Have you ever wondered what David Beckham, Jessica Alba and Niall Horan have in common?
I doubt it, but I’ll tell you anyway.
Aside from the fact that they are all extremely good looking, it is that they have all reported suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
According to the NHS, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition where an individual has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
Before we get into it, I want to make this absolutely clear – OCD is not just ‘being clean’ or liking things to be ordered or organised.
Oh and you can’t be ‘a little bit OCD’, it can appear in mild forms, but when people say that they’re ‘a little bit OCD’ they usually mean that they are tidy.
It is a mental health condition that is said to affect over a million people in the UK alone and can be detrimental to the livelihoods of all affected.
False media portrayals have led to the condition becoming one of the most stigmatised and misunderstood.
Have you ever watched Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners? Well don’t. This programme and other similar programmes are catalysts for the misconceptions.
When conditions are misunderstood and stigmatised, people are less likely to speak out about them and are therefore less likely to get the support that they need.
So, What Is OCD?
Obsessions are unwanted urges, images, fears or thoughts that enter a person’s mind. Often repeatedly. Note the word ‘unwanted’.
These obsessions often fill their recipient with feelings of disgust, sadness or generally unpleasant emotions.
Whereas compulsions are behaviours or acts that sufferers feel they need to complete to alleviate the feelings that have been brought on by the obsession. Compulsions are often repetitive behaviours.
An individual’s OCD will typically manifest itself in at least one of the following categories, although they will probably overlap with each other:
The urge to check is a compulsion caused by an obsession relating to fear of damaging something or causing harm.
But checking something as a result of an obsession happens a lot more than once.
It could happen hundreds of times and go on for hours.
Which is obviously detrimental to the livelihood of the individual affected (and even those around the individual sometimes).
For example, if the obsession is related to a relationship ending, then an individual with OCD may seek reassurance from their partner.
Or if, for example, the obsession is related to the house flooding, then an individual with OCD may check the taps to see if it is actually switched off and there is no water dripping from it.
Or if, for example, the obsession is related to harming an individual, then an individual with OCD may check their own memories to makes sure that they didn’t cause any harm. However, the more they will check, the more likely it is for them to doubt their memory and check again.
Contamination related OCD involves the fear that a certain type of contamination (e.g. germs) may bring harm to an individual including themselves.
For example, an individual with OCD may avoid touching coins or notes due to a fear of contamination.
They may also wash their hands excessively to the point of skin damage for the same reasons.
Many people over the last year have reported an exacerbation in OCD compulsions (such as excessive/ repetitive hand washing or cleaning) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mental contamination is also a newly developing area of interest in that people with OCD can feel unclean or dirty internally.
It occurs when a person experiences negative treatment either physically or mentally (e.g. receiving verbal abuse). The compulsion in this case could be, for example, excessive showering.
This category involves a fear that something bad may happen or someone will feel uncomfortable if things aren’t ‘right’.
Having things ‘right’ may mean having books placed in alphabetical order for example, or needing everything to be in place at all times.
This is often misunderstood, as people assume that enjoying cleanliness, neatness and order is a symptom of OCD.
People with OCD are very unlikely to enjoy getting things ‘right’ as it can take a lot of time and be completely draining both mentally and physically.
Hoarding involves retaining useless possessions for, according to OCD UK, very specific obsessions, but it is difficult to distinguish whether this is a disorder in itself.
Intrusive Thoughts/ Ruminations
Intrusive thoughts are involuntary and invasive thoughts that occur without reason.
These thoughts can be very inappropriate, disturbing and upsetting in nature and are a common symptom of OCD (amongst other mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and some eating disorders).
There is a type of intrusive thought known as ‘magical thinking’ in which people with OCD fear that thinking about a certain possibility or event means that it is more likely to happen or that their thoughts can cause negative occurrences.
For example, the thought that stepping on a crack in the pavement will result in something bad happening. Individuals with OCD will therefore actively avoid cracks on the pavement.
Ruminations are extensive trains of thinking around a theme or obsession. They can be based on intrusive thoughts (even positive ones) when an individual indulges in them for long periods of time.
Most of the time these ruminations lead to the individual being deeply detached from surroundings and are very unproductive.
Treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
To get help with OCD for yourself or a loved one, you may either refer yourself directly to a therapist or speak to your GP.
Main treatments for OCD include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or medication in the form of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s).
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works by teaching the individual ways to deal with their obsessive thoughts or urges as opposed to them engaging in repetitive compulsions to relieve themselves of the feelings associated.
SSRI’s work by slightly changing the balance of chemicals in a person’s brain. It is not unlikely to receive both treatments in conjunction with each other.
The following websites have been recommended by the NHS for support in living with OCD:
What would you like to learn about?