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Sophie on overcoming her OCD

My parents told me they saw signs of ritualistic behaviour in me from the age of four. By nine, I’d been diagnosed with OCD.

Everything seemed to change after I went to a soft play party. Once I got home from that party, I took my coat off, placed it on a chair and refused to touch it again. It was like a switch flicked on in my head and I had an overwhelming fear of being contaminated.

My shrinking world

When I joined high school, the worries escalated. After school, I’d strip my school uniform off at the door and shower for hours, making sure I didn’t touch my clothes again, or the towels I’d used. I tried to separate the contamination from school from my personal space.

I ended up feeling like I couldn’t go into my bedroom and started living in a room on my own downstairs. I stopped going to school as I was so exhausted from showering until the early hours.

My world and I were shrinking – I was only 13 – and no amount of therapy or medication was helping. It was exhausting, and my anxiety was off the scale.

The road to recovery

In 2016, I was referred to the National and Specialist OCD Clinic at The Maudsley Hospital for the treatment I needed. I learned exactly what my OCD meant, and finally started to understand it as an illness, and that I could get better.

Through a form of treatment called ERP – Exposure and Response Prevention – I had to regularly expose myself to an OCD worry, regulate my anxiety, and not respond with a compulsion. It was so hard to do even the simplest things at first, like touch my mum’s hand or keep the door open of the room I was in.

In 2020, after three years of specialist treatment, I was discharged from the Maudsley with no evidence of OCD, and I got to live my life again. Now I’m studying sociology at Birmingham University and loving life. I’m proof that you can – and will – get better.”

(Sophie’s story first appeared in Metro.co.uk. Read it in full here.)

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