(ABC4) – You may have heard someone say, “I’m so OCD” in conversation — or perhaps said it yourself. Lynne Sill from The OCD and Anxiety Treatment center in Bountiful warns that this common saying leads to dangerous misconceptions about OCD.
The International OCD Foundation reports that best estimates suggest one in 100 adults currently have obsessive compulsive disorder; that’s equal to the number of people living in Houston, Texas. While many people get diagnosed in early adolescence, symptoms can appear into early adulthood as well.
Lynne Sill is the COO and cofounder of The OCD and Anxiety Treatment center in Utah. They specialize in intensive care for Utah’s “huge need” for OCD treatment. ABC4 interviewed Sill to help Utahns better understand OCD symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Sill mentioned other common popular misconceptions about OCD. Specifically, she mentioned that obsessive compulsive disorders are far from “a good quirk,” and can lead sufferers to feeling “like their lives are completely out of their control.” For Sill and other experts in OCD, the diagnosis means far more than liking things a specific way — this and other well-known OCD behaviors such as extreme cleanliness actually make up a small percentage of OCD symptoms in children and adults. Misunderstandings about OCD symptoms frequently lead to people not seeking out a diagnosis and treatment
According to Sill, there are three main things to look for in people who may be sufferings from OCD:
- Some kind of obsession, a thought or an urge that you can’t get out of your head no matter what you do (Sill calls OCD symptoms “sticky”).
- Some kind of compulsion, or a “neutralizing behavior” done repetitively and ritualistically intended to neutralize obsessions that only provide temporary relief.
- Either or both of the above having a serious impact on your life, such as keeping you away from relationships, work, or other important activities.
Furthermore, Sill comments that those with OCD — diagnosed or not — are really good at hiding their symptoms, even from themselves. Those with OCD are often “silent sufferers who are tortured on the inside,” according to Sill.
The subject of obsessions for OCD can vary largely. Common obsessions include persistent doubts about one’s intimate relationships, health, sexuality, social life, and personal safety. OCD is also commonly suffered in mothers who have recently given birth, and is related in many ways to other mental health issues regarding body dysmorphia and eating.
For Utahns, the most common way OCD manifests is in what Sill and other experts call “scrupulosity.” Scrupulosity is the constant, unquenchable fear that you may have committed some immoral act, and is often correlated with religious beliefs. Far from a normal desire to act morally, those who suffer from scrupulosity often are debilitated to the point of being taken away from daily activities and even positive worship.
While OCD is a chronic mental health issue that will stay with sufferers their entire life, positive treatment can make it “a much smaller part of their daily experience.” The “gold standard” treatment for OCD is exposure response therapy, in which patients gradually face the subject of their fears or obsessions. Here in Utah, The OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center has an over 50% reduction in symptoms for most of their patients, and over a relatively short period of time.
Because of this, Sill comments that while an OCD diagnosis is a lifetime battle, “there really is a lot of hope for people to feel better.”
If you are in need of immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.