive and anxiety-inducing thoughts, images or impulses that are hard to stop, while compulsions are actions or behaviours that you feel driven to repeat, even though you know they’re unnecessary or don’t make sense. For more on OCD symptoms, visit the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder page.
Myths about OCD:
Unfortunately, OCD is often misunderstood and trivialised, but the reality of living with it can be debilitating, isolating and impact many areas of one’s day to day life.
Here are some common myths:
“Everybody is a little bit OCD.” Having occasional compulsions or obsessive thoughts is common, but only approximately 1-2% of the population has obsessive-compulsive disorder. Those with OCD can suffer severe disruptions to their way of life. Saying “I’m a little bit OCD about making sure my desk is tidy” undermines the reality of those living with OCD.
“OCD is being super clean and tidy.” OCD is a complex disorder, made up of an unwanted obsession, and a compulsion to act in order to try lessen the obsession. Not everybody with OCD worries about germs or washes their hands constantly. OCD can manifest itself in people differently leading to the categorisation of many sub-themes of OCD e.g., harm OCD, moral OCD, perinatal OCD, relationship OCD and many more.
“More women are OCD.” All ethnicities, genders and ages can be affected by OCD and there is no data to suggest OCD is found in women at a higher rate than men.
How can I help?
You can help by listening closely if a person chooses to reveal that they have OCD. Giving empathy and kindness can go a long way for someone with lived experience. Because it is known as the “hidden disease” or the “doubters’ disease”, often people will not talk about it. Their obsessions might strike at the very core of what they hold dear and value, so talking about it can be challenging.
Where can I go for more information?
First off, check out the OCD New Zealand website. This site was developed to help individuals living with OCD, and their whānau, find useful information about where to seek help in New Zealand, the kind of therapy that someone might want to consider, questions to ask their GP and information about ongoing advocacy. Should you wish to ask further questions, email email@example.com.
Another place to feel less alone is the closed Facebook group Fixate. Consider joining the 700-plus members in order to connect, ask questions, share and find helpful resources. Fixate aims to invite external speakers such as psychologists and psychiatrists, who give their time on a group zoom call, sharing their expertise and allowing members to ask questions. Sometimes members share their experiences, too.
Check out the International OCD Foundation to find other activities going on for OCD International Week, and more useful information.
Thanks to Levanna for the blog.
Everyday mindfulness for OCD : tips, tricks & skills for living joyfully / Hershfield, Jon
“Don’t just survive— thrive . In Everyday Mindfulness for OCD, two experts in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) offer a blend of mindfulness, humour, and self-compassion to help you stop dwelling on what’s wrong and start enhancing what’s right—leading to a more joyful life.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)
Obsessed : a memoir of my life with OCD / Britz, Allison
“A brave teen recounts her debilitating struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder–and brings readers through every painful step as she finds her way to the other side–in this powerful and inspiring memoir.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Understanding OCD : a guide for parents and professionals
“This book provides essential information and guidance to help parents and professionals to understand the diagnosis, treatment and management of childhood obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The book covers the causes and presentation of childhood OCD, as well as OCD related illnesses, and treatments for OCD.” (Catalogue)
The mind workout / Freeman, Mark
“It’s well known that if you want to keep your body fit, you must do some regular exercise. But when it comes to our mental health, few of us take the time to maintain and improve it. For some reason, we expect to be in great mental shape without doing any work. And when we realise we’re struggling, we look for a quick and easy fix instead of developing the skills that will help us in the future. Enter The Mind Workout – a home exercise programme for improving your mental health and fitness.” (Adapted from Catalogue)