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OCD: What it is & What it isn’t

Debunking common misconceptions about OCD

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I want to stress there is no one way of defining what it is or what it looks like for every person who struggles with it because it can be a completely different experience for everyone who has it. I have struggled with OCD and intrusive thoughts since I was young. It wasn't until I sought therapy that I discovered what it meant and how to manage it. This blog is based solely on my own experience living with OCD.

What OCD is Not

1. It's not what most movies/shows say it is.

You've likely watched a show with a character who's given the label of being "very OCD" or "so OCD," and it's usually in reference to their desire for organization or cleanliness. This desire in itself is NOT OCD. Can people with OCD have compulsive behaviors that are very organized, or cleanliness, centered, yes, but OCD is about more than just the act, it's about the mindset and motivations behind why the behavior is being done. A very organized or clean person is not automatically someone with OCD.

2. It's not what a lot of social media portrays it to be.

Closely linked to the point above, you'll also find a lot of talk on social media mentioning OCD and it's not often done in an accurate way. I've seen ASMR videos of people putting their groceries away into an organized system, and they state it's the perfect way to do something for "those with OCD." Again, OCD is not solely just an organized or clean person, OCD involves intrusive thoughts and negative beliefs about oneself, it's not simply a personality type.

3. It's not impossible to overcome or find healing.

For those who struggle with OCD you may have, like I have, thought it was stronger than you or too great of a problem to ever find healing from, but I promise you that's not true. It takes time and work, but there is a way to find health and to find freedoms daily over OCD. I can't say that I never struggle with it anymore, but I can say that two years ago I was taking a shower anytime I left my home. Today, I have found freedom to enjoy my day, come home and only occasionally have that desire to shower instead of doing it every time I leave my house. It may seem small, but for someone who was feeling extremely defeated by my OCD, that progress has been huge in my life. So please trust that if you or someone you know struggles with OCD, there are ways to find healing and growth!

What OCD is

1. It's a mental health struggle.

OCD is not simply an external way someone behaves, but rather it begins internally in their mind. The Obsessions part of the struggle is when a person has intrusive thoughts, images or desires that cause them high distress and anxiety. In response to these thoughts, they then feel the need to complete certain behaviors (Compulsions) in order to get rid of those intrusive thoughts/images/desires. Someone without OCD could also have an intrusive thought, but their response will look very different from someone with it. For example, someone without OCD may have a quick thought while driving that if they were to turn their wheel too quickly, they may crash into a tree. Their response to that thought might look like thinking it's strange but then move forward and not think about it any longer. Someone with OCD has an intrusive thought like that and, instead of letting it go, they begin to ruminate on it, and often begin to link shame and beliefs to themself that are not true. They then cannot get the thought out of their mind unless they do a certain behavior that satisfies their need to get rid of it.

2. It is disruptive to everyday life.

Another key sign of recognizing OCD is if intrusive thoughts and compulsions become disruptive to living life. If performing the compulsions takes a lot of time out of one's day, or if the intrusive thoughts cause high levels of anxiety for someone, their OCD has become an issue that should be addressed. In seeking help and receiving treatment and finding healing, one can learn to manage intrusive thoughts and find freedom from compulsive behaviors over time.

3. Compulsive behaviors look different for everyone.

As stated before, some compulsive behaviors can in fact be related to cleanliness or organization. For example, one of my own compulsive behaviors can be to immediately sanitize and clean after someone has been in my home and touched different items in my house. However, cleaning and organizing behaviors are only a couple of compulsive behaviors that someone with OCD can exhibit. Others can include repeatedly checking on things such as if the door is locked, counting in such a way to end on a 'safe' number, or repeating a certain body movement such as tapping or blinking. Compulsions can be external or internal behaviors. Another one of my compulsive behaviors is repeated prayers. If I have an intrusive thought that leads me to feel ashamed and believe that I am a 'bad person' who wants to do something 'bad,' I will sometimes compulsively pray over and over until I feel like I have asked for forgiveness enough times to make the intrusive thought either go away or be reduced (this does not mean that all of my prayers are compulsion related, but rather sometimes I use them in an unhealthy way when I have been triggered by an intrusive thought). These are only the beginning of a long list of different compulsive behaviors that someone with OCD may struggle with.

4. It creates a distorted image of oneself.

For a lot of people with OCD they also struggle with shame and unhealthy images of themselves. Intrusive thoughts can include violent thoughts, sexual thoughts, responsibility for others well-being thoughts, contamination thoughts, and several others. These thoughts can come with a lot of shame as the person experiencing these intrusive thoughts will often attach them to their actual desires and believe they are a 'bad' or 'unsafe' person for having those thoughts. But intrusive thoughts do not come from their own desires, rather they are a natural occurrence of thought processing that the brain does that happens for everyone. It's how someone with OCD responds to that intrusive thought that needs healing so that they can find freedom from negative perceptions of themselves. Once they begin to find growth and healing, that does not mean they will never have intrusive thoughts anymore, but rather they will find better and healthier ways of responding to them.

5. It is a serious issue

Because social media and movies/shows have created a distorted view of OCD, it's often misunderstood and not taken very seriously. I know when I choose to tell someone I have OCD, I am very careful and mindful of who I tell because I know there are a lot of biases and misperceptions of OCD, and it's hard to have someone make my struggle seem small and like it's not a real issue. It's important to realize that OCD causes extreme distress and anxiety and limits the enjoyment of life due to constant cycles of intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that happen often daily. So, if you know someone who has OCD, please take the time to learn more about it, and show them compassion and patience because their struggle is genuine and they're already fighting so many lies and unwanted thoughts from within, they don't need help from the outside.

This is only a snippet of what OCD is and what it isn't. If you think you might have OCD, please seek professional help and express your concerns with a licensed professional. If you know someone who has OCD or wish to learn more and help advocate for those with this mental health struggle, please research and read more stories to learn and understand what it's like for people to struggle and live with OCD. If you have any questions about my experience with it, leave a comment below, or email me at

*** Anything written in this blog is based on my own personal experience and not a professional opinion. If you or someone you know is struggling with any mental health issue, please speak to a professional. For a list of some mental health resources and contacts available to you, please download the file below. ***

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Kayla Mitchell
Kayla Mitchell
May 02, 2023

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with OCD. I think it is important to bring light to mental health in the correct way rather than what media tries to portray things to be. This post was very insightful and informative!

Mind on the Path
Mind on the Path
May 03, 2023
Replying to

Thank you!! ❤️

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