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Living with OCD

This week is OCD Awareness Week, which exists to raise awareness of what OCD is, what it’s like to live with and how to support those who may be affected.

Those of you who follow our podcast may be aware that our most recent episode featured Katy Oliver speaking about her experience with OCD. She has kindly written this blog for us to help others who think they may have OCD, or are struggling to living with it.

“Everyone worries, it’s part of our human nature. However, OCD takes worrying to the next level. For those without OCD, a thought will ‘bounce in’ and ‘bounce out’ with no issues. With OCD sufferers, that thought will ‘bounce in’ and then the brain will grab hold of it, pick it apart and obsess about it.

Usually, it’s not the thought itself that is the problem, it’s the catastrophic meaning you attach to it. For example, if someone with OCD had the random thought of hurting another person, they would attach the catastrophic meaning that they must be a terrible human for having this thought. In reality, everyone has these thoughts, but most people can recognise them for what they are – just thoughts. It is only acting on those thoughts that would make you a bad person, not just having the thoughts themselves.

OCD manifests itself differently for different people and can have varying degrees of severity. At its worst, OCD thoughts can stop you from living your life freely. In the height of an OCD attack, it feels like you are imprisoned in your own head. You are completely controlled by your thoughts rather than the other way round. It is isolating and quite terrifying at times.

It interrupts everyday life, causing anxiety and depression. Those with more compulsion-based OCD can get physically stuck in a doom cycle. Those who can only go about their day when things ‘feel’ right can be so dominated by their coping behaviours that they don’t get anything done. If their mental state is low, things may never feel ‘right’.

It’s a vicious cycle and can have drastic effects on mental health, relationships, work life and physical health.

Over the years, I have tried many different things to help manage and alleviate my symptoms, including hypnotherapy, acupuncture, cognitive behaviour therapy and reiki healing. What I have found most helpful is having a few trusted people I can talk things out with, a good book or TV show that can help me escape my brain for a while and some simple breathing techniques to help me through any anxiety spikes. Also finding something you enjoy doing that distracts you can be enormously beneficial, whether its exercise, learning a new skill, being with friends and family or even meditation.

If anyone reading thinks they or a loved one might have symptoms of OCD, there are a few things that might help. Firstly, it can be a relief to get an official diagnosis – it can help you to deal with your mind more easily when you have a definitive reason for why you feel the way you do. If you haven’t already, make an appointment with your GP to explain your symptoms and receive further support.

Self-help books can also be very helpful as they take you through the different stages of the disorder. The thing I found most useful is reading about it from people who have been through it. Comfort is key with OCD, and I certainly found that in knowing that I wasn’t alone. The best piece of advice I can give is to TALK. Do not suffer in silence, and do not bury your head and hope it will go away. Seek the help you deserve!”

If you feel like you or a loved one need support with managing symptoms of OCD, your GP is a good place to start. OCD UK is also a great resource for help and information on developing coping mechanisms and accessing support.

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