“It should be taken as seriously as anything else,” the 30-year-old actress said. “You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it.”
And that’s just what Seyfried is doing. The actress told Allure that she’s treated her OCD with a low dose of Lexapro, a widely used antidepressant drug, for 11 years—and she doesn’t plan to stop.
“I don't see the point of getting off of it,” she said. “Whether it's placebo or not, I don't want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool?”
RELATED: 10 Signs You May Have OCD
About 1 in 100 adults and 1 in 200 kids have OCD, which affects women and men equally. For many people with OCD—including Seyfriend—symptoms first manifest in the form of anxiety.
“I had pretty bad health anxiety that came from the OCD and thought I had a tumor in my brain. I had an MRI, and the neurologist referred me to a psychiatrist,” the actress explained.
Seeing a psychiatrist is often helpful for those experiencing the classic symptoms of OCD, which can include elaborate hand-washing routines, overzealous cleaning, and an uncontrollable need to perform tasks according to a certain numeric pattern. Symptoms can range from mild to severe; in the worst cases, compulsions have a major impact on a person's everyday life.
“Checking behaviors”—when someone feels compelled to check four, five, or even 20 times that they’ve completed a task like locking the door or turning off the oven—are also common among people with OCD. In fact, nearly 30% of people who have the disorder feel the need to check (and then re-check).
Seyfried admitted to Allure that it was this kind of preoccupation that kept her from installing a stove in the renovated barn at her Pennsylvania estate.
“I always worry about people and how they use stoves,” Seyfried said, later adding, “You could so easily burn down something if you leave the stove on. Or the oven.”
As Seyfried has demonstrated, OCD can be successfully treated and managed. She told Allure that she’s made significant progress over time: “As I get older, the compulsive thoughts and fears have diminished a lot. Knowing that a lot of my fears are not reality-based really helps." Seyfriend has opted for medication and the guidance of a psychiatrist to treat her OCD, which is in line with what doctors recommend for most patients. Research shows that a combination of medication and exposure therapy (confronting things that make you anxious without reacting, such as walking by a sink of dirty dishes without washing them) can help.
If you feel like you may be experiencing obsessive compulsive tendencies, see an OCD specialist who can help you determine a diagnosis and customize the best treatment plan for you.