Conditions like Depression and Anxiety are getting lots of attention at the moment. The general public are becoming more aware of symptoms and how it affects those who suffer. It’s great to see that the stigma is really beginning to lift. Though for some other mental health conditions the stigma remains as high ever and society is still worryingly far from reaching an understanding. OCD is one of these illnesses.

In the UK 1.2% of the population has obsessive compulsive disorder. 50% of these people are said to fall into the category of ‘severe’. It was ranked the tenth most disabling illness of any kind and yet many people still think it’s a flippant excuse to be organised and pernickety.

OCD is often trivialised by the media and those who do not understand the condition. Even those aware of mental health issues often remain incredibly uninformed on the condition. The people who don’t understand OCD are not just those who will tell a depressed person to ‘cheer up’. OCD is accepted in society as a personality quirk. There just isn’t enough awareness and accessible education to change this deep rooted inaccurate image of the illness.

So, what actually is OCD, and perhaps more importantly, what is it not?

If someone can’t go to bed without checking the oven is off, and then double check, just in case, they are probably a responsible, safe person, not a sufferer of OCD. If they can’t sleep at night because they’ve already checked the oven 25 times and still believe it to be on, they might have OCD. If you have a sudden thought or urge to jump in front of a car, that’s called having an ‘intrusive thought’ and about 9 in 10 people have them.

Someone without OCD would probably be able to brush away these thoughts, or at least, not become obsessed with them. Someone with OCD would become obsessed with the thoughts, thinking it meant they were suicidal and consequently avoid going near cars at all costs because they truly believed they would jump in front. This would most likely lead to a belief that they have no control over similar things and that they were truly a risk to themselves. Someone with OCD is so consumed by their intrusive thoughts to the point where it completely takes over their lives.

I have OCD. When I was 12, I constantly thought I was going to lose control of my bladder. My thoughts were completely controlled by this obsession and the compulsions that came with it for at least 2 years and it is still an everyday battle to fight them 8 years later. At it’s worst, I went to the toilet at least twice an hour and didn’t have anything to drink for days. This is just an example of my OCD. It has come in and sometimes out of my life in different forms. Each equally as distressing as the next.

If you would like to learn about OCD I would highly recommend reading the book ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Stop‘ by David Adam. It’s an incredibly interesting and readable insight into the disorder. We need to start really listening to the stories of people whose lives are affected by this condition. We need to start challenging those who belittle it and make jokes of it. Without awareness and understanding, people are suffering.

Guest Blog written by Beth Hinds

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