OCD: It’s not just the media who doesn’t understand


By Melanie Lefebvre

The media perpetuates stereotypes about OCD. This, we know. Take Khloe Kardashian and her “KHLO-C-D” video segments. Hollywood Life is all over it, quoting a snippet from her video on how she organizes her closet:

“All my shirts are long-sleeves but they go in order — so this is my black section, and then I go from color, so I always end with black and I start with white. This whole side is my colored leggings, whatever, which is grays, prints — I try to also put them in order of length.”

 Hollywood Life comments, “Wow, now that is serious OCD!” then asks its readers to weigh in:  “What do you guys think of this video? Are you as impressed as we are with Khloe?”

Let’s pause. They are impressed with “serious OCD.” When OCD becomes severe, it sometimes requires intensive therapy like residential treatment programs.

And then there’s some doctors:

Me: I think I might have OCD.

Doctor: Do you wash your hands for hours every day?

Me: No.

Doctor: Do you constantly need to line things up perfectly?

Me: No.

Doctor: You don’t have OCD.

(I have OCD.)

I may as well have spoken with someone in the waiting room. He gave the impression that OCD is one of two very specific things and that those two very specific things are all-consuming. That dialogue occurred years ago yet I still hear about similar encounters within the medical profession today.

Something’s gotta give.

Thankfully, websites like Intrusive Thoughts and The Secret Illness have our back!

Some people are aware that OCD can involve a fear of their home burning down and that people may check the stove as a result. But what about taking appliances to work in an attempt to prevent a house fire?

The Secret Illness has a gamut of examples from real people across the globe describing the variations that OCD can take. One contributor shares how she brought her straightener to work with her for reassurance that it wasn’t plugged in at home.

The words, “I fear I could harm someone I love” show up in bold, large lettering as you explore Intrusive Thoughts.

Still impressed, Hollywood Life?

You might be wondering, why is someone with OCD worrying about whether they’ll harm someone? How does this have anything to do with OCD?

OCD is not as mysterious as some think. The pattern is this:

Obsessive Thought –> Anxiety –> Compulsion –> Temporary Relief

Sure, it can be hand washing:

Obsessive Thought (What if I get sick) –> Anxiety (heart racing, panicky) –> Compulsion (washing my hands) –> Temporary Relief (good I don’t feel as anxious anymore)

But what if I didn’t wash my hands enough and I get sick…?

And the cycle repeats.

It can be fear of harming someone:

Obsessive Thought (what if I stab my husband while chopping these vegetables?) –> Anxiety (heart racing, panicky) –> Compulsion (put the knife away, check that the knives are all put away) –> Temporary Relief (good I don’t feel as anxious anymore)

But what if I stab him with the letter opener…?

And the cycle repeats.

OCD latches onto our values, to what’s near and dear to us. It can touch on anything from religion to relationships and everything in-between. That’s why it may give the illusion that it’s complicated. That’s why people may say, “I just don’t get it.”

When this happens, return to the cycle:

Obsessive thought –> Anxiety –> Compulsion –> Temporary Relief

That’s OCD. Right there.





2 Responses to OCD: It’s not just the media who doesn’t understand

  1. kal26 April 25, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    Thanks for your article. This is one of the (many) incredibly frustrating things about OCD – not only is it misunderstood, there is completely different disorder that it is often confused with. I was wondering if there is any chance that Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder might ever get a different name to help differentiate the two? I can understand why the majority of the public doesn’t know the difference between them, and having an almost identical name doesn’t help.

  2. Melanie June 12, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

    I appreciate your kind words!

    That’s such a good point about changing the name. I would be curious to know if this has been a topic of discussion amongst the people who work on DSM revisions!

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