It’s not uncommon to hear someone flippantly say, “Oh I’m a neat freak. I totally have OCD.” But as this video from Life Noggin explains, being really organized or clean is not the same thing as having obsessive compulsive disorder. In fact, according to the video, only about 2 percent of the population is affected by the disorder, which is characterized by unwanted thoughts, behaviors and mental images repeated over and over.

For example, someone with OCD might need to have certain objects in a room be perfectly aligned. Or they might have obsessive thoughts, like harming someone, though they wouldn’t ever act on it. And yes, there are patients with OCD who obsess over germs and cleanliness, but it’s a lot more than just wanting to keep your house tidy. The obsession is out of their control and is usually tied to a compulsion, which is a repeated action someone needs to do in order to function.

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A common compulsion might be checking the stove to make sure it’s turned off or the doors to ensure they’re locked before leaving the house. Other compulsions might be repeating a word over and over or counting steps as you walk.

OCD can take many forms, but there are some things people with OCD have in common. To be diagnosed, obsessions must be extremely time consuming and take up at least an hour a day. As Life Noggin explains, even though it’s time consuming and illogical, people who suffer with the disorder can’t stop themselves. They don’t enjoy their compulsions, but it’s the only way they can reduce anxiety and stress.

Life Noggin advises against saying you have OCD when you don’t as it can be hurtful to others by minimizing their problems. You might say that because you like being organized, you have OCD, but the difference is that you can shrug it off and move on. Those with OCD can’t let go of these thoughts. Scientists are still trying to figure out why people develop the disorder, but they do know that the pathway regulating habit is actually different in those with OCD. Studies have been conducted to find medications that bind to the pathway’s receptors, targeting OCD symptoms, but there is no solution yet.

Currently, doctors prescribe a combination of behavioral therapy and antidepressants. One common type of behavior therapy is exposure therapy in which patients are exposed to situations that trigger their OCD but aren’t allowed to act on their compulsions.

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However, some people don’t respond to either type of treatment and have to opt for more invasive procedures. Deep brain stimulation is one successful option that involves implanting electrodes in the brain to control impulses. Then, the brain of someone with OCD will mimic the same neural activity as someone without. Deep brain stimulation has helped many regain a normal quality of life without these uncontrollable compulsions. For more on OCD, check out the video by Life Noggin.

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