OCD is not a new disorder and it's not suddenly increasing. But years ago, much less was known about it than is known today. There were no consumer books written about OCD until the late 1980s. Until relatively recently, information was not readily available on the Internet. And just decades ago, research on OCD was virtually nonexistent. As a result, few tools were available to help professionals understand OCD – or to help struggling parents make sense of their child’s unusual behavior and treat it appropriately. If an adult developed OCD when he or she was young, there is a strong possibility that it was misdiagnosed at the time. Even today, many physicians and other health professionals do not recognize the symptoms of OCD in young people.
In the past, the stigma of having a child with a mental illness also caused many families to hide the truth for fear of gossip, discrimination and shame; many never even asked their family physician for help. And for many families, access to mental health services was very limited.
Due to these factors, experts now believe that while OCD was present in children (and adults) in the past, the number of OCD cases was very much underreported, giving the impression that OCD is on the rise today.