Hunter says the many OCD stereotypes portrayed in the media show characters excessively washing their hands or straightening silverware. These stereotypes can cause people to assume that these are the only themes associated with OCD. Hunter says people might not be aware of other OCD themes.
“Some examples include fear of offending God, fear of being a pedophile, fear of being wrong about one’s sexual orientation, and fear of causing harm to others through negligence or loss of control,” Hunter said. “Compulsions can take on just about any form imaginable; they are not limited to handwashing or excessive cleaning.”
Because of these media stereotypes about OCD, people who have symptoms of other themes of OCD might not seek treatment. For example, someone might fear being a pedophile and not understand this could be OCD. A person with OCD might not exhibit behaviors that appear unusual — for instance, they might pray many times a day for fear of offending God. “The outside observer knows nothing about what is going on in that person’s mind, and it would not occur to them that something is wrong,” she said.
Hunter adds that someone with OCD can feel such shame for their condition that they engage in their behaviors in secret. OCD is often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed, which can lead to delays in treatment.