The term OCD is one many are familiar with, but few truly comprehend the impact it can have on people’s lives. Josh Cannings is 22 and has suffered from symmetry OCD for almost 10 years. Josh has to touch everything with his left and right hands, and his left and right feet an equal amount of times everywhere he goes.
When Josh doesn’t ‘equalise’ he says he feels an intense sense of dread, similar to the feeling you have when you receive bad news about a loved one. This feeling then triggers anxiety or panic attacks if he cannot equalise.
Those suffering from symmetry OCD feel compelled to perform all tasks in a balanced, symmetrical way – this can involve aligning objects or repeating the same action with each side of the body.
Other forms of OCD include:
Checking: This involves the sufferer to feel compelled to check things multiple times – for example, checking the back door is locked or that all the taps in the house are off. This compulsion often leads to the sufferer to not want to leave the house as it can take so long to check these things.
Contamination: Sufferers feel a compulsion to clean themselves and/or their surroundings for fear of being contaminated by germs. This not only leads to mental distress but can also result in physical damage to skin from over-washing.
Intrusive thoughts: Sometimes referred to as Pure O, this form of OCD involves sufferers having mental or internal compulsions, for example thinking about hurting a loved one.
Hoarding: Sufferers feel the need to keep hold of unnecessary items, this can lead to houses being taken over by said items.
The cause of OCD has not yet been established, however it is thought that a combination of factors including genetics, increased blood flow to certain areas of the brain and low serotonin levels could play a part alongside environmental factors.
Josh attended a therapy camp in the USA specialising in OCD treatment and now he is able to go 30 minutes without equalising. While he doesn’t believe he will ever be entirely free from this illness, he does have hopes for the severity of his symptoms to reduce.
A BBC Three documentary has followed Josh and others on their journey; ‘Extreme OCD Camp’ started this week and is available to view on BBC iPlayer.
One element of OCD treatment is talking therapies like counselling. To find out more and to find a counsellor in your area, please view our page on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
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