16/02/2012 05:44 GMT | Updated 15/04/2012 06:12 BST

Let's Talk OCD: How Do They Treat It?

In most people's minds, depression - and perhaps anxiety - takes up most of the 'mental health pie', but there are of course other illnesses under this umbrella.

I'm not just a depression writer; I'm a mental health writer and I think it's time we tackled a wider variety of subjects on this blog.

Bi-polar, schizophrenia, self-harm and personality disorders will all be dealt with at some point - what I need you to do is come forward and talk to me about it. I'm openly looking for people to be interviewed to be featured in one of these blog posts; my email is at the bottom.

Today I want to talk about OCD. It's often overlooked as a mental health disorder and considered by many as a "little tick" or just something people do.

However, OCD really can affect lives and it becomes a serious problem when it stops the sufferer from doing what they would usually would.

Mind find it easier to explain the condition by breaking it into two sections; obsessive and compulsive: "Obsessions are unwelcome thoughts, ideas or urges that repeatedly appear in your mind; for example, thinking that you have been contaminated by dirt and germs, or worrying that you haven't turned off the oven."

"Compulsions are repetitive activities that you feel you have to do. This could be something like repeatedly checking a door to make sure it is locked or washing your hands a set number of times."

Having sat in on a number of CBT sessions for OCD after being wrongly-diagnosed with a strange form of the illness - religiously over-thinking, later diagnosed as a form of social anxiety - I began to see what was happening to these people's lives.

I spent an entire day each week with three other people who were all consistently obsessed with washing their hands, I was forced to start confiscating dry hand gel and rubber gloves - yes, rubber gloves.

These three women were so obsessed with their cleanliness that they couldn't function properly without washing their hands, face, body, arms - anything.

This doesn't sound like a great problem initially, we could all be a little cleaner - what would be the harm? One girl's hands were red raw, it caused her pain to touch anyone, to drive, anything.

One woman refused to touch any wall outside a toilet, the outside door or anything at all that wasn't a certain distance from the lavs - she sprayed her shoes with anti-bacterial cleanser after exiting.

These are extreme cases, and I consider them to be reasonably rare, but how do you help this? How do you cure OCD?

The technique that the CBT therapists used was to go the extra mile, to do something beyond normal.

She explained that if seven out of 10 were normal on a completely fictional cleanliness-scale and people with OCD were acting at a level of 11 then you had to do something which you considered a two or a three.

Within hours, grown women were crying as they swirled their fingers around toilet bowls, went to the toilet without washing their hands and ate biscuits and refrained from using hand gel all day.

While this option is probably the least attractive option for any sufferer, it produces results, all three of the women are considerably better than they were and living decent lives. They are no longer halted by an obsession.

It can be hard to motivate yourself to do something you really aren't comfortable with, especially in cases like this where you are faced with the ultimate discomfort. But if you're serious about giving up your obsessive behaviour - and if it's having a direct impact on your life - then seriously consider it.

I've spoken mostly about cleanliness and OCD, but we can't forget that there are all sorts of different obsessions that sufferers have. Flicking light switches, saying certain things at certain points, doing things a number of times.

You can contact me by emailing me at if you want someone to talk to or if you want to feature in one of my posts, please get in touch.