The first ever Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) week ran from February 6th to 13th in an effort to support people with the illness and to lift the social stigma surrounding it.
The charity OCD Action organised conferences, webinars and local awareness events to inform the public, attempting to quash misconceptions and provide encouragement and support to the 2 million sufferers in the UK.
Joel Rose, director of OCD Action, claims the week has had a large impact. “The week is already making a real difference to millions of people affected by OCD in the UK. We just hope it signals a new era of improved attitudes and options,” he says.
The severity of the illness is highlighted by the World Health Organisation, who rank it as one of the top-10 disabling conditions, in terms of loss of income and decreased quality of life.
The condition has two aspects, obsessions and compulsions, which have slightly different influences. Obsessions are unwanted, repetitive thoughts or urges which lead to anxiety. Compulsions are recurring behaviours, or mental rituals such as repetitive thoughts, done to reduce this anxiety and to control the obsession.
Common obsessions include fear of germs, causing harm to oneself or to others, sexual, violent or blasphemous thoughts, and obsessing over the order or arrangement of objects. OCD affects equal numbers of men and women. While more research is needed about the cause, evidence points to genetic links, as well as low serotonin levels in the brain.
One social stigma is that the term OCD, has become slang for describing someone who slightly mimics these behavioural characteristics. This means many people do not realise their symptoms and as a result, the average delay between onset and treatment is 12 years.
Jake Armstrong, a student, worries he has OCD tendencies. “If I see a plug socket that’s been left on when there’s nothing plugged in, I instantly have to turn it off or else I feel sick and can’t stop looking at it. My psychology teacher has said that it’s probably OCD, but my doctors haven’t said anything,” he said.
George Hourmouzios, communications officer of OCD Action, says the train of thought that “everyone has a bit of OCD” is a common misconception. He said: “Whilst many people occasionally do things that have similarities with some OCD compulsive behaviours, for example repeatedly checking the door is locked, you are only diagnosed with OCD if your symptoms are sufficiently severe to cause marked distress, are time-consuming, or significantly interfere with your life.” He did add that the condition can vary in severity though and even mild cases needed to be dealt with as early as possible.
Hourmouzios says that another misinterpretation of the illness is that it is only about rituals such as checking and washing. “Some people with the condition don’t do any physical or observable rituals at all. For them, compulsions take place entirely in the mind. This is known as ‘Pure O’. Whatever form compulsions take, they are very hard to resist doing and each time they are carried out, the condition takes a firmer grip on the sufferer’s life. That is why early intervention in the form of appropriate treatment is so important,” he said.
He also regrets the way most of the media reports OCD. “It is highly unlikely all the celebs reported to have OCD do in fact have it or even know what it truly is. The persistent and inaccurate celeb-based trivialised image of OCD is a vast and unnecessary obstacle in raising awareness and true understanding about it.”
For further information visit www.ocdaction.org.uk or call the confidential helpline 0845 390 6232.Tweet