Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has quite a bit of stigma attached to it – I think a lot of people associate this mental health condition with being tidy and organised. However, despite this being part of some people’s OCD, there are various other aspects of OCD that are relevant to others like me.
The beginnings of OCD
I’ve always considered myself to be an organised person – I prefer things to be planned out, I like having things a certain way and I’ve always been a careful person. Because I have had these traits from a young age, I never really associated them with OCD. However, recently I’ve witnessed these traits – and the behaviours that go with them – intensify.
The summer of 2019 was difficult for me in terms of anxiety – I received cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in order to manage my anxious thoughts better, which worked for a short period of time and I soon began to see my anxiety symptoms improve. But I was becoming aware that something was still wrong in terms of my mental state. I began to feel increasingly anxious if I didn’t check that household appliances were switched off, windows were closed etc. Sometimes this would impact my daily routine as I’d feel compelled to go back and check that I’d done something, even though deep down I knew that I had. I would obsess over these thoughts and then carry out compulsions, such as asking for reassurance that something was switched off. This was draining both physically and mentally. It was at this point that the mental checking began.
Mental checking is something that I think a lot of people are not aware about in relation to OCD. I had never had any experience with mental checking before, but after researching more about OCD, it was clear that this was something I was carrying out. It could be the middle of the day and I would have a thought pop into my mind – this thought could be in relation to something that happened years ago or a thought about the future. Specifically, these thoughts contained worst-case scenarios that terrified me.
After reading a lot of self-help books, I’ve realised that the reason these thoughts scared me so much was because they are the opposite of who I am – we all have thoughts that seem out of character for us, but someone with OCD picks apart these thoughts and craves certainty that the worst-case scenario is not a possibility. Before I reached out for help regarding my OCD, every day was emotionally and mentally challenging – I felt as though I was walking around with a huge amount of guilt on my shoulders and I couldn’t enjoy myself because of the possibility that my worst-case scenarios would come true.
Where I'm at now
This is still new to me and I’ve only recently completed the process of asking for help. I’ve spoken to friends and family about how I’ve been feeling, I’ve read self-help books and I’m now in the process of waiting for some more therapy that will deal specifically with my OCD. I do think that I have made some progress – I am now more able to accept uncertainty as I know I am strong enough to deal with any situation that comes my way. I also know who I am and what I’m capable of – I know I’m a good person and I shouldn’t allow OCD to bully me into believing I’m a monster when I know that I am not.
I’d really like people to take away from this blog some comfort in knowing that if you feel like this you are not alone. I think more people need to be educated about all aspects of OCD, as when you are unsure about what it is, it can feel really scary.
Recovery is all about getting to a point where these thoughts just pass over you and you don’t feel the need to seek reassurance or react as you know they are junk thoughts. I am getting there and so will you if you are struggling - you can do this!
Find out more about OCD
If you think you are struggling with OCD, have a look at our OCD page for advice on where you can go next for help.