By Sara Valle-Martínez
Stove is off. Touch it; make sure it’s not hot. Okay, that’s fine. And now the window. Just grab the handle. Shake it a little bit. Is it locked? Fine, let’s move on. Is the hair straightener off? Go upstairs; touch the plug. Yes. Okay, take pictures of it. One is not enough. Three – that’s better. Okay, and the front door?
“OCD, an acronym for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a form of extreme anxiety, fear and emotional overwhelm and if untreated this can lead to panic attacks as well as intrusive thoughts that hijack the rational belief system and result in paranoia,” said Dipti Tait, a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist based in London.
To this day, the causes to this mental illness that affects 1.2% of the population are unknown. Some of the hypotheses are a chemical imbalance in the brain, genetics and learnt behaviour, according to The Mayo Clinic, a non-profit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research.
Ellie Kime, the digital creator behind The Enthusiast, a shop, magazine and podcast that celebrates people and passions, said: “It’s very alienating and isolating. Although my OCD is relatively mild, it still alters the very fabric of my reality on a day-to-day basis. It angers and upsets me: if you can’t trust your own brain, what can you trust?”
There are several types of OCD. The most common ones are linked to organisation, contamination, intrusive thoughts, ruminations, and checking. That doesn’t mean they’re not interchangeable.
“Sometimes you tell yourself: ‘You know? Prison can’t be worse than this,” said Alex Sergent, a life entrepreneur in his forties. “You feel like you’re paralysed. It becomes quite scary, and you get stressed because you’re doing it. The average day I’d lose one hour.”
Alex’s compulsions are unusual OCD traits. He jots down notes and sets reminders for himself to mitigate the anxiety and chain of compulsive thoughts caused by the mental illness
“It’s this overwhelming sensation that you cannot escape,” he added.
It’s a common gag to see people online joking about “being OCD” because they’re clean and tidy or merely because they marinate in the beauty of symmetry.
“Being tidy and overly organised is not a mental health disorder,” explained Dipti Tait. “The way to know when someone has an OCD problem is when they have lost control over the basic functionality of their lives and, subsequently, their relationships and livelihoods may be suffering because of this.”
Most people find help through private therapists instead of relying on the services of the NHS, which some consider regimented and prescriptive. But not everyone can afford therapy to get tips to lead normal lives with this anxiety-riddled disease.
Next time you marvel in harmony, consider how it would feel to obsess over it.