#OCDweek – Bonus Guest Post – Relationship Obsessions

15 10 2016

This is a guest post from Wobble, a special friend I met through OCD-UK. Wobble mainly experienced relationship obsessions, something I’ve never written about on the blog. Here she shares her story.

« Every day I feel incredible guilt over everything I think about you.  I feel guilty because I don’t think you’re the most handsome man I have ever seen, over the fact that I look at some pictures of you and think ‘ugh’.  You don’t excite me like I thought someone I loved would do.  I don’t yearn to be in your company.  Quite often I am not pleased to see you and wish you would go away.  I spend loads of time looking at you when you are here, trying to see if I get any pang of wanting, of passion.  When I don’t I feel even worse and start having panic attacks ».

« I am lost for words, don’t know what to say to explain how I feel.  But I can’t get over this guilty feeling inside.  It’s tearing me up.  I think if I ended this relationship that maybe just maybe I would have a tremendous feeling of relief – if nothing else, I know that it would mean you could get on with your life, even though I realise it would hurt you a lot initially.  I try to be honest with you as much as possible, but the hurt in your eyes when I say some of things I feel, just tears me up.  But I can’t keep these things inside me because they tear me up.  Is this really what you want?  For me to criticize you if you don’t look attractive to me one day?  For me to tell you you look horrible?  What kind of person would I be to carry on letting you let me do this to you???  A selfish one, that is for sure and I think I need to leave because of this ».

Wow, the above are extracts of unsent letters I wrote to my partner while in the throws of relationship-OCD.  There were many! This is the first time I have opened them in many years, and I have to say I wasn’t expecting them to give me such an emotional response and I’m now sitting here trying not to cry.  But at the same time I guess they make me realise how far I have come.

I have always been a big ‘romantic’ and easily infatuated.  There were many pop stars, and ‘real’ people, that I cried over as a young girl – I guess it many ways that is quite normal, but looking back I do think some of these obsessions were a little over the top.  As a teenager I used to get major crushes, spend time daydreaming about boys, and imagine a rosy romantic life with them…you know, just like in hollywood films, coz’ that’s what love is, right ? I loved the thrill of the chase, but the moment one of my crushes showed an interest in me, all those ‘ideals’ I had about romance were shattered.  Those lovely gushing feelings I had just kind of dissipated and I would feel anxious….so I figured it couldn’t really be love and I would end the relationship.

This pattern continued in my university years.  I met a guy who was lovely, and he thought I was lovely.  But as soon as we became an ‘item’ the anxiety started and I ended up finishing the relationship.  The same happened a few years later – met a lovely guy, he loved me, I was pretty infatuated with him.  The moment we started ‘going out’ my brain would start picking apart his physical features – he was too skinny, too ginger, too nice etc. – and I spent the six months of our relationship an anxious mess until the relationship was ended by him, and then I was devastated.

My early twenties after Uni were pretty uneventful.  I started working and had a lot of fun.  Moved out of home and finally found some independence.  Didn’t have any relationships and I was very happy and not anxious !  Then I met Dave at work – he did nothing for me when I first saw him – there was no bolt of lightening, my knees didn’t go wobbly, I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach.  He was just an ordinary guy and pretty goofy looking quite frankly.  But he was nice, caring, polite and intelligent.  For months we didn’t actually know each other, but then through work projects our paths crossed more and more.  We shared a similar sense of humour and I enjoyed talking to him and spending time with him, in a way I hadn’t before with other guys.  But at the same time I felt quite anxious by the attention – I mean he wasn’t the dream man hollywood films said I might meet !  And that to me felt wrong.  But I carried on and we ‘pursued’ each other for a while.  Fast forward a couple of months and we were an item.  The anxiety pretty much started right away – in the beginning it was niggling doubts which I did my best to push away, and most of the time I successfully did so, and I would even go so far as to say I was pretty happy.  He moved in with me….a few years later we bought another house together.  Everything was ok.  I always had ‘doubts’ – most of them centred around his physical appearance, his dress sense, his crooked teeth, the age gap, what other people thought of him,whether other people thought he was good enough for me…the list goes on.  But I carried on regardless and when I wasn’t having these thoughts I was happy.

Then in 2005 we went on holiday.  The last day he proposed to me completely out the blue.  I said ‘yes’….and then ‘Bam !’ something triggered in my head and life would never be the same again.  For a couple of months after everything was great.  A newly engaged lady, showing off the ring, blah blah blah.  We booked the wedding in the South Pacific, and I even bought a dress.  

And then I started going through an extremely challenging time at my work – emotional bullying, for want of a better word, by another colleague.  She made my life hell – she had been doing so for a few years to be honest, but for some reason she ramped up her attacks on me.  Simulatenously, the thoughts in my head started spiralling out of control.  All of a sudden the thought of getting married wasn’t quite as exciting.  Another colleague in another of our offices, who was also due to get married, mentioned that she felt very scared about walking down the aisle.  The girls in my office said that wasn’t a good sign and that obviously she didn’t love him….it was an accident waiting to happen.  At that moment my mind went into complete panic mode because I HAD BEEN HAVING EXACTLY THE SAME THOUGHTS !  Oh my God, that means I didn’t love Dave !  From that point onwards I was a mess.  My body was in a permanent state of anxiety, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep.  I ended up in my GP surgery who diagnosed me with depression and handed me a prescription for some SSRIs.  I wasn’t offered anything else – I was just packed on my way.

But things didn’t get better, they got worse.  I could no longer function and I was signed off sick from work and I never went back.  I just thought I was depressed – weirdly I didn’t associate any of the symptoms (blurry vision, weakness, insomnia, panic, palpitations, sickness, diarrhea) with anxiety, because the doctor had just told me I was depressed.  The SSRIs made me worse, much worse, but my GP still increased my dose.  

The next couple of years, were just awful to be honest.  My life was spent ‘googling’ relationships, the meaning of love, what is ugly, do we have sex enough, do I love him, am I a lesbian…. I could hours a day doing this.  When Dave came home from work I would spend the evening questioning him on our relationship, whether he felt I loved him, whether it was ok to not like how he looked sometimes, did I look ugly to him sometimes (I wanted him to say yes to cancel out the awful thoughts I had about it).  My questioning was endless, and even my poor mum had to endure it on her days ‘caring’ for me.  The more questions I asked, the more came into my head, the more I had to google.  Additionally I spent hours researching other people’s relationships, even celebrities I’m sad to say.  In the real world I would examine the relationships of people I knew – their relationships looked perfect, just how I felt relationships should be.  All of a sudden every other man became attractive to me, adding fuel to the fire – I obviously didn’t love Dave.  Consequently our wedding was cancelled because I felt I couldn’t go through with it.  That day I broke Dave’s heart although he stayed with me.

Eventually I asked my GP if I could have some counselling (note, I wasn’t offered it!) – I was given the standard six sessions with the practice counsellor.  I walked in to my first session, I sat down, there were a few moments silence and then she asked me ‘How’s your sex life?’.  I have no idea why she asked me this, but it wasn’t the best introduction to counselling for me.  The next six sessions were spent with her analysing my childhood – she concluded that my parents hadn’t done a good job (even if they had), that I had been surpressed and that I should have had sex more in my early twenties to experience life more.  She also concluded that I was actually only ‘fond’ of Dave and nothing more.  She even suggested I would be better off without him.  Hmmmm, I thought counsellors were meant to be impartial.  Needless to say my first experience of psychological support was not the best.  

I had some more counselling a year later with someone different.  This was completely the opposite.  The counsellor sat there and said very little…..she just nodded her head occasionally.  Another waste of my time.

So life carried on….I got another job, managed to stick it out for two years despite spending most days on the verge of a breakdown – I was a manager of ten people yet I instead of managing them I spent my time analysing them and their lives, thinking they were better than me.  At one point I even convinced myself I fancied one of them, and spent many an hour crying in the toilets by these terrible thoughts I was having.  I would even confess them to Dave when I got home EVERY night.  I left one day because the thoughts in my head just never left me alone and I was unable to concentrate and do my job.  

Not long after, my incessant googling,which occupied every spare moment I had, led me to a few websites about OCD.  Stuck in a Doorway, OCD Action, OCD-UK.  All of a sudden I found people suffering the same thoughts as me.  This was when my life started to change for the better.   I subsequently got a job at a mental health charity and for the first time ever I found myself with understanding and supportive colleagues/friends.  Unfortunately a spanner was thrown in the works not long after when my mum died suddenly of a heart attack, aged just 63.  I was devastated – my one and only friend in life was suddenly gone.

But my mum’s death made me realise that I hadn’t been living for the previous few years – I had just been existing.  Spurred on by wanting to change this, I sought out a psychologist who specialised in OCD.  I paid for the sessions with the small amount of money my mum had left me.  I felt, if nothing else, she would be happy I was doing something to try and sort myself out.  So I embarked on sessions of CBT and for the first time I saw light at the end of the tunnel.

I also started seeking more and more help through the various OCD forums on the internet.  I chatted to people suffering the same thoughts as me, learned of strategies for overcoming them.  For the first time I didn’t feel alone anymore.  I made two very special friends too; both of them are still there for me to this day and I can’t imagine my life without them.  I honestly believe that this friendship and support enabled me to get where I am today.

Through this combination of CBT and friendship my life slowly started to get better.  I learnt strategies for dealing with the OCD, and started to realise that most of my thoughts were completely irrational, that probably most people in relationships had exactly the same thoughts as me.  The only difference was they just laughed them off, whereas I was trying to solve them, work out their true meaning and trying to neutralise them.

Through a very slow process I did finally ‘get better’.  I am not saying I never have these thoughts any more, but by no means do they control me.  I have started living again, laughing again, and accepting myself for who I am – A little bit nutty, but also extremely caring and compassionate.  My life has changed in so many ways.  Sadly I lost my dad to cancer in 2011, which was another very difficult time for me, but I do feel that his passing has spurred me on even more to make the most of my life.  In January 2013 Dave and I threw caution to the wind (yes, little ‘ole me!!) and moved to France.  I have lived here ever since, and I can honestly say that I finally feel at peace with those turbulent years.  Life still has its ups and downs, I still haven’t plucked up the courage to walk down the aisle, but I am relaxed and happy.  And you can be too -you just need to start believing it.  Am I in love with Dave? Who knows, but I am happy to accept the uncertainty and figure life has a way of working itself out if it needs to!



#OCDweek – My #OCDhero Ashley Fulwood

15 10 2016

Twelve years ago a young IT consultant named Ashley Fulwood decided to create a new OCD charity, run by sufferers and for sufferers… and OCD-UK was born.

Since then Ashley has worked tirelessly to ensure that the charity delivers top quality information, support and advocacy. He often works late into the night, mans the phones for hours at a time and is constantly juggling hundreds of projects and advocacy cases. He works weekdays, weekends, holidays… even Christmas Day. He is a true hero.

There are literally hundreds of people out there who have accessed treatment thanks to Ashley. Thousands of people who have profited from his online discussion boards. Millions of people who have been touched by his awareness campaigns.


He also means a lot to me personally – he has been a wonderful friend over the years. Since we first met in 2009 we have driven each other mad, laughed together (mainly at each other) and he has offered me more support than you could believe. For instance, when I spent last Christmas in hospital, he sent a chocolate advent calender. A small gift and yet something that meant the world to me when I was feeling lost and scared.

There’s a good chance that he’ll kill me for this blog but I know that I am not alone in wanting to thank him for his tireless work.

So here’s to you Ash, and your amazing charity. I don’t know where I would be without you, but I can promise you that it wouldn’t be here.

Obsessively compulsively yours,


#OCDweek – ROCD, POCD, Pure O… What’s in a name?

14 10 2016

A lot of the time at the charity we have people talking about ROCD (relationship OCD) or POCD (paedophile OCD) as if they were different to other types of OCD. The list could be endless – COCD (contamination or checking), SOCD (symmetry OCD)… the acronyms quickly become meaningless and divide the community. The fact is that whatever flavour of OCD you have, it’s still OCD.


I also have a problem with the term Pure O. Pure O isn’t, as its name suggests, purely obsessional. There are always compulsions involved, albeit mental compulsions. Neutralising thoughts, rumination, repeating prayers or good luck phrases… they are all rituals and compulsions. Pure O isn’t a subtype of OCD but a manifestation of the same illness.

There are also physical compulsions that we don’t see – whether it’s asking for reassurance (I am the master after all) or someone with paedophile thoughts checking to see if they are aroused amongst children.

The fact is that when it comes down to it, you have OCD. The type doesn’t matter – the treatment is the same. By trying to find a therapist specialised in your own particular type isn’t helpful and hinders access to therapy. A good therapist (and there are some out there) will be able to treat you whether your fears are harm OCD, contamination or homosexuality OCD (another acronym we see, HOCD).

So my message would be this (and this blog has been largely inspired by Ashley Fulwood) – until there is scientific evidence for doing so, let’s stop separating out OCD based upon our symptom type and remember that together we are stronger. Together we can make steps to beating this illness for once and for all.

Obsessively compulsively yours



#OCDweek – Help! I think I have OCD!

13 10 2016

I am aware that a lot of people who are drawn in by OCD Awareness Week are those who believe that they have OCD but have no idea where to turn to. Today I want to talk about accessing treatment, the best treatments out there and what to expect from your therapist.

1. Help! Where do I start?!

The first generally visiting your GP. I know how terrifying that is, how finally admitting to the daily torture is difficult – otherwise OCD wouldn’t be known as the secret illness. OCD-UK has created a GP Icebreaker which can help to start the conversation. Don’t hesitate to use it – it’s had good results and often GPs are grateful for something to begin with. There’s even a specific one for harm OCD.

The other option is IAPT, a scheme introduced to improve access to psychological therapies. Some of them offer self-referral. To find a list of the IAPT services near you click here.

Your GP might refer you to your local Community Mental Health Team ‘(CMHT) and you might be assigned a community psychiatric nurse and will probably see a psychiatrist.

2. What therapy should I ask for?

The gold standard treatment for OCD is a talking therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), with or without medication. CBT has cognitive aspects, challenging thoughts and beliefs and behavioural tasks, known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP involves creating a hierarchy of difficult situations and trying them out one by one.

You see the thing about anxiety is that it ends up by falling. Learning to face the fear without responding with a ritual or avoidance is key.


3. What about medication?

Sometimes your GP or the psychiatrist will recommend medication, particularly if your OCD is severe. The main medications used for OCD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs such as the famous Prozac (fluoxetine) or Lustral/Zoloft (sertraline). We don’t really know why or how these are effective in OCD but they can make the CBT easier to engage with.

4. Help! My GP won’t refer me!

First things first, don’t panic. GPs work on a time limited basis and it might take two appointments for them to understand the gravity of your OCD and the effect it is having on your life. Ask them again to refer you for CBT and don’t be put off by the waiting lists, it is worth the wait.

If your GP still says no then ask to see a different GP in the practice. If things still aren’t working for you (and it’s always worth waving the NICE Guidelines under their nose) then take a look at the OCD-UK guide to accessing treatment.

5. What should I ask my new therapist?

Remember that you have the right to the best treatment out there. According to the OCD-UK website, the questions you should ask are:

  • Have you treated OCD before?
  • Will we set out a specific CBT treatment plan just for me?
    (rather than the therapist using the same approach for every OCD sufferer)
  • Will goals be set together?
    (rather than therapist setting the goals for you)
  • Do you use a technique called ‘graded exposure’?
  • Do you set practical exercises or ‘homework’ for me and help me understand these exercises?
  • Do you provide cognitive and behavioural treatment, rather than just behavioural treatment?

Don’t be afraid to ask these questions. A good therapist will be more than happy to answer and probably thrilled that you are taking such an active part in your recovery.

Remember, you deserve the best treatment possible and the best chance to kick this OCD into touch.

Obsessively compulsively yours,


#OCDweek – Harm OCD

12 10 2016

When I was first diagnosed with OCD one of my obsessions was that I would stab someone. I would hide the knives, stopped cooking (something I loved) and lived in fear of anything sharp. I was convinced that I was one knife away from being a murderer.

It turns out that harm obsessions are quite frequent in OCD. As the doctor persuaded my terrified mum that I wasn’t a future killer but someone with OCD, he told me that many of his patients have similar worries.


Paul Salkovskis, one of the world’s OCD experts, once said that he would trust any of his patients with his children. He knows that we pose no harm and in fact are much more likely to be overcautious and safety conscious than someone without OCD.

This isn’t a fact that is known by all people. Too many people with violent or sexual obsessions are referred to the police or social services by medical professionals who should know better. These obsessions remain a taboo and yet are the most searched for words on my blog. There are probably hundreds or thousands of people out there who are so afraid they are paedophiles or cold blooded killers that they don’t dare ask for help.

When I was interviewed on a BBC radio station about my OCD, they decided not to include the bit I said about harm OCD. They thought it was too sensitive a topic. If we carry on alowing people to censure OCD so that people believe that it’s only hand washing, checking and ordering, we are doing a disservice to those who suffer from sexual or harmful thoughts.

We have to speak out. I dare you – talk to one person today about harm OCD. I’ll be doing it and if you can too then who knows how many people’s opinions we can change.

Obsessively compulsively yours,


#OCDweek – Not On Our Own

11 10 2016

I like to think of OCD as a constellation, with the sufferer at the centre, their loved ones nearby and their friends, acquaintances, colleagues etc. out towards the edge. OCD affects every single person in the constellation, albeit in different ways.

A lot of the time the people closest to the person with OCD suffer as much as they do. They often get drawn into rituals or just get broken by watching the person they love leading a life dictated by fear and anxiety. Think of the mother whose child can’t hug her because he fears he might contaminate and kill her. Think of the husband whose wife spends so long checking the gas at night that they no longer have time to talk like a normal couple. Think of the wife who has to reassure her husband that he isn’t a paedophile while he avoids his own children out of fear that he might be. Think of the brother who has to watch his sister wash her hands until they are raw and bleeding. Now tell me that OCD only affects the sufferer.

Poster VOICE 4

There are things we can do. There is advice for family friends and carers. But they also need a voice. You can visit the excellent OCD Talk or OCD in the Family but we need to find more ways of finding voices for those affected by OCD. Start a blog. Create a support group. Talk to your friends and colleagues and most of all, don’t be ashamed of us. Because if you don’t dare talk out against stigma, how are we supposed to?

I am very proud. I have three brothers who have all, at different times, talked to people who were joking about OCD and put them right about the debilitating effects of the illness. They didn’t tell people off or shout, the best way to spread the message is by engaging with people, not scaring them away.

And if you have OCD, make a point of thanking those that have stuck by you over the years.

Obsessively compulsively yours


#OCDweek – OCD is Treatable

10 10 2016

This is another big one. It took me a while to decide on the wording of the title. Do I use the word curable or treatable?

The fact is that I believe that OCD can be cured. I have met people who had suffered from debilitating OCD who have gone on to make complete recoveries, but that being said, I know a lot more people who are managing their OCD well on a day to day basis without being completely cured. Sometimes searching for a cure means that we don’t appreciate the little steps.


I no longer fulfil the diagnostic criteria for OCD. It has been a while since I’ve spent over an hour a day on my obsessions and compulsions, but they do still flare up from time to time. I have manageable OCD, treatable OCD.

Many people believe that they will always have OCD and maybe they will, but isn’t it worth trying everything you can to get to the point where it doesn’t ruin your life?

Recently OCD-UK have come up with a directory of IAPT (CBT providers) services in the UK – you can have a look at it here.

For me, CBT changed my life. Correction, good CBT changed my life. It is worth fighting for specialist treatment if needed or just asking for an experienced practitioner. I also took medication (and continue to do so for another mental health condition which probably helps). Most of all? It took hard work. A lot of hard work. And yet I would do it all over again, because ripping my life back from the clutches of OCD is probably the most important thing I ever did.

So don’t let people tell you that OCD isn’t treatable, especially medical practitioners. Fight for your right to recovery, because you deserve it.

Obsessively compulsively yours