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Wellness > Mental Health

It’s OCD Awareness Week and I Have OCD… Let’s Talk About It 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.

OCD Awareness Week always takes place on the second week of October every year. I was told I had OCD around 2 years ago now. I have always suffered from anxiety and depression and I had always thought it was that I never even considered OCD until someone mentioned it to me. From then on I did research, received some therapy and had to come to terms with this mental illness I knew almost nothing about.

I was able to hide my OCD for years. Since I was 8 or 9 I began becoming overly paranoid and afraid of germs and contamination but I tried to hide this. Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic began and I was allowed to perform my cleaning ‘rituals’ in the open without fears of judgement but of course, when everyone else had moved on and disregarded these practices my compulsions had only grown stronger. My diagnosis made a lot of sense to me as I have always had obsessions with numbers, odd ones and the number 3 specifically, and performing acts that many times. I had always been irrationally afraid of fires breaking out and I had a lot of strange intrusive thoughts I would pay too much attention to so in some ways hearing I had OCD was a relief because I wasn’t crazy I just had a nasty mental disorder.

Until recently, I have been ashamed and embarrassed by this illness as people throw terms like ‘I’m a bit OCD’ or ‘that’s a bit OCD’ around without truly understanding. OCD means that you constantly have intrusive thoughts or obsessions which often consist of things which cause fear or are deemed as harmful to you, loved ones, or strangers and a lot of these fears are irrational. The compulsions are what are seen to prevent these fears from coming true. I like to see these obsessions as monsters, they begin small and if you feed them what they want they grow bigger and stronger. Therefore, each time you carry out a compulsion the bigger the fear gets and ultimately the way to get rid of the monster is to neglect it and ignore it but this is very difficult for people with OCD as these obsessions can be very terrifying to ignore as many believe that by not carrying out these compulsions will cause harm to themselves and others.

Life with OCD is f-cking hard! These obsessions and compulsions become all-consuming and stop you from doing anything. The fear of the thoughts coming true makes doing mundane acts such as going shopping or having coffee with friends impossible. There are many times I have avoided social activities because of fears of catching an illness and becoming unwell, one of my biggest triggers, but for different people their triggers may be completely different. As I said, the more you feed this monster the stronger it becomes so at some points the voice of the monster becomes louder than the voice of your reason. Sometimes it is difficult to realise that the voice inside you is not your own and it is the disease.

I have had some treatment from a therapist and although I am better than I was I am not better. I still wash my hands three times when I come through the door, wipe everything down that I took out with me, shower, wash my hair and change my clothes before getting into bed. I carry hand sanitiser with me everywhere and obsess about what I might have picked up. I refuse to touch anything someone else will have such as door handles and the stop button on buses. My OCD affects my life more than most people would realise. Everything takes me a bit longer than most because of my fears. I hope that anyone reading this who has OCD realises that they are not alone and that many of us fight the same battle every day.

I wanted to write this article because I am passionate about educating people on this illness many of us have little knowledge of. It is a debilitating and quite terrifying mental illness. I guess another way to think about OCD is to consider the different intrusive thoughts you may have and times them by ten and having to carry out certain repetitive acts or rituals to cancel them out instead of just shutting them down or ignoring them. I hope this information is interesting and useful to many of you and perhaps if you hear someone using OCD as a throwaway word or as an adjective you will stop them or explain what the terms really entails.

For anyone suffering I urge you to seek help and for anyone interested in more information I will leave links below for both.

OCD UK

Exeter University Wellbeing Services

Talkworks – for people based in Exeter

Mind.org – useful contacts for those with OCD

OCD Action Helpline

NHS OCD Webpage

NHS – Finding Talking Therapies Service

BA Politics and Study Abroad student at the University of Exeter. I have a passion for journalism and wild swimming!