Skip to content Skip to footer
sad OCD sufferer

OCD: Myths vs Reality

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a clinically recognised disorder. Unfortunately, it has been often misunderstood.

Here, Benenden Health dispels some common myths about this mental health issue. 

MYTH: We’re all ‘a little OCD’

REALITY: You cannot be ‘a little’ OCD. This is a complex and debilitating disorder, affecting around 1-2% of people. It most often develops in early adulthood and can make daily life very difficult to navigate.

MYTH: It’s about being obsessively tidy or clean

REALITY: Not really; it’s more complicated than that. According to OCD Action, people with OCD experience intensely negative, repetitive and intrusive thoughts, combined with a chronic feeling of doubt or danger. These feelings form a sufferer's obsessions. Common obsessions are: fear of dirt or germs; a need for order, symmetry or arrangement; fears for their safety and the safety of those around them; fears of acting out violent or aggressive thoughts or impulses, and blasphemous or sexual thoughts. These obsessions are difficult to control or rationalise – and people with OCD struggle to get rid of them. 

MYTH: People with OCD wash their hands non-stop

REALITY: Not necessarily. To quell an obsessive thought or anxiety, people with OCD will often repeat an action – their compulsions. Washing hands can be a compulsion but not everyone living with OCD will have this urge. Other compulsions include excessive cleaning, checking or ordering. It can also be things like counting, hoarding and ritualistic behaviours. Most compulsions are repetitive behaviours intended to neutralise obsessions or unpleasant thoughts, or make them go away. Compulsions are often time consuming, preventing someone from enjoying the activities they value. 

MYTH: They just need to be more relaxed

REALITY: Not possible. People with OCD find it difficult to dismiss their anxiety and unpleasant thoughts. In fact, over time and without treatment, the thoughts can become more distressing and take over someone’s life. This could affect their relationships and ability to function. However, some can hide their OCD and appear to be functioning well.

MYTH: People with OCD just have to learn to live with it

REALITY: As with any other serious illness, there is no reason for anyone to ‘put up’ with OCD if it is having a detriment on their daily life. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help people with OCD to face their fears, helping to control the compulsions. Medication such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may also be prescribed.

Mental Health Support

From day one as a Benenden Health member, you can access the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. After 6 months of membership, you can access the full Mental Health Support service. This provides short-term support to help you manage and overcome a mental health issue, or to help support you while you await NHS help.


Find out more about OCD:


OCD Action