You hear the term used a lot, but what does it mean to live with OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a mental health condition related to anxiety. Often misunderstood and simplified to endless hand washing, OCD can be debilitating for those affected and goes much further than excessive neatness.
It is estimated to affect around 750,000 people in the UK.
Many people have unpleasant thoughts and concerns throughout their lives, such as whether a handrail is covered in germs, or whether they’ve forgotten to shut and lock a door, or switch off a light. Most people can rationalise these thoughts and carry on with their day.
A person suffering from OCD is less able to rationalise these thoughts, to the point that they become excessive and will repeatedly enter the person’s mind. They can become disturbing or upsetting, and are extremely hard to ignore.
This can affect a person’s day-to-day life and lead them to perform compulsive behaviours in order to temporarily alleviate the thoughts and prevent any perceived harm coming to themselves or loved ones. However, the obsessive thoughts will soon return and the cycle will begin again.
OCD can have a devastating impact as it can affect a person’s career, relationships and social life.
According to OCD-UK, a person’s OCD will fall into one of four main categories:
• Contamination/Mental Contamination
• Intrusive Thoughts
For 23-year-old Richard, the cycle of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour stopped him living his life.
Diagnosed at 15, it got to the point where he stopped going out because he was worried about being contaminated by the air.
"I stopped going out with friends. I stopped enjoying life. The OCD kept me from being the person who I was," he explains.
"I was a confident, sociable person. [The OCD] caused me to withdraw into myself and become fearful of pretty much everything."
He also says he’s frustrated with the way in which the term OCD is used.
"People use the term with such flippancy that it has become a throw away term now," he says.
"At 23, I shouldn't be virtually housebound with not a lot for the future.
"I should be finishing university, starting out in a career, travelling the world, socialising with friends and drinking.
"But I can't do any of those things because of OCD."
Richard describes his condition as "crippling", "debilitating" and "draining".
It’s important to see your GP if you think you are experiencing symptoms of OCD.
It’s a treatable condition, which means that the symptoms of OCD can be managed so that a person can function day-to-day without the stress of excessive thoughts dominating their life.
A person with OCD may seek treatment through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or medication, or a combination of both.
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