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This week is OCD Awareness Week, and each day we will be publishing a different account of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
As is the case with many other people diagnosed with OCD, I can look back and see signs of OCD from the age of 15 years old, however it would be five years later I managed to get a diagnosis. Also similar to other individuals, I find that my OCD peaks and troughs as a result of life events and stress. My OCD may be considered a type of magical thinking, where most of my obsessions relate to preventing harm to others and the world around me, and my compulsions involve me repeating actions until they have been done on a safe thought or until it “feels right”. As OCD worsens, the more space it takes up- at times I find it difficult to get dressed, go up and down stairs, walk in the street, turn on and off light switches, and type on a computer. I try to find a way around the OCD, for example using voice recognition software to avoid typing, cycling to avoid walking, and getting dressed in the dark to avoid light switches, however OCD has a nasty habit of filling the gaps, and picking apart new ways of doing things so it doesn’t always solve the problem. As a result of all of this, I sometimes feel like I’ve lost my independence, felt frustrated and can feel upset or low.
Throughout the years I’ve taken various types of medications try to manage the OCD, including antidepressants and beta-blockers. I’ve also had two courses of CBT which included ERP (exposure response prevention); this involves trying to change thought patterns and challenges you to confront your OCD by not doing the compulsion and waiting the anxiety to come down by itself. Although it sounds straightforward, the OCD makes you feel like something awful might happen, and your whole body and brain is telling you to do the compulsion.
With treatment I’ve started to understand more about my OCD, and with the support of those around me, I’ve been able to graduate from university and complete my first ever half marathon. At the moment I’m waiting to receive more treatment to try and tackle OCD head-on. I can honestly say that therapy is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I would much rather do another half marathon! But following further treatment I hope to soon see myself as independent, happy and successful.
I’ve been lucky to have had amazing support from friends and family, but it is important during OCD awareness week even more people are made aware of the effects of OCD, understand treatment options, and fight to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. My OCD doesn’t involve being neat, tidy or keeping things in perfectly straight lines as the media sometimes suggests. Although OCD can be highly debilitating, treatment can lead people to have successful careers, and more awareness and support can improve the quality of people’s lives.