When you hear people talk about OCD you often come across the usual comments. It is someone who washes their hands 50 times a day or someone who checks the lock multiple times before leaving the house. These compulsions can of course be common amongst OCD sufferers, but what about if you suffered from a different type of OCD, a type that is fuelled by intrusive thoughts and mental compulsions? A secret OCD that is never really spoken of as the thoughts behind it are so taboo.
This is Pure O. A type of OCD where sufferers like myself experience horrible unwanted thoughts, often about the things we fear the most. Common intrusive thoughts often include, fear of harming someone violently, harming your own child, being attracted to a family member or even fear of being a paedophile. Now imagine these thoughts do not disappear, they stay with you in a constant loop, a never-ending cycle of anxiety and dread. We know that these thoughts go against our morals and beliefs, we do not want to think these awful things but our brain is stuck, they just keep coming.
The problem with Pure O is that it is just not understood. Try to find any research on this type of OCD and I guarantee you will struggle to find many studies. Why? Because it is a secret illness for most of us who suffer. We worry about being judged and stigmatised for having these thoughts in the first place and gaining help is just another milestone we must get over. Because of the stereotypes usually attached to OCD, we are repeatedly put into a very narrow category which isolates us even further from help.
The people who do seek treatment for their Pure O often report being misconceived by their doctors. I know myself that I was judged for having these thoughts and that my illness just was not recognised. It took me exactly 14 years from my first ever intrusive thought to come across a doctor who understood what Pure O was. I am so thankful for this but was it just pure luck? Was it fair that I was made to suffer for 14 years? How many people are out there suffering right now because they are unable to receive the help they desperately need.
Go onto any OCD forum and you will see hundreds if not thousands of people desperately seeking advice and help for their Pure O. More likely than not the internet is their only source of help and support. They are afraid to confide in family members and doctors for concern of being misunderstood. I will always remember coming across a desperate post from a woman who had her child taken away from her after experiencing intrusive thoughts about harming her. She showed all the signs of OCD yet was reported to Social Services by her own therapist.
Once diagnosed, OCD is actually a very treatable illness. There is no cure, however, it can be managed with effective therapies and medications. So why is this mental illness still being stigmatised in 2017? I believe it is the lack of understanding and education around mental health in general that is causing this crisis.
The media often sugar-coat or exaggerate mental illness so it becomes more appealing to the reader or viewer, which in turn does not help the situation. Lack of understanding from doctors often means people do not get the correct help and even if they do, access to mental health services, especially referrals to mental health teams, can be extremely difficult to obtain.
I hope that by bringing awareness to this debilitating illness, the stigma around it can be reduced enabling people to get the help they need.
You can obtain more information about OCD via www.ocdaction.org.uk
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