* Disclaimer – this is not a medical account of OCD and is merely my understanding of an illness I have lived with for over 10 years. Please see the links below for official accounts*
Although people are starting to accept that OCD is not the quirks of order associated with a Buzzfeed article. Nor is it the levels of cleanliness seen on shows such as Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, very few people really understand what real OCD is. This is partially because it’s so difficult for anyone to understand what is going on inside the head of another human being and also because, like everything in life, no two cases of OCD are the same.
Put simply however OCD features a combination of two things: Obsessions, which are often persistent and uncontrollable thoughts and Compulsions, repetitive behaviours intended to relieve anxiety for example checking items, counting, or performing rituals such as turning switches on and off (this is where the stereotypes come from). Many people find that their obsessions and compulsions change over time, morphing from one idea to another.
It is important to note that in some ways all people complete activities which may be considered OCD behaviour at some time (for example checking that a door is locked) but OCD is only diagnosed when activities consume excessive amounts of time and/or cause significant distress and anguish and/or interfere with daily functioning.
This is not to say that OCD is always obvious to those suffering from it or to those around them, many live in a state of anxiety and distress for years before their OCD is diagnosed, making the importance of raising awareness even more significant. Equally, many people fail to associate their thoughts with OCD because of the stereotypes which surround it. For example as an incredibly messy person (you should see the state of my bedroom) my lifestyle is not compatible with the ideas of symmetry, cleanliness and organisation normally associated with depictions of the illness; making a diagnosis of OCD more surprising.
I will discuss some examples of my OCD in a later blog post but for now anyone wishing to know more about OCD itself can visit any of the following links which will provide more detailed information and advice on how to get help.