For my friends, family and Kiwi girlfriend.
I have ‘Pure O’ OCD where the compulsions are more in your head and ‘mental’ as opposed to someone with contamination OCD where they will do ‘physical’ compulsions such as washing their hands and trying to control not getting contaminated from AIDS or Ebola. But to be honest as I have had OCD since I was a child (4-5 apparently.) I have gone through all the different types including (not in order): fears of black specks, contamination, washing hands, ‘Pure O’, fear of the numbers 13 and 666 (with plenty of horror movie references,) sexual and religious OCD. All the compulsions do, are re-enforce the OCD and that is where Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps.
With regards to the sexual OCD, it has gone through the’ OCD mill’ where the first worries with sexuality was when I was at boarding school and like most boys at the age of 13, there were many jokes about being gay. I recall one boy saying that “1 in 10 people are gay” so of course we all looked around to try and work out which one of us would end up gay if we weren’t already. I would look at Calvin Klein boxer adverts and worry that I was attracted to images of men with six packs. As I realised that being gay wasn’t an issue, it then went onto darker sides of the sexuality spectrum. It went onto bestiality at the age of 14-15 where I worried I might be attracted to animals. I had a weird dream at one point, which involved a sex act with a dog. This completely freaked me out where I then felt sick and actually cried. Looking back, it was disturbing but also amusing in how ridiculous it was. The bestiality fear tapped into my love of animals, where I have always been a massive fan of dogs and cats (not in a sexual way!)
Eventually I moved on from bestiality and then went onto paedophilia where unfortunately it has stayed since. This is because it is the biggest sexual taboo in my eyes. I am now in my 30s but when finishing school and going to University this is when it really started to affect me. I questioned whether I was a paedophile and I had to know whether I was. I worried what if I have children and how would I care for them. I worried about how does a parent change a nappy as the fear of molestation overwhelmed me. This led to me worrying about how I wiped myself after going to the toilet and again shows how ridiculous OCD is. I doubt paedophiles worry about changing nappies. I told myself that I would rather kill myself then be a paedophile. I saw a Freudian psychiatrist but this had absolutely no help to combat the OCD and in fact makes you question it more rather than treat the OCD with CBT, which can beat it. My view on Freudian psychiatry is the guy was a dick and the theories that come from that side of psychiatry is complete bull. The book ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Stop’ has some amusing references to Freud – Check out Rat Man. I developed depression at University (as a side effect of the OCD) where I wasn’t taking care of myself. The move from boarding school to University and the subsequent drinking and recreational drug taking led to me getting really sick. I can’t emphasise how dangerous weed is for OCD and advise anyone with it to stay clear of weed/skunk. I remember from smoking skunk, I suddenly decided to think more about my obsessions which made me sicker. I developed shingles by my eye from my body being so worn out. I dropped out of that University and started a course of Clomipramine (Anafranil). Eventually it worked and I was able to live a sort of life: graduating from a better University with a 2:1 and then working at various large companies. However, the issues were still there and the medication did very little to help with the OCD and in fact caused horrendous side effects that then exasperated my mental health. Such as sweating constantly (a common side effect from Clomipramine), which would drive me crazy as well as being uncomfortable. This led to a sort of roller coaster ride throughout my 20s with many ups and downs. I tried to go cold turkey on my meds before starting anew job in the city. I then quit that job without explaining the reason as I knew that my colleagues wouldn’t be sympathetic or understand and I hit rock bottom in 2009.
My parents signed me up to an OCD ‘boot camp’ when I was suffering with insomnia and completely wrapped up in my Pure O. Although the boot camp involved CBT, which is the best non-medicinal way to fight the OCD. The therapist was a bully and unfortunately I got on the wrong side of her. This led to me being alienated from the group. An example, was when I was walking around a Catholic Church in South Kensington with the rest of the group. I was told by the therapist to say something like “I hate God and want to go to Hell” in front of a statue of Jesus being crucified. I declined to do that saying I didn’t hate God. This led to me being marched out of the Church with the group and told to go home if I wasn’t going to do this exposure. I eventually complied with the therapist and went back in with the therapist’s ‘minion’ and along with her said various silly things to offend God and Jesus in front of the crucifix. The anxiety of going to Hell was heightened by various horror movies I have seen and also the fact that there was a Christening happening in the room next to us. I was then convinced that I was going to Hell and questioned the point of life, as I might be going to Hell for eternity. I was angry, frustrated and for a while this fear took prominence in my mind, even over taking the sexual OCD. Long story cut short I eventually moved on from this and CBT did help me. But with a more compassionate therapist that I was put in touch with via The Priory in 2014. Below you will hear about the life changing benefit of changing medications to Sertraline (Zoloft.) I am grateful to my girlfriend who basically encouraged me to follow a leading Priory OCD psychiatrist’s advice and change medications to Sertraline as well as starting CBT. With CBT it is crucial that you find a therapist that is compassionate. One that you build rapport up so that you can work together. It is bloody scary but it can help you fight the OCD.
With regards to medication: I was on Clomipramine from my early 20s for about 10 years. This is an old tricyclic anti-depressant, which believe it or not, was created to try and help premature ejaculation! The side effects on Clomipramine are horrendous. Throughout that time, I had relapses every few years and got really sick when I tried to come off the meds twice. In 2014, encouraged by my girlfriend, I went to the ‘Priory’ to speak to a leading OCD psychiatrist and author: Dr David Veale. He recommended coming off Clomipramine (Anafranil) and going on a newer SSRI: Sertraline (Zoloft.) I did this transition and went through mental ‘Hell’ where I had severe anxiety and insomnia for 12 weeks. Finally, the Sertraline started to help. Since then my OCD has been under control and I haven’t relapsed or had to take a sick day at work because of my OCD. It is still there but completely manageable and I am more positive about life and grateful I got through it.
With regards to OCD, it is important to label it as OCD and realise that. Try and not get wrapped up in the analytical thinking if you have Pure O. As soon as you go down one ‘rabbit hole,’ you are likely to then find a never ending ‘conveyor belt’ of anxiety. I found that my mind could only focus on one worry at a time. If you start to get wrapped up in the worries, it will lead to confusion and exhaustion as your mind is overwhelmed. You need to learn to live with doubt which is at the root of OCD. For instance, with my religious OCD and the fear of going to Hell. This was clever because no one knows what happens when you die and where we go, if there is a Heaven or Hell. So this was perfect with respect to the doubt angle as there was never any way of being certain. Doing compulsions to try and avoid going to Hell will just end up with your OCD getting stronger. I have found that dealing with the doubt and not doing mental compulsions is the best way to deal with it. Speaking to a good compassionate CBT therapist can help you develop tools to fight the OCD as well as exposure and response prevention.
An example of exposure with contamination OCD, is to use the toilet without washing your hands, where the exposure is going to the toilet and the response prevention is not washing your hands. One can ‘up the ante’ by deliberately touching something ‘contaminated’ and then not washing their hands. In my opinion CBT is easier to treat physical compulsions such as hand washing it can absolutely help to fight ‘Pure O.’ I also found that support groups for OCD are useful. But I feel I am lucky that I have found a medication that really helps me and although I wish I didn’t have to take medication, I feel the benefits really outweigh the negatives. Also the side effects are minimal with Sertraline and I am on the maximum daily dosage. It is clear OCD targets the things that are most important to you and I now see why with sexuality OCD paedophilia is so prominent in this day and age. As in the current time period it is shocking and constantly in the news with Jimmy Saville etc… In the 1980’s it wouldn’t surprise me if AIDS was the biggest OCD symptom as it was making normal society highly anxious.
I am better but OCD still lurks in the shadows and can still trick me and confuse me. But I am better at ignoring the urge to go down the rabbit hole and this is the best way to deal with it. Good luck everybody.