If you use Google Images and search “OCD,” what you end up with is a lot of photos of lame OCD jokes and of soapy hands. It reminds me just how little the world really knows and understands obsessive-compulsive disorder. Heck, before my own diagnosis, I myself pretty much thought of it as “that disease where you wash your hands a lot or have to tap the doorknob over and over.” Insightful, Jackie.
While it’s true that contamination obsessions are a prevalent theme among OCD sufferers (I read somewhere that about 60% of OCD cases deal in this arena), that’s not the only obsessive theme.* And even hand-washing is often misunderstood. People just don’t understand that there are persistent, unwanted, intrusive thoughts that are driving the hand-washing or other compulsions. Compulsions are a response to what I personally think is the darker half of the disorder: the obsessions.
* Other common obsessive-compulsive themes include a need for order or symmetry, hoarding, checking, sexual obsessions (including HOCD, in which a straight person obsesses about being gay, or a gay person obsesses about being straight), religion/morality/scrupulosity (my OCD world!), and aggressive thoughts around harming others or one’s self. OCD is probably bigger, wider, and scarier than most people ever imagined.