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What OCD Isn’t

As education and public awareness about OCD have grown, so has the use of the term “OCD” as a description of some kinds of behavior that are not OCD.

When people use the terms “obsessive” and “compulsive” incorrectly, it leads to misunderstandings about OCD. You may have even heard someone say “that person must have OCD” when they are describing a person who is preoccupied with orderliness, has a strong interest in a subject or ardently performs an 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 be anxious about this, they have no interest in changing—they see their behavior and thoughts as desirable traits. People with OCPD are happy with their behavior. (In contrast, people who have OCD are not happy.  They find their obsessions and compulsions to be disturbing).

OCD also does not include collectors who have an avid interest in a subject, such as collecting stamps, coins, antiques, books by a favorite author, science fiction fantasy or cartoon memorabilia.  Sports enthusiasts may be able to quote statistics and player lists and talk endlessly about sports.  These types of people derive pleasure from their interests.  They don’t have OCD.

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

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