So many people think OCD is just about germs and tidiness.

For too long, a vast majority of people in society have considered obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) to be all about hand-washing. It’s time we talked more about OCD and spoke about the debilitating torment this illness can have and how hand-washing is in fact just one part of it all.

I’ve had OCD since the age of seven, but it was left undiagnosed and untreated until I turned 22. For years prior I had lived a secret life of ritualised hand-washing, hair pulling, counting syllables and trying to maintain a balance between good and bad.

I can only describe the ‘OCD part of my brain’ as noisy, and it is this noise that us who suffer with OCD can be scared to talk about. This might be through fear of what someone may say to us or through not wanting to admit there’s even a problem. That was the case for me – the noise I had in my head, which I know better now as intrusive thoughts, was unbearable, yet admitting that they were a problem was something I was afraid to do for years of my adolescent life. I would lay in bed, night after night, going over each and every situation that I had encountered throughout the past day, frustrated at where I hadn’t followed my rituals of handwashing, moving a certain way, or punishing myself for things that had gone wrong. The torment was awful. If things hadn’t gone how I’d planned for them to, I’d punish myself in any way I could, just to ‘get the balance right.’

As I grew older, my OCD symptoms were exacerbated by general life experiences, and I found my fear of contamination became stronger by the day. I wash my hands so vigorously and so frequently that they are now dry, cracked and very sore some days. I rely heavily on hand sanitisers which dry my hands out even more. I now also pull the hair from my eyebrows and eyelashes, and I’m left with noticeable gaps (thank goodness for make up!). Furthermore, I count syllables during conversations with my fingers – as you can imagine, this can be incredible annoying and I often don’t seem as though I’m listening or that I’ve ‘zoned out’ when in fact I am repeating the sentences that have been said to me over and over in order to count the syllables correctly.

In terms of intrusive thoughts, these have changed and adapted also as I have become older. Some thoughts I still can’t bear to share with anyone, but they make me feel like the most awful person in the world. Sometimes they are strong images, so vivid in my mind that I fear they will truly happen at any moment. On many occasions I have had to sit on the floor, shutting my eyes and turning my music up loud, in the hope I can drown them out. I suffer from severe panic attacks because of these thoughts, or if I haven’t followed out my rituals as I need to. They leave my exhausted and drained.

There is still so much stigma around OCD. A lot of individuals consider it to only be about germs and being untidy, yet this is so far from the truth. In fact, I can be a very untidy person, just ask my partner! And these misconceptions anger me, for they do not represent what it is truly like living day-in, day-out with this illness. Yes, my hands look as though they belong to someone three times my age at times, but this is only one segment of the chaos in my mind that is OCD.

Now that I have come to terms with my diagnosis and have learnt more about this illness, I have decided I want to talk about it more. I want to work towards breaking down the myths surrounding OCD in the hope that individuals who speak out about having OCD are treated with the same respect as they would a physical illness. Treatment for OCD can be difficult enough without adding stigma into the mix. Thankfully, I am now about to start some intensive therapy that will work out where my OCD originated and start to change my thought processes in the hope of easing symptoms.

If you suffer with OCD, I urge you to speak out and seek treatment. There are options out there including medication and talking therapies. Some things will work for you, and others won’t. But I still have hope that one day I will be able to live alongside my OCD rather than it live my life for me. The stigma in society is a big enough issue in itself, but by not talking about the true reality of OCD, we are adding to the stigma too. So speak out, be proud, and believe that things will one day be better.

Kimberley Giles blogs regularly at musingsofananxiousgirl.blogspot.co.uk, and you can reach her on Twitter @LittleKimmyJane

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Comments

OCD

Hi You are so brave to come to speak out about your problems My best friend had ocd and her wasn't cleaning either . Her was to bite and to check things .

Hi Kimberly, I think it's so

Hi Kimberly, I think it's so admirable how you've spoken out about your experiences and I just wanted to say thank you. You're very inspiring to do this. I hope your treatment helps you and I'm sure you'll show strength and courage, just like you have here x

You are so brave for speaking

You are so brave for speaking out, well done. I realise i don't know much about ocd though knew it is based on rituals. As for the awful thoughts - you are not alone. I shock and horrify myself with my thoughts sometimes but that's all they are - unwanted, obtrusive thoughts. In no way do they represent us or what we really believe.

Agreed!

It has taken me a long time to realize that the horrifying thoughts I experience as a result of OCD say nothing about ME as a person. It's OCD that takes the wheel in those moments that are terrifying and frightening. I find myself reading these blogs, searching for people to allude or describe their unwanted, obtrusive thoughts so that I can know I'm not alone in this. I'm sorry for the pain those thoughts have caused you, but thank you for your honesty in admitting they are there.

Ocd

I wish a lot of people would read your blog Kimberly you have written perfectly how it is to live with OCD. I have tried to hide my horrid illness as much as I possibly could for years living with it until 2 years ago I gave up fighting my brain & broke down, I lost my job of 33 years & a lot of people, some friends, kept away. I have followed time to change since then & it has so helped me to speak & not feel so guilty for how I am. Reading your blog & other people's stories will help understand how debilitating it can be & not just about washing checking & cleaning. Thanks

Thank you loads for sharing

Thank you so much Kimberley for sharing your experiences. My brother has OCD and he is not tidy either.... Trying to explain that to people is so difficult! His OCD is debilitating and he hasn't yet been able to get any help... In his local hospital recently they refused to address his OCD, sayibg it would have to be done as outpatient... And then nothing happened, no follow up as if healthcare professionals don't even realise the true debilitating nature of this condition. It makes me so sad as a sister.... So thank you for your encouragement to pursue avenues of help too.

OCD

I think you're amazing for speaking out. I suffer with OCD too and have done since I was very young, now I'm 30 and it gets harder to speak about. Mines not cleaning either and it's very much awful thoughts and relentless routines to stop bad things from happening. Well done on talking about it, thank you, Jo

supporting a close friend

I have known personally Kim for a while now and would recommend her truly unique insights to mental health issues in society. She speaks from the heart. X

OCD

Dear Kimberley i have read your blog three times now and am impressed at how articulate you are. By sharing your experience of OCD you can enlighten those of us who find it hard to comprehend and hopefully some peace forself by trying to understand this debilitating condition. I do wish you all the very best with your therapy and manage to achieve your ambition of living with OCD as opposed to it controlling you. Never forget by sharing you are an inspiration. Keep up the good work xxx

Hi, thanks for your courage

Hi, thanks for your courage in sharing your story. I suffer from OCD too, I'm just beginning to see it more as an illness and less a sign of my own moral failure and inadequacy. I would just like to suggest your try meditation, it has helped me loads. I know sitting with your thoughts is probably a terrible idea to you, but it helps you realise you are not your thoughts and emotions, you are not your illness, you are something more profound, you are your being and it is good and sane and beautiful. Hope this helps you, take care, J

OCD

OCD is an anxiety disorder, I got this when I was 9 years old without being diagnosed, I never have but to overcome it you just need to ignore the thoughts and voices trying to control your mind and kind of just let them be their without reacting too them in any way. It's like a cycle your thoughts tell you to do something a certain way to relieve you from any fear the OCD is giving you but if you act upon them it just carries on, it will never go away luckily I grew out of it but now and then when I'm in a situation which kicks my anxiety off usually it can return but it goes almost quickly as I ignore the thoughts, you can't make your bad thoughts go away but by ignoring them they will go away quicker than you think and so will your OCD it did with me. It's a horrible thing that anybody can suffer from and not have a clue what it is but your right people need to be aware that OCD is not just about cleaning and keeping things clean it's a anxiety disorder with different strands which people need to be more aware of than using it as a joke to people who like to keep on top of things.

Your comment

I think this is a little insensitive. Saying you grew out of it suggests this is an illness only immature people have. Also saying she should ignore the voices is pretty naive. I don't have ocd but i have depression which involves negative thoughts. If i could ignore them so easily i wouldn't have depression.

OCD

Someone close to me has extreme anxiety or OCD. She gets paranoid about germs, illness, people knowing things about her and change. It really annoys me when OCD is used to describe someone who cleans and tidies a lot. She is not tidy. She hoards because she can't bear to let things go, and for things to change. The slightest change in her life brings her stress. What would be a small fear to someone else escalates and escalates until all the ramifications she can think of totally consumes her. It takes her ages to cook anything, if she remembers she needs to eat. She's constantly worried her food or drink has been contaminated in some way. She won't take medication because she worries about what it will do, and the only time she went to see a counsellor she got more stressed and worried she was divulging information that could be used against her. Thank you Kimberly for speaking out about OCD. Understanding is much needed. OCD is a really debilitating condition.

Wow

Thank you so much for writing this post, exactly what I needed to read tonight. I have never have read anything relating so close to how I feel with my own ocd. I just feel like I can breathe again knowing at least there is someone in the world who gets it. Thank you again and please keep speaking up.

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