Overcoming OCD
Information for College Students

What OCD Isn’t

Anyone who has OCD knows that OCD is not fun or funny.

“OCD” has worked its way into slang and everyday conversation.  It’s becoming common for people to talk casually, even joke about having OCD.  It doesn’t help that some television programs and movies feature people who are supposed to have OCD—but they are played for laughs.  Anyone who has OCD (or cares about someone who has this heartbreaking disorder) knows that OCD is not fun or funny.

When people use the terms “obsessive” and “compulsive” incorrectly, it leads to misunderstandings about OCD. You may have even heard people say “that person must have OCD” when they are describing a person who is preoccupied with orderliness or has a strong interest in a subject or activity.

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

With OCPD, a person may be generally preoccupied with orderliness, perfectionism and control in virtually every part of his or her life.  But rather than being anxious about this, people with OCPD have no interest in changing—they see their behavior and thoughts as desirable traits. 

A person with OCPD may spend an extreme amount of time cleaning and straightening up their home because they like a “perfect” appearance and want to consider it immaculately clean.  But while this behavior may be “odd” or even annoying to others, the person does not have OCD.  Someone with OCPD is happy with their behavior. In contrast, people who have OCD are not happy.  They find their obsessions and compulsions to be distressing, and they want to stop their obsessive thoughts, fears, doubts, and the associated compulsions.

OCD also does not include collectors who have an avid interest in a subject, whether it’s something like your grandfather’s stamp collection or your own baseball card collection or science fiction “fan” memorabilia. Collectors derive pleasure from the hunt for items they are interested in, and are happy to talk about their collections or show them to others.  Sports “nuts” may talk about their favorite sport or be able to remember sports statistics, but they don’t have OCD because of their interest.

OCD also does not include stalkers or “obsessed” fans, such as those who are reportedly “obsessed” with celebrities.  OCD does not include workaholics, compulsive liars, compulsive shoppers, gamblers or people with phobias (such as fear of heights or flying, spiders, or leaving their home).

While many people who have those kinds of problems may suffer from treatable mental illnesses, they do not have OCD.

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