The seeming recent surge in OCD may be a result of several factors.
First, there is less stigma attached to mental health problems now than even five years ago. The more people learn about mental health difficulties, the more people understand that sufferers have as much control over OCD as they do brain tumors or gestational diabetes.
Some things can be done to prevent the onset of these difficulties, but we can never guarantee 100 percent prevention. And because more people are now talking about mental health concerns, it may seem that some disorders are more prevalent than they were five or ten years ago, but this is just an effect of more people openly entering treatment for mental health issues.
Second, several movies featuring OCD have been released in the last few years, and there was even a 2005 special on MTV called True Life: I Have OCD. OCD is a very intriguing disorder to many people, and its popularity may come from its peculiarity. People are fascinated by hearing stories about hour-long hand washings or a deep need to arrange all of the labels in the cupboards a certain way every day. Also, hearing about OCD doesn’t often trigger the same kinds of sad feelings that hearing about depression does, and OCD stories often don’t contain the kind of violence that can accompany psychotic disorders. Thus, it seems safe and almost entertaining to discuss.
Third, there has been a push by national organizations to get people with OCD the help that they need. The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation has started a major media campaign for children and teens to spread the word about OCD and to let them know what treatments are available.
On its website (www.ocfoundation.org), viewers can see an 18-year-old female named Elizabeth talk on a streaming video about being the face of OCD. She looks like any other person, yet she has OCD. The goal of the campaign is to let people know that OCD can affect anyone and that help is available to everyone. The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation of Chicago also has some great information on its website (www.OCDChicago.org).
Finally, the consumer public is becoming more informed. There has been an explosion of information concerning mental disorders in the last few years via the Internet and on daily talk shows. Although you should always be on the lookout for the great deal of misinformation and misrepresentations out there, the fact that people can research their own problems is helping to spread the word about what OCD is and what can be done to help sufferers.