This week is OCD Awareness Week, and each day we will be publishing a different account of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Today, OCD-UK volunteer Gabe shares his very honest and candid experience of OCD and alcohol abuse, this is his story....
As a child I was often described as a worrier. I suffered from, what I now recognise as obsessions, from a very early age, and I can recall being troubled for extended periods of time about nuclear war and AIDS. The latter particularly following the 'Don't Die of Ignorance'.campaign in 1987. I was eight years old at the time and learned everything I could about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). During my teenage years I developed an obsession about having a heart attack (cardiophobia) and used to check my pulse regularly, much to the amusement of my friends. That was possibly the only physical compulsion I have ever had.
My first experiences with alcohol was during my early teens. I remember drinking cider in a park and all my anxiety just melted away, leaving me with blissful sensations of serenity, confidence and joy. At the tender age of fifteen I was drinking every weekend, often passing out at gigs and parties and, emboldened by the drink, getting myself into mischief. By the age of nineteen I'd left home to go to university and was drinking pretty much every night of the week. Looking back, I think I was dependent upon alcohol by the age of twenty and used to suffer panic attacks when I tried to sober up. Though I hadn't been formerly diagnosed, I wrote a poem at university about my hangovers. It was entitled Alcoholic Insanity and included the recurring verse 'am I going insane?' It ended 'I must be insane, because the [alcoholic] cycle starts again!'
It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I was diagnosed as having OCD, after I was referred to see a psychologist by an alcohol counsellor who had suggested my drink problem might be attributable to an anxiety disorder. As I'm sure you can appreciate, those were dark days. Each morning I'd wake up not just with the physical symptoms of a hangover, with which most people will be familiar, but feeling extremely anxious. In fact my anxiety became so bad that I started making appointments to see my GP in an effort to get prescriptions for tranquillisers, which is what led to my referral to the counsellor in the first place.