Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that is estimated to affect over 740,000 people in the UK at any one time.
People with OCD might feel compelled to ritualistically check things. They may also experience persistent thoughts and images that cause distress.
Like any mental illness, it can affect people on varying levels: from making them go back home to check they haven’t left the oven on, to affecting them to the point where they struggle to work.
In a bid to reduce stigma surrounding OCD, people of Reddit have shared the daily rituals that affect their lives the most. Here’s what they had to say...
“I have general anxiety. Leaving the house in the morning takes like 20 minutes. I have to check doors and windows are locked, heat sources (toasters, etc.) are unplugged, and that my pets are where they need to be at least three times over. If my husband leaves with me, he goes through the process to help me feel less anxious.”
“If I touch something in a funny way I have to touch it the same way with the opposite hand/foot/whatever touched it.”
“I had this habit of having to touch everything with both the left and right side of my body until it felt balanced. It was really annoying and if I couldn’t touch something with the same texture and temperature as the other side, I became really anxious.”
“I compulsively count things. It doesn’t disrupt my life, as in it doesn’t affect me to the point where I have to be counting things every waking minute, but it is annoying. Here’s some of the things I do: count how many icons are on my desktop, count the walls in a room, if I’m watching a movie/show with subtitles then I count how many English words are on the screen.”
“Touching/adjusting things until it feels ‘right’. Also, as cliche as it sounds, hand-washing. I wash my hands in sets of threes.”
“I had sudden-onset OCD at the age of eight. I went from zero rituals one week to dozens the next. The worst few days of it, before I got on medication, I would record every breath and blink I would have. I had a small notebook and I would write the time down to the second and then would hold my breath as long as possible and sit with my eyes closed.”
“Intrusive thoughts of harm to friends/family/strangers. Intrusive religious thoughts.”
“Having to go back to my house after I’ve already walked a block to check the stove again.”
“I have this thing where I can’t get into my own bed until I’m 100% clean. So basically every single night I have to clean the stuff I carry such as my phone, charger, and headphones before I can use them in bed. Along with a 20 minute shower that involves cleaning everything with soap including my back which I can only reach with a brush.”
“Repeating things in my head. Quite often when I see numbers I have to repeat them over and over in my head until I feel satisfied.”
“I have had pretty bad diagnosed OCD since I was three years old. I have had many bad rituals and intrusive thoughts throughout my entire life obviously, but the worst ritual is the dermatillomania (compulsive skin picking)...I just pick and peel and scratch my entire body every day before I shower or do my makeup, sometimes for up to three hours long per one session.
“It’s mostly due to my compulsive need to have flawless skin and my disgust of acne and blemishes, so I just peel the ‘bad’ skin away. I know it’s not good for me, and it’s causing scarring and bleeding from all of the raw skin, but I just can’t stop. It always makes me late for every event, even school or work...It ruins my day sometimes. Even my therapist is struggling to help me with it.”
“I get these episodes where I’ll be on my way to work but it’s telling me that I made some stupid mistake that’s going to result in people dying. Like... I left my hairdryer on and my building’s going to burn down because of that, or I left the stove on and my building’s going to blow up because of that, or my coffee cup fell onto the train tracks instead of into the trash and it’ll catch fire and cause a train to derail, or something like that. I know it’s crap but that doesn’t make the anxiety any easier to deal with.”
“My worst OCD symptoms attacked my relationship. I constantly obsessed about whether I should break up with my partner. In terms of rituals I’d have to write pages and pages of notes reminding me why I should stay with her. I’d have to keep talking to my friends and her for reassurance about it (which always prolongs OCD). I checked her Facebook and Whatsapp status over and over and had to keep checking if she’d texted me. I couldn’t leave my phone behind to make a sandwich without intense anxiety, because I absolutely needed to know if she was online or ignoring me or something, which would start off the other rituals again.”
“Checking. Or making sure that it ‘feels’ right. Otherwise, you start over. Since I started being properly medicated/been in therapy it’s been a complete 180. I used to spend at least three hours a day on rituals, checking, re-doing. Now it’s probably closer to about 10 minutes a day. I’d attribute the change ultimately to properly addressing my anxiety issues.”
Useful websites and helplines:
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393 Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.) Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org