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OCD and stigma

Learn about the different stereotypes and stigma around obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.

What are stigma and misconceptions?

You may experience different types of stigma or misconceptions around OCD.

Stigma is a negative opinion or belief about a certain characteristic or experience. This can include stigma about having a mental health problem.

Misconceptions are beliefs or ideas which are inaccurate. They're often based on inaccurate, misunderstood or misleading information.

Experiencing these can be frustrating and upsetting. Especially if they come from a friend, colleague, family member or healthcare professional. We may also hold negative opinions about our own mental health. This is sometimes called self-stigma.

Stereotypes about OCD

There are lots of unhelpful stereotypes and misconceptions about OCD. For example, some people think it just means you wash your hands a lot or that you like things to be tidy.

When there are so many incorrect stereotypes about OCD, it can be harder for those of us with OCD to recognise the symptoms in ourselves. And it may make it harder to explain our experiences to others.

Misinformation about OCD may stop genuine sufferers from realising that they even have OCD. I lived with OCD for twenty or thirty years before realising it, and that’s not an unusual story.

Trivialising OCD

OCD is often trivialised. Some people might make jokes about it or describe themselves as a 'little bit OCD'. Or companies might use OCD stigma in their advertisements. For example, using phrases like 'Obsessive Christmas Disorder' to sell Christmas products.

The everyday drip-drip-drip of jokes, comments and put-downs - in your office, classroom, your home, and on social media - creates an overall impression that OCD is something quite trivial, or comical, and not a serious illness.

False ideas about OCD being useful

Some people have misconceptions about OCD being useful or meaning that you're very organised. You may hear them saying they wish they had OCD or that you're lucky to have it.

I’ve made a spreadsheet - ‘I’m so OCD!’ These are all things I’ve heard in casual and professional conversations

Feeling guilt or shame about OCD

You may feel guilty about your thoughts and feelings.

If you find your intrusive thoughts offensive or shameful, you may feel like you can't share them with anyone. You may worry about how people will react.

Or you may worry about whether your thoughts are true or what they mean. You may also feel guilty about things you've done or said when unwell.

Having these sorts of feelings about your OCD can lead to self-stigma. It could also make it harder to seek support.

Countless people with OCD hide their symptoms because of the nature of their thoughts. You do not need to suffer in silence.

Coping with stigma

Stigma about OCD can make it difficult to talk about. But it's important to remember you're not alone. 

There are things you can do to support yourself, and people who can help. There are also ways to help change other people's understanding.

Here's some ideas you could try:

  • Show people this information to help them understand more about OCD.
  • Get more involved in your treatment. Our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem give guidance on having your say in your treatment. They also cover making your voice heard, and steps you can take if you're not happy with your care.
  • Know your rights. Our pages on legal rights have more information.
  • Take action with Mind. See our campaigning page for details of the different ways you can get involved with helping us challenge stigma.
  • Share your story. Sharing your experiences with others can be a powerful way to raise awareness. You could do this through peer support groups or you could share your experiences online.
  • Be kind to yourself if you feel self-stigma or feel guilty about intrusive thoughts. Our self-care for OCD page has more information.

Our page on stigma and misconceptions around mental health includes more information on dealing with stigma.

One of the most difficult things about OCD is how people perceive it. Intrusive thoughts and compulsions take a greater toll, yet people don't seem to understand that.

This information was published in October 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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