Suffering from OCD? Here's how you can beat your obsessive-compulsive disorder

Suffering from OCD? Here's how you can beat your obsessive-compulsive disorder

Lily Bailey fights and manages her disease and offers tips on how to beat it and achieve your dreams in the long run.

The Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or better known as OCD, is ranked by the World Health Organisation as one of the top ten most disabling illnesses. While many of us go without treating it and without even knowing of its existence, it is most important to diagnose it in its early stages so we can prevent it from worsening. 

Since it is considered to be more of a mental disorder, there is no hard and fast physical treatment that can help alleviate it's symptoms. As reported by the Daily Mail, Lily Bailey, an OCD patient teaches us how to beat the disease and it's most unexpected symptoms through personal experience.


 

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For Lily, it all started when she was five and sitting in her class at infants school when traumatizing thoughts began to attack her. She says, "My teacher was handing out letters for everyone to take home and I thought it would be full of all the dreadful things I’d done."

"I didn’t want my parents to see it, so I sneaked the letter home and put it in the bin. Several days later, I went into school and everyone but me was in fancy dress. The teacher said: "Didn’t you get the letter?” I’d convinced myself the letter had listed all the things I’d done wrong at school, which was all in my head."

Now 24 as a model and author from Wimbledon, South-West London, Lily is diagnosed and well aware of her condition. However, she was held victim to the disease for years for she wasn't diagnosed until she was 15. She grew up compulsively tucking her hair behind her ears, checking plugs and taps and apologizing for things she shouldn't. 

"I was constantly sure that something bad was going to happen," she recalls. 

Some of the symptoms include recurring and obsessive thoughts and actions - like the urge to wash their hands repeatedly or clean their surrounding area. Some other sufferers though - do not display any observable traits of the illness - and instead just experience concurring thoughts that loop in their heads leading to eventual anxiety or depression.


 

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Graham Price, a psychologist based in London, says, "Key to a diagnosis of OCD is having intrusive or obsessional thoughts which are unproductive or debilitating for more than one hour a day." OCD they believe may be caused by an imbalance of serotonin- a chemical in the brain.

"It’s generally accepted that we can inherit a greater susceptibility to developing certain mind-based issues,’ Graham continues, "but this doesn’t mean we will develop any of those issues. They still need a trigger or cause. With OCD, the trigger can be something quite minor."

Once diagnosed, Lily started undergoing weekly cognitive behaviour therapy sessions (CBT) - a talking therapy for around 4 years. In regards to the cause of her illness, Lily says, "In my family, two aunts, two cousins and my father, sister and grandfather all had significant traits —although we’d not named it OCD before I was diagnosed."


She further tries to unravel the mysterious cause of her illness and says, "my parents had a pretty bad relationship. They divorced when I was 13. But many children grow up in that kind of environment and never develop OCD so it can’t be the only factor." 

She recalls her symptoms as a child and says, "I might tuck my hair behind my ears a few times to comfort myself. If my mum and dad were arguing in the car, I tapped my feet a certain number of times so I would feel calmer."

"At home, I would worry that my little sister, five years younger than me, would die in her sleep. I would keep getting up and checking that her heart was beating and count her heartbeat in sets of three. I’d say the phrase, “best sister ever” over and over again in my head because I thought if I did she’d be protected. It was exhausting."

However, since no one pays much attention to a child's thoughts since wavering and off behaviour is often considered and part and parcel of life, her symptoms were also ignored. When she went to a boarding school in Kent, her symptoms became "more internalised." 

She says, "I was sharing a dorm with a group of girls so I stopped the physical compulsions because people stared,’ she says. Instead what took over was what she calls ‘a relentless stream of mind babble. The intrusive thoughts just hit you out of nowhere and they can be explicit or obscene. I might be walking down the street and pass someone who I don’t know but I’ll suddenly think: “I want you to die!""

It was here at boarding school when she was first diagnosed with OCD. She was relieved. She says, "I just wanted it to stop, I wanted my head to be quiet. I got myself sent home from school and I stayed in bed for a week."

"When I returned to school I was sent to the school GP, who was pretty sure I had OCD and referred me to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed it straight away."

In regards to what worked best when it comes to healing Dr Lynne Drummond, a consultant psychiatrist at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, says "graded exposure and self-imposed response prevention — facing up to the things you fear without performing the compulsions" was most evidently the best procedure that showed a marked improvement in Lily.

"So if a patient has a germ contamination fear, we’d work together on a series of small steps, the first of which might be touching a public handrail, then touching other parts of their body with it."

Dr Drummond, says, "Over time, exposing yourself to the thoughts you fear so much makes them much less scary. We know that around 60 percent of people with OCD will improve with a specific antidepressant drug called serotonin reuptake inhibitors."

"If this does not work, another type can be tried. And if that still does not help, then it is worth adding a dopamine blocker — the term I prefer because “antipsychotic” is not a fair description of the doses we use in OCD. Around 30 percent of people who try this will improve."

Lilly's illness began to take a turn for the better within weeks of starting the medication. "Although the side-effects of the antipsychotics made me very foggy-headed" she says. However, she hit her lowest when she was 19 and at university in Ireland. 

She attempted suicide. "I was away from home, drinking a lot and went through a really dark patch. I went into a secure hospital in Ireland for a few days and returned to the UK and was an inpatient in two psychiatric hospitals for a month. It was a really bad time."



 



Alls well that ends well, and Lily bounced back and began a career in modelling in her early 20s. She recalls saying, "In the past I’d struggled with letting anyone come near me or touch me. Modelling involves having people constantly dressing you and touching up your makeup, so it was often mentally hard, but also exactly the kind of thing that keeps you well."

She has since written a book titled Because We Are Bad, about her journey in recovery as an OCD patient. She says, " I used to be quite academic but I feel my brain is not the same after taking all these drugs and that really upsets me. I may never completely recover, but I am happy that I now know how to manage it day by day."


 

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We recommend the book for anyone who perceives similar symptoms of OCD so that they can tackle the issue at an early age and learn how to fight back over time. It is important we spread awareness of OCD around us so that we do not take those suffering from it lightly. 

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