The public's knowledge and beliefs about obsessive compulsive disorder

Meredith E. Coles, Richard G. Heimberg, Barry D. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disabling condition associated with significant personal and societal burdens. Despite the availability of efficacious treatments, in most cases, the disorder remains unrecognized and untreated. Lack of knowledge (i.e. poor mental health literacy, MHL) regarding OCD may be an impediment to seeking treatment. Therefore, the current study assessed public knowledge and beliefs about OCD and examined factors influencing MHL. Methods Five hundred seventy-seven US adults participated in a telephone survey. After hearing a vignette describing someone with OCD, participants' MHL for OCD was assessed across three domains as follows: recognition of OCD, knowledge and beliefs about available help, and concerns about being negatively evaluated for reporting symptoms. Results The majority of participants (90.9%) reported that the symptoms were a cause for concern and that the person in the vignette should seek professional help (89.5%). However, only one-third of respondents correctly labeled the disorder as OCD. More respondents were optimistic about the likely success of psychotherapy than medication, but primary care physicians were the most frequently reported source of professional help. Finally, less education, lower income, and being in an older cohort were associated with poorer recognition of OCD. Conclusions When presented with brief vignettes describing a person with OCD, most community members can recognize the benefits of seeking professional help. However, recognition of the disorder and knowledge of treatment options can be improved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)778-785
Number of pages8
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • CBT
  • OCD
  • cognitive behavior therapy
  • dissemination/implementation
  • ethnicity/race
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • pharmacotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'The public's knowledge and beliefs about obsessive compulsive disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this