OCD is a clinically recognised disorder which affects around 1-2% of the population. It is debilitating and paralysing. People with OCD experience intensely negative, repetitive and intrusive thoughts, combined with a chronic feeling of doubt or danger (obsessions). In order to quell the thought or quieten the anxiety, they will often repeat an action, again and again (compulsions).
One of the greatest challenges that people with OCD face is the need to fight both the all pervasive stigma of mental health disorders and the widely held belief that OCD is a mild or even “quirky” problem that is nothing more than hand washing. Many people now use the term “a bit OCD-ish” without understanding the onerous nature of the disorder in its severe form.
Despite all this, there is an average delay of 12 years between the onset of OCD and treatment being received. There are many reasons why people with OCD delay seeking help. These include a fear that they will be committed to a secure institution, a fear of the stigma associated with mental health disorders or a simple belief that no one can help them. OCD Action, the national charity for people affected by OCD, sees this as 12 years of pointless misery and isolation brought about by a disorder that can be successfully managed.
OCD does not just affect the individual with the disorder but draws in their friends and families, colleagues and employers. OCD rituals can take a huge toll on family life and drive a wedge between parents and children, husbands and wives who often feel unable to comprehend the pain a loved one is experiencing, let alone how best to support them.