Is OCD A New Disorder?

OCD Then and Now — Why You May Not Have Heard of OCD

OCD is not a new disorder.  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 parents of a child with OCD.  Even today, many physicians and other health professionals do not recognize the symptoms of OCD in young people and adults.

In the past, the stigma of having a family member 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 access to mental health services was very limited.  So many families just tried to cope as best they could; they hid their loved one’s difficulties so they didn’t appear to be “different.”

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 a “new” disease today.

Thanks to ongoing research, much more is known about this neurobiological disorder than ever before.  Besides appearing in prestigious medical and psychology journals, information about OCD – and stories about people overcoming OCD – have appeared in news reports, popular news magazines and on television programs.

This attention to OCD has brought it into the mainstream media in unexpected ways.  Certain TV shows and movies feature characters who are supposed to have OCD, or who exhibit obsessions and rituals that are characteristic of OCD.  Unfortunately, these individuals are often played for laughs.  While programming of this nature does build awareness of the disorder, it may cause people to dismiss OCD as something funny.  People who suffer with OCD would tell you it’s anything but funny – they’re miserable living with this disorder and desperately wish they could stop their obsessions and compulsions.

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