For as long as I can remember I have suffered with intrusive and scary thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. The older I have gotten the louder the thoughts can get and the more scared and ashamed I have felt. It could be as simple as hearing a microwave ‘ping’ and I automatically think that a loved one has been harmed, or I could be driving on the motorway and feel a sudden impulse to swerve into another car.
I was first taken to see my GP when my phobia of cats became debilitating in my childhood. At that point in time I was diagnosed with a form of OCD as I was showing obsessive behaviours around avoiding cats in any way I could. I was obsessed with death and illnesses and would convince myself out of the blue that something was going to happen whenever I saw an advert or a story on the TV. I wasn’t unwell enough to receive therapy and as I matured into my teenage years the thoughts were manageable and ‘quieter’ most of the time.
I started to really suffer after I began my first job after university. The stress of a target based, high pressure role led me to start having constant intrusive thoughts (commonly referred to as obsessions), and I found myself giving in to my thoughts– however, by allowing my behaviour to change to please and ease my OCD I felt even more out of control and my life became more and more restrictive. This led to me finally admitting that I was struggling to cope and I saw my GP again where I was given the space to talk about my thoughts and slowly regain control.
OCD is a complex mental health condition that is generally misunderstood by most, so here are some common questions that I’ve answered that should hopefully shed some light on how OCD can affect someone. (Please note that these are my personal answers and everyone who has OCD may have different opinions and symptoms.)
Regularly Asked Questions
How does OCD affect your daily life?
I describe my life with OCD in 2 ways (quiet and loud). Typically, my obsessions are quiet, which means that I can always hear them, but I know that they are irrational or untrue – which makes them very easy to ignore. However, when I am stressed or feel a lack of control in a particular aspect of my life the obsessions become loud, and I find it hard to ignore them and sometimes have to change my behaviours to satisfy them.
I personally do not suffer with compulsions or ritualistic behaviours (which are the commonly presented symptoms shown on TV)
How can your workplace support you?
The biggest issue for me in the workplace is hearing people say/joke about things such as “I am so OCD” or “That line not being straight is driving my OCD mad” – OCD is not a quirk or a personality trait so when people joke about it or say it flippantly it can be very upsetting for someone who has been diagnosed with the condition. In my experience it is never said in an intentionally offensive way and people are always apologetic when you explain why it is inappropriate to joke about it. I believe that the more awareness is spread about the condition, the less this will happen.
I think I might have OCD – who can I speak too?
There are some amazing websites and charities online such as Mind and OCDAction, where there is a lot of free content and information for any sufferers (or for people wanting to educate themselves) and both websites have great links to reach out for help over the phone or by messaging. Also I would strongly advise someone to visit their GP as they will be able to refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for an official diagnosis – there are some other conditions such as anxiety conditions which can also have OCD traits so it is important to have a proper assessment as your treatment will depend on your specific needs.
Can you cure OCD?
There is no ‘cure’ for OCD as it is a lifelong mental health condition, however there are many ways to manage the condition in order to stop it interfering with daily life. For example, some people will receive medication, other people may be referred to CBT (a type of behavioural therapy).