A clinic in Sussex is helping people who suffer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) to regain control over their lives.
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s OCD Clinic offers support to people whose symptoms range from mild to very severe.
Since its opening at Mill View Hospital in Hove in 2014, more than 1,000 people have been helped by the service, which is dedicated to researching and improving treatment options for OCD sufferers.
The NHS trust said over half a million people in the UK are struggling with OCD and it’s estimated there are up to 60,000 people living with the condition in Sussex.
It added that on average it can take 10 to 12 years for OCD sufferers to ask for help to alleviate their symptoms, and that 85 per cent of sufferers develop symptoms before the age of 25.
It is estimated that one in 50 people will experience OCD in their lifetime.
Sufferers can experience obsessions (recurring thoughts or images that cause distress), compulsions or both.
Luke Groom, research assistant at the OCD Clinic, said: "There are many people receiving treatment in the OCD clinic with a number of different obsessions and behaviours. These include obsessive thoughts of harm coming to them such as getting ill and/or thoughts of them harming or harm coming to their loved ones. The extreme distress from experiencing these thoughts leads people to engage in behaviours such as cleaning, which is often what people associate with someone experiencing OCD.
“However, there are often other compulsive behaviours such as organising items, perfecting their physical appearance and even standing next to a baby’s cot or bed to ensure that no harm comes to them.”
Emily, who has recently received treatment at the clinic, said: “I think a lot of people think OCD is just 'being neat' or 'washing your hands all the time'. Those are common things that people with OCD do, but the vital difference is that we do our rituals and behaviours because we think that if we don't, bad things will happen. Everyone has irrational thoughts, but people with OCD dwell on these irrational thoughts, and start to believe that they have to do everything they possibly can to prevent them from happening.
“I was diagnosed with OCD when I was about 16. I became very stressed whilst doing my GCSEs and this manifested itself into behaviours and rituals. I would repeat a wide range of things a number of times if the first time didn't 'feel right'. I had - and still tend to have - aversions to certain numbers, particularly 6, 13, and 18. These behaviours became such a problem that I found it impossible to continue my studies into Year 12, and had to put a temporary stop to my education.
“My illness affected not only me, but my parents as well. They had to almost supervise me like a child, for example, making sure I went straight to bed instead of doing rituals that could take up to half an hour.
“After a few years of unsuccessful treatments and trying to just live with the symptoms, I went to see my doctor again and was referred to Health In Mind which runs the OCD clinic in partnership with Brighton and Hove Wellbeing Service and Assessment and Treatment Service. After initial consultation I was put on the group therapy course.
“The group therapy has made a massive difference to my life. Before I started I wasn't independent, I didn't like staying in the house on my own overnight, I couldn't study, and I didn't have any way to manage my behaviours or rituals. When I started the therapy course I found everyone suffered or experienced OCD in different ways. The coping mechanisms that are taught can help you no matter what form your OCD takes.
“Now I have learnt how to manage my OCD, my life is so much more positive. I had always tried to keep a positive outlook on my OCD, almost making it comedic, but now I really can do things I couldn't do before. I am about to start a new job, and I am also about to start studying with the Open University, which I wouldn't have been confident enough to do less than a year ago.
“OCD is still, and most likely will always be, a part of my life. I still have to actively work at managing it, but now I know how to take the control back, it now does not affect my life as much as it did.”
Brighton and Hove residents experiencing OCD difficulties should speak to their GP about a referral to the OCD Clinic, or self-refer by calling 0300 002 0060.
East Sussex residents should call 03000 030 130.
To find out more about the OCD Clinic, visit: www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk/service-ocd-clinic