My Life and OCD: Dispelling the myths

WHERE to begin? I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and OCD related anxiety.

I have known about the OCD for around eight years now. It only became apparent when I got to high school, that my compulsive behaviour was different to the people around me. Around this time you could have called my OCD pedantic or fussy, but after a few years it was fairly evident that there was more to it than that. Once in Sixth Form, I found my OCD would trigger panic attacks and thus make me anxious about a variety of things. Since then, my OCD and anxiety has only escalated.

This article isn’t just about what I have. I want to address how people behave around OCD sufferers. Has anyone ever told you they have OCD? If so, what was your response? 90% of the people I tell give the same response; “Oh I always check the door is locked” or “I always worry about X”. As much as I appreciate that people are trying to relate and make me feel better, unfortunately it really doesn’t. There is far more to OCD than checking a door is locked, or worrying if something is clean. It’s the mental pain you put yourself through and the constant battle you have inside your head.

OCD is a state of mind. Have you ever left the house, got to a certain point and thought to yourself ‘Did I lock the door?’ That instant feeling of doubt you get is hard to put off. Some people can just switch that thought off, carry on and not turn back or even think about it again. But for some, it’s a bit harder; they might go back and check the door is locked then happily continue with their day, satisfied. However, for me and many other OCD sufferers, it’s a case of going back and checking two, three, four, or even more times. This endless cycle brings a lot of anxiety and, more often than not, results in a panic attack.

Another example that I find tough to deal with is merely walking down the street. After the long battle establishing that the door is, in fact, locked, I start my walk to University. It’s only a five minute walk, but sometimes that simple five minute walk is the most painful thing in the world. For me and many other OCD suffers, it can be about making sure everything is even. By that, I mean if I were to take five steps to the curb before crossing a road, I would make an additional step to ensure an even number. In turn, if I were to step with my left foot on a drain cover, I would need to touch it with my right.

ocd-cycle

OCD can also sometimes lead to self-harm, which can be expressed in many different ways. On occasion, people with OCD may try to replace the emotional/mental pain with physical pain in a way to deal with the problem. Thankfully, the medication I am taking is helping with these thoughts, and hopefully with time they will reduce. Self-harm can be seen in many other ways and this is where I suffer greatly. I have the compulsion to constantly clean my hands to ensure they are clean. I have even been known to clean my hands after cleaning them. This causes severe dermatitis due my hands drying out. Another aspect which affects me is the constant need to clean everything. In my first year of university, there was a running joke that I was addicted to Dettol. I would use half a bottle a week just cleaning round the flat and my room. In the past year this has worsened to where I am now using bleach to clean everything. Getting bleach on my skin worsens the dermatitis, causing a vicious cycle; this behaviour is often seen as self-harm by doctors and it is something that I am doing all I can to overcome.

There is so much more to OCD than people think; it’s not about being fussy or pedantic and at times, these accusations can really hurt. Many people find it hard to understand OCD and occasionally even make fun of it. Luckily, the people I live with are fantastic, and although they may not understand completely how I feel, they certainly never do anything that will knowingly bother or upset me. There have been times where someone has put something in the wrong order, or what I define to be the wrong order, purposely to annoy me or get to me. It can be very hard, but you can’t spend your life getting annoyed with your friends when they simply think it’s a joke.

I have only briefly covered a number of the things that affect me and other OCD sufferers, but I hope by reading this you are able to take a different perspective on sufferers of OCD, or as I call it CDO – OCD in the right order.


If you are a student affected by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or any other mental health disorders, the university offers various services for health, wellbeing and accessibility, the details of which you can find here