Anyone who has OCD knows that OCD is anything but funny.

“OCD” has worked its way into slang and everyday conversation.  It’s becoming common for people to talk casually – even to the point of making jokes – about having OCD.  It doesn’t help that certain television programs and movies portray people who are supposed to have OCD as “quirky” comedy figures.   Anyone who has OCD or cares about someone who has this potentially devastating disorder knows that OCD is anything but funny.

When people use the terms “obsessed,” “obsessive” and “compulsive” incorrectly, it leads to misunderstanding about OCD.  It’s not unusual to hear someone say, “That person must have OCD” when describing a person who is preoccupied with orderliness, has a strong interest in a subject or frequently performs the same activity (e.g., washes the bathroom every day).

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) — Easily Confused With OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is sometimes mistaken for OCD.  While the names are confusingly similar, the disorders are quite different.  OCD is an anxiety disorder, whereas OCPD is a personality disorder.

Usually identified in early adulthood, OCPD involves a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism and control in virtually every part of an individual’s life.  People with OCPD may spend an extraordinary amount of time cleaning their homes because they want them to be immaculate.  Or they may keep their closets extremely orderly and aligned and may become annoyed if their orderliness is disturbed.  Rather than being anxious about this, however, they see their behavior and thoughts as being OK.

Others may find OCPD behavior “odd” or extremely frustrating.  In fact, OCPD may interfere with a person's social relationships.  But it’s not OCD.  Individuals with OCPD like the world the way they shape it.  By contrast, people with OCD don’t like what’s happening to them and are overwhelmed by the thoughts and fears that invade their minds.  They want the obsessive thoughts, doubts, and urges that cause them to perform compulsions to stop, but they don’t know how to silence “the monster” in their heads

Other Non-OCD Behaviors

OCD also does not include collectors who have an avid interest in a subject, whether it’s something like your grandfather’s stamp collection, your own baseball card collection or science fiction “fan” memorabilia.  Collectors derive pleasure from the hunt for items they’re interested in, and enjoy talking about their collections or showing them to others. 

Similarly, sports “nuts” may talk about their favorite sport or recite a litany of sports statistics.  But their passion for sports doesn’t mean they have OCD.

Many young people are devoted fans of – and may even be characterized as “obsessed about” – celebrities, including television or movie stars, popular singers or professional sports team members.  But they don’t have OCD.  Nor do young people who have a “crush” on another person (especially a celebrity) – even if they seem to be “obsessed” with wanting to read every magazine article about their “idol,” collecting fan memorabilia, participating in Twitter, Facebook, and online blogs, going to YouTube and visiting celebrity web sites.  They may even want to buy every CD, MP3, DVD, itune or video download of their favorite personality.  But this still isn’t OCD.

It’s important to understand that popular magazines sometimes lead to misconceptions about OCD.  Criminal and violent behavior may be labeled "obsessive" and/or "compulsive."  Articles presenting information on stalkers may refer to these individuals as "obsessed."  Such portrayals can lead to inaccurate and sometimes disturbing conceptions of what people with OCD are like. 

In addition, OCD is not characterized by compulsive lying, shopping, gambling or other behaviors that reflect difficulties with impulse control. People with these problems may suffer from treatable mental illnesses, but they do not have OCD.

Finally, it’s important to distinguish OCD from the unusual patterns of interest exhibited by individuals with autism spectrum disorder, who have an all-encompassing preoccupation with a narrow, restricted interest that is either abnormal in intensity or focus.

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