OCD Awareness Week

Here at St Louis we’re always keen to raise awareness of mental health – just a few days ago the Year 10 boys attended a workshop for World Mental Health Day, and if you scroll back through the blog you’ll find more great articles by our blogging team on mental health. Today we’re looking at raising awareness about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

More and more people are starting to realise the impact our mental health can have on our lives, but it’s not all depression and anxiety. This week is OCD Awareness Week, a global campaign to raise awareness and understanding of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It was launched in 2009 by the International OCD Foundation and aims to educate people in the hopes of removing the stigma that can be caused by misunderstanding.

It’s estimated that between 1-2% of people have OCD, yet many people still hold the belief that OCD is just a ‘quirky’ personality trait: the co-worker who likes to keep their workspace tidy and hates the thought of mess, or the pupil who’s ‘a bit OCD’ because they keep their notes in a neatly organised folder. As Christmas approaches we all see the Facebook posts of hundreds of people all professing to have OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder, and we’re all familiar with the countless meme pages that claim will drive your OCD mad, all because they post pictures of uneven tiling or crooked paintings. Of course, none of these truly depict OCD, but year after year this false image prevails.

So what is it really?

OCD is an anxiety disorder that consists of obsessions – repetitive unwanted and unpleasant thoughts, images or urges that cause feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease – and compulsions – a repetitive behaviour or mental act carried out to try and relieve these feelings. Fears of uncleanliness and contamination are often seen as the hallmark of OCD, but while these are common obsessions, they are far from the only symptoms. Some other common compulsions include checking things, such as light switches or locks; avoiding certain things such as cracks on the pavement to abate anxieties similar to superstitions; and hoarding things just in case they might be useful later.

Living with OCD can be a constant battle, but we can all do our part to help. If you know someone with OCD, one of the best ways to help is just to be understanding – often one of the biggest issues is negative attitudes towards a condition they can’t control. It’s time to do our bit to combat the stigma; be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

For more information on OCD, you can check out the NHS website, the charity OCD Action or the charity Mind.