What is OCD?
OCD is a common and disabling condition, affecting roughly 1.2% of Australians.
It's characterized by obsessions (repetitive intrusive thoughts) and compulsions (physical actions or mental rituals) that attempt to quell these preoccupations.
There are several subtypes of OCD, including:
- contamination: characterized by obsessions and compulsions centered around washing, cleaning, and concerns around personal hygiene and health
- over responsibility: encompassing pathological doubt, concerns over unintentional harm to others or oneself, and persistent urges to check things
- symmetry: obsessions about things feeling "just right" (for example, uniform and/or symmetrical), resulting in ritualistic behaviors including counting and ordering
- taboo: characterized by unwanted intrusive thoughts that are often violent, sexual, or religious in nature.
Although we don't fully understand what causes OCD, research points to abnormal activity of specific brain networks, including a network called the corticostriatal-thalamocortical loop.
This network connects key emotional, cognitive, and motor hubs in the brain, and it's particularly important for higher-order cognitive tasks such as thinking flexibly.
No, people with OCD aren't 'quirky'
There are several prevailing stereotypes about what it means to live with OCD, such as a belief people with the disorder are just a bit quirky, overly particular, "neat freaks" or "germ-phobic."
Such ideas are frequently promulgated in popular culture. For example, in 2018 Khloe Kardashian promoted her "KHLO-C-D" branding for an online miniseries in which she gave tips on home organization and cleanliness. The campaign was widely criticized.