Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

4 red flags to look out for when seeking advice for OCD

By Tia Wilson

Jun 06, 20235 minute read

Information on mental health is more accessible than ever. Between social media advocates, blog posts from specialists, and bite-sized clips from podcasts, there is no shortage of advice to be found by anyone who is interested in learning about how mental health impacts their lives, the lives of their loved ones, and the world around them.

While this increases accessibility to valuable tools and information, it also raises voices that might otherwise be underrepresented. Hearing from someone who’s going through the same thing you are or listening to a therapist who’s worked with others on a similar path can shed light on difficult subjects—sometimes, the internet can provide information, perspective, and community that one could never have found elsewhere.

But this doesn’t come without risk. Due to the nature of the internet, anyone, regardless of credentials, can share information and opinions that may directly impact the decisions of others. And it’s not always easy to tell when someone has the experience or knowledge to back up their claims.

With seemingly limitless information being shared each day, it’s ever important to learn how to find reputable sources who have your best interests in mind, have reliable, accurate knowledge about mental health, and have the evidence or qualification to back it up. And with sponsorships, monetization, and affiliations further blurring the lines on social media and publishing platforms, it can be tough for even the most savvy readers to identify potentially misleading or inaccurate information.

I’ve had to untangle trustworthy mental health advice from less reliable info online for many years now, so I’ve become familiar with some ways to make sense of what I read. Here are 4 important red flags to look out for when you’re searching for info on mental health online:

1. Over-generalizing

One sign that someone might not be using accurate or reliable data is when they speak in absolutes using words like “all,” “always,” or “none.” Mental healthcare is rarely “one size fits all,” and sources promoting tools that will help “everyone,” regardless of all other factors, should be a red flag when you’re evaluating information and advice.

This is particularly tricky when someone is sharing their personal experience but presenting it as a fact that is true for everyone. It’s great for people to share their own experiences, but some will claim that their own experiences will hold true for everyone—and that’s simply not the case. Anecdotes are not data, and by assuming that everyone’s experience will match their own, people can end up giving harmful guidance to others who are desperate for answers.

2. No peer-reviewed sources

Because different conditions require different tools, the best resources for mental health are ones that are tried and tested. This is why here at NOCD, we only use or promote modalities that have been sufficiently studied, and we provide the basis for our claims so everyone is equipped to continue learning about the decisions that impact their mental health.

There are lots of alternative modalities, substances, and lifestyle changes that people tout as “cures” for mental health issues. These should be regarded as unfounded theories until they’re supported with peer-reviewed evidence, and anyone who is interested in new or different treatment options should only do so with the guidance of a qualified mental healthcare provider. 

3. Extreme claims

Particularly when it comes to OCD care, watch out for words like “cure,” “instant,” or “miracle.” While remarkable recovery is possible, there is no cure for chronic conditions like OCD, and recovery can never be promised—especially when factoring in co-occuring conditions and individualized experiences. 

As a general rule, when you hear promises that sound extreme and are difficult to prove, they typically are. Miracle cures and perfect recovery journeys can sound incredibly tempting, but people making those types of assertions aren’t able to back them up with evidence.

4. Urgency and fear

It’s common for influencers and companies online to use a sense of urgency, or even fear, to promote sales, followers, or engagement. That may be one of the main reasons they use their platform! However, by appealing to our negative emotions, this can interfere with our ability to think things through or understand them fully—emotions are a powerful thing.

As people with OCD know, fear can often trump critical thinking, so before engaging with a source, ask yourself if they might be using fear or urgency in order to help you make the right decision for you, or if their main goal is to make you click or subscribe. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable or anxious around new information about mental health topics, but if you think someone is using your fear or discomfort to serve themselves, you might want to look elsewhere. When dealing with topics that relate to fear or urgency, responsible sources should always focus on providing trustworthy information that’s best for you, not just their engagement.

Finding trustworthy information about OCD 

One of our missions here at NOCD is to provide unbiased, trustworthy information on OCD for those who need help or are searching for answers. Few conditions are as widely misunderstood as OCD, so it’s crucial for people who may be suffering in silence to have access to information they can trust. We hope that whether someone chooses to work with a NOCD Therapist, we can equip them with the knowledge they need to make the right decision. 

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There are other reliable, trustworthy sources on OCD and related topics, such as the IOCDF, where anyone can search for the answers they’re looking for. But no matter where you’re reading or listening—even NOCD’s own resources and social media—I hope these red flags can help you determine what information you can rely on.

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