Home   Gravesend   News   Article

OCD sufferers from Gravesend and Medway share their experience of the condition and the stigma surrounding it


More news, no ads

LEARN MORE

Imagine having to spend an hour locking up and double checking every inch of your house before going to bed, or having your work interrupted due to your obsession with even numbers.

These are just a couple of examples of life with OCD from two individuals in Kent who live with the condition.

Sarah speaking about her OCD, her voice has been changed to protect her identity

Sarah from Gravesend and Chris from Medway, who both did not wish to be fully named due to the stigma around the disorder, have had OCD all their lives.

Sarah has suffered with OCD since she was a child and is now taking part in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help with the disorder.

The 20-year-old said: "I'd be going around the shops and stuff like that at maybe six or seven-years-old, and I had sort of tendencies to rectify or make things right.

"For example, in the shop, if bread was sticking out, I'd push it back in, or if I touched a bannister, and it didn't feel quite right, I would touch it until it felt right.

Sarah has suffered with OCD since she was six-years-old. Stock Image posed by a model
Sarah has suffered with OCD since she was six-years-old. Stock Image posed by a model

"The reasons why I touched things weren't that I was trying to prevent something specific.

"It would be because I would feel a feeling of anxiety or unbalance if I hadn't touched things enough or if I hadn't equalised.

"For example, if I turned around one way, I had to turn the other way. It would feel wrong if I hadn't.

"But when I was younger I never saw this as a symptom of OCD."

Chris, a 23-year-old construction worker, has also had OCD since he was a young boy.

Chris has found that his OCD has affected his career due to the stigma that surrounds it. Stock picture posed by model
Chris has found that his OCD has affected his career due to the stigma that surrounds it. Stock picture posed by model

He said: "My OCD's aren't about being neat, they're just doing things an even amount of times, everything has to be done a certain amount of times.

"If not, I'll spend all day every day, stressing about it until I do it an even amount of times.

"It could be with anything, if I touch my phone with my left hand, I've got to then put it down and pick it back up with the same hand.

"If I touch it with the other hand in between, it messes the whole thing up and I have to restart again and again, again, again, until it's done right, until I can move on.

"It is like that with literally anything, absolutely anything. The amount of steps I take is also one of them.

Chris can't do things in odd numbers due to his OCD an has to have the sound on an even number
Chris can't do things in odd numbers due to his OCD an has to have the sound on an even number

"It's like our staircase bugs me because it's 13 steps to get up and everything for me has got to be even numbers, I can't do odd numbers.

"The TV volume has got to be even, if it's not I'll stress until it is even. Absolutely everything has to be done an even amount of times. I can't do anything else until it's done."

Chris is also a dad, but says his OCD hasn't impacted his ability to be a parent.

He continued: "I've had OCD my whole life. I think it was around the age of six when I got my diagnoses.

"People realised I was doing stuff a stupid amount of times because it stressed my parents out as well as me.

Chris's OCD means he must do things in even numbers, including the volume on the TV
Chris's OCD means he must do things in even numbers, including the volume on the TV

"But everything had to be done a certain amount of times, and they thought it was weird.

"It's always been around numbers, but there are other things. I'm a smoker, and with filter packets, for me, the filter has to be taken out of a certain side.

"If not, I'll put the filter back in and I'll take it out from the other side. It's like my partner, she takes them out willy nilly, and just leaves them wherever.

"I can't do that, it stresses me out until I fix it, and then do it properly, if it's not right I'm anxious all the time, on edge and that really affects my mood."

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts or sensations or the urge to do something over and over again.

Sarah feels her sexuality and religion have amplified her OCD. Stock picture
Sarah feels her sexuality and religion have amplified her OCD. Stock picture

Sarah also had intrusive thoughts which are common symptoms of OCD.

She said: "My OCD quickly became something far more of a bigger presence in my life.

"It filled every second and every waking moment of my life. That was when the intrusive thoughts became so prominent."

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts that can pop into people's heads without warning, at any time.

They're often repetitive, with the same kind of thought cropping up again and again, they can be disturbing or even distressing.

As part of Sarah's lock up routine she must check the plug switches and lights
As part of Sarah's lock up routine she must check the plug switches and lights

Sarah, now a university student, continued: "I suppose before my GCSEs, and this is upon reflection, I realised that I had these thoughts as my dad left for work early in the morning.

"Around 4am, no matter how tired I'd been the night before, I would have the intrusive thought that he wouldn't return that night or that would be the last time I'd see him.

"So, I'd stand at the top room of the house for maybe half-an-hour or more, watching him set up the satnav and watch him go to work.

"I was so scared and started saying a lot of prayers to protect him.

"These thoughts caused me to stay up way too late and sacrifice my sleep. And all of these things really took over my life. But I didn't think OCD was anything to do with it.

Sarah has now started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Stock image posed by model
Sarah has now started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Stock image posed by model

"I also started to become quite obsessive around, locking up my house.

"I had a whole routine. I'd come downstairs to lock up a check the front door, go into the living room, check all the plugs, check all the windows, shut the door, that room is done.

"And then I'd go down to the dining room, do the same thing. Go into the kitchen, do all the hobs, do all the windows, everything like that.

"It would take me a long time. And if it hadn't felt right, I would go around again.

"And I had a whole routine for the whole house, set the alarm, check the door again, check all the slippers were in the right way and run up the stairs with minutes to go.

As part of Sarah's lock up routine she must check the hobs in the kitchen
As part of Sarah's lock up routine she must check the hobs in the kitchen

"Because, if I'd spent too much time, the alarm would go off before I went to go upstairs. So I'd have to do it again.

"And that was very stressful to go through, because it caused me a lot of distress.

"All this stressed caused anxiety and depression, which I didn't know was happening, and so the space in my room was getting less clean and less tidy, as the state of my mind was getting less clean and tidy."

Chris also found his obsessions hard to deal with.

The construction worker added: "I never had any support until I got with my partner, no one really understood it, no one really got it.

Chris says his stairs bug him as there are 13 of them and his OCD causes an obsession with even numbers. Stock image
Chris says his stairs bug him as there are 13 of them and his OCD causes an obsession with even numbers. Stock image

"People just thought it was something I was doing just for the fun of it.

"OCD has affected my employment. When I was at work, if I put my tool back in it's pouch, I just had to sit there or stand there and just do it an even amount of times.

"I couldn't carry on with my job until I'd done it and I'd been put under a lot of pressure from my boss as a result.

"My previous place of work wasn't supportive of my OCD and I'm no longer with the same company, thankfully.

"There is a lot of stigma against people with OCD, I believe a lot of people think it's done for attention, but it's not.

Chris's OCD means he has an obsession with even numbers. Stock Image posed by model
Chris's OCD means he has an obsession with even numbers. Stock Image posed by model

"I try to hide mine as best as I can because I don't want people to think that way.

"I know I've got it, I'm not silly, but I just try not to let everyone else see it.

"I don't want anyone else forming an opinion or judging me for it because it's not my fault."

Sarah is a Roman Catholic and recently came out as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

As a result of her religions strict views on homosexuality Sarah felt sinful and stigmatised and felt these pressures also affected her OCD.

Sarah became obsessive with locking up her house due to her OCD
Sarah became obsessive with locking up her house due to her OCD

She said: "After my GCSEs I started to have this sort of fear of the number six, and it repeated, so I'd avoid it.

"I'd tap things or do those checks until something felt right. But it would be more obsessive around numbers and doing stuff with my right hand, which I kind of linked to like the right hand of God.

"So if I was doing something, and I tap something with my right hand twice I'd then have to equalise it.

"If I then tapped it once with my left hand I couldn't leave it there because that would be multiple of six which is three, so I would just do it until the numbers sort of felt right, so I was doing quick math in my head.

"When it comes to common sense, I'd say I probably have some, but when it comes to the compulsions, or, that things I do, or the reasons I do them, it doesn't sound like someone who understands how the world works or understand things intelligently.

"So if I was doing something, and I tap something with my right hand twice I'd then have to equalise it..."

"And I think people with OCD know that and that just makes it worse.

"If you think you may be suffering with OCD and you don't want to go to your doctor, or you talk to your parents or teachers, because of the stigma around it, then contact a charity like North Kent Mind.

"They've been really, really helpful for me and you can self refer yourself with your NHS number."

If you think you need support with OCD or your mental health you can find North Kent Mind's website here.

To read more of our in-depth features click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More