OCD affects every area of my life
Richard Taylor says he can identify obsessive compulsive disorder from his earliest memories, although it wasn’t diagnosed until he was a teen.
“I liked to take labels off CDs and books,” says Richard, aged 25, from south-east London. “I’d have tantrums if the label didn’t come off perfectly. I remember one green book where the label didn’t come off cleanly and tore away the green paper, so there was a bit of white showing. I had to find a green crayon and colour it in before I could settle to do anything else."
“There’s a stereotypical social perception of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), which I don’t fit,” he adds, explaining that people tend to believe OCD means excessively handwashing or being very tidy, rather than understanding how hugely controlling and debilitating it is."
“I was a happy, well-loved child. By the time I was 15 I was very studious and always at school on time with my homework done. However, my OCD is driven by fear of contamination and really kicked in at that point. I couldn’t touch walls or doors, and I didn’t like things coming into my home from school and possibly bringing contamination.”
Unsurprisingly, his academic performance suffered and his teachers quickly noticed something was wrong. “When a good student changes they take note,” says Richard. “They called in my dad for a chat with my head of year and for the first time I explained everything – my fear of contamination, how I dealt with it and how it was affecting my life. My dad had no idea what OCD was but he was brilliant and totally supportive, and so was the school."
“I felt completely out of place compared to everyone else until my head of year told me that of the 290 kids in my year 70 had challenges of different kinds."
“I saw my GP, who diagnosed OCD immediately, and the school made a plan with me and my dad. It was just before my GCSEs and every tutor had a private meeting with me to work out the best way to help. I was also given extra time to get to classes. I feel very sad for others in similar situations who don’t get the same support as that has had a big effect on how I’ve come to terms with my condition.”
Richard believes he will always have OCD and has learned to live with it and manage it, thus far without therapy or medication.
“OCD affects every area of my life,” he says. “It’s restrictive and unpredictable, and makes it hard to plan. Holidays are really difficult as I struggle with taking my shoes off at airport security. Cinemas are a problem as I don’t know what contamination might be close to me. Once when a fly came into my girlfriend’s bedroom I had to spend five hours stripping and scrubbing the room.”
Richard is now chair of the youth advisory panel at charity OCD Action and studying to be a journalist. He also writes a blog.
What is OCD?
OCD is a clinically recognised disorder affecting 1-2% of the population
People with OCD experience intensely negative, repetitive and intrusive thoughts, combined with chronic feelings of doubt or danger – obsessions. Fear of contamination or anxiety about safety can be obsessions
To quell thoughts or quieten anxiety they will often repeat an action, again and again – compulsions. Examples are washing hands or repeatedly checking tasks, such as locking up when leaving the house
OCD can be hugely debilitating but treatments such as therapy and medication can help
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