By Philip Lewis
The general knowledge of mental health disorders has grown with access to the internet and health care. However, obsessive-compulsive disorder is one of the most commonly misunderstood disorders in the United States, even though millions of people in the United States have the illness.
“When people use the terms ‘obsessed,’ ‘obsessive’ and ‘compulsive’ incorrectly, it leads to misunderstanding about OCD,” OCD Education Station, a school resource for school employees, reads. “You may have even heard someone say, ‘That person (or child) must have OCD,’ when describing someone who is preoccupied with orderliness, has a strong interest in a subject or frequently performs the same activity (e.g., washes the kitchen floor every day).”
“As all educators know, labeling anyone, especially a child, can be misleading and even harmful. Incorrectly labeling a child can have an even more serious impact.”
Regular behaviors, like collecting items, talking about your favorite celebrities and athletes, participating in social media religiously are examples of behaviors that are not OCD-related. “OCD is becoming part of American slang for describing ‘odd’ behavior,” the Beyond OCD website states. “Don’t be confused by incorrect use of the terms ‘obsessive’ and ‘compulsive’ in everyday dialogue.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 3.3 million people between the ages 18 and 54 in the United States have OCD. OCD is generally characterized by abnormalities in brain function found in adolescents and children. “Left untreated, obsessions and the need to perform rituals can take over a person’s life,” according to Mental Health America. “OCD is often a chronic, relapsing illness.”
People have habits and rituals, but not everything falls under the umbrella of obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to the NIMH, people with OCD may have no control over their behaviors, spend at least an hour a day on those behaviors or take any pleasure from performing the behaviors.