(Facts in this post have been taken from ocduk.org)
Mental Health is being talked about more and more and the stigma is slowly beginning to lift. Celebrities and the media are talking more about mental illnesses and people are becoming more aware and feel more comfortable sharing experiences. Conditions like depression and anxiety are getting lots of publicity and thats amazing but some illnesses like OCD are still plagued with so many false myths and light-hearted humour that it's beyond difficult for true sufferers to get the help and understanding that they need.
When I searched Twitter and Facebook for the term 'OCD' mentioned by my friends and the people I follow I was flooded with an endless list of trivial jokes and light-hearted references to the illness. A quick search for the term 'depression' and I find links to charity websites, quotes to help those who are depressed among just a handful of unhelpful or uninformed comments. Why is it that society's awareness and understanding of OCD is so far behind that of so many of the other big mental illnesses?
In the UK 1.2% of the population has OCD. 50% of these people are said to fall into the category of 'severe'. It was ranked the tenth most disabling illness of any kind and yet people still think it's funny to share '25 things that will piss off your friends with OCD'.
I think part of the problem comes from a confusion between those claiming that their personal quirks are 'a bit OCD' and the understanding of the extent of the real symptoms. If someone can't leave the house without checking they've locked the door, and then double check, just in case, they are a responsible, safe person, not a sufferer of OCD. If they can't sleep at night because they've already checked the door 25 times and still believe it to be unlocked, they probably have OCD. If you have a sudden thought or urge to jump in front of a train, that's called having an 'intrusive thought' and about 9 in 10 people have them (I think the other 1 is probably lying). An OCD sufferer would not be able to brush away these thoughts, thinking it meant they were suicidal and consequently avoid going to train stations at all costs because they truly believed they would jump. This would most likely lead to a belief that they have no control over similar things such as running in front of a car every time one passed. Someone with OCD is so consumed by their intrusive thoughts to the point where it completely takes over their lives.
I have OCD. At different points in my life the focus has been different and has affected my life to different levels of severity. When I was 12, I would go days without drinking anything. I deeply believed that if I did drink something, I would wet myself. My thoughts were completely controlled by this obsession and the compulsions that came with it for at least 2 years and it is still an everyday battle to fight them 8 years later. For me, OCD has also presented itself in ways so distressing and upsetting that I cannot face to write them down here.
Having OCD is not a fun excuse to organise your books, keep somewhere clean, or check for spelling mistakes. It destroys lives and absolutely needs to be taken seriously.
I am currently reading 'The Man Who Couldn't Stop' by David Adam which is an incredible book with both personal and factual insights that I would highly recommend if you want to look deeper into the condition. This week is OCD Awareness Week so please join in and do something to help promote awareness of this terrifyingly debilitating illness. Please, share this post, share any post that spreads awareness, educate yourself and start a discussion with others. This is important and more people need to understand in order for those who suffer to get help. Please.
"If you're going through hell, keep going" -Winston Churchill