'I washed my hands until they bled, considered suicide and thought if I touched a doorhandle my family would die': Nurse tells of battle with OCD
Under control: Debbie Thomson did not realise she had OCD until she was 16, and the condition spiralled out of control after her daughter was born
A mother whose obsessive compulsive disorder got so bad she considered committing suicide has now managed to get the condition under control, and helps others to do the same.
Debbie Thomson, who has suffered from OCD since she was a child, revealed how she used to think her family would die if she touched a door handle.
She also washed her hands until they bled, and would fumigate her house every time a visitor dropped in.
After the birth of her daughter, Mina, Debbie's OCD spiralled out of control. The restrictions of her compulsive habits led the new mother to think she was a bad parent and she plunged into depression – even considering suicide.
Debbie said: 'She (Mina) would touch everything. I couldn’t control her, when she was about six months old, the depression kicked in and I hit rock bottom.
'I rang my husband and said, “I can’t do this anymore”, I even asked to be sectioned. I felt I was inflicting my disorder on other people.'
The young mother, who has been on antidepressants three times, immediately started having psychotherapy.
But it was her own will power which really bought Debbie back from the brink. She was determined not to leave her daughter with out a mother.
The 31-year-old from Hull, who works as a part-time NHS health trainer, now has her condition under control – but admits she still has the occasional relapse.
She said: 'It’s a very secretive illness, but people don’t need to suffer in silence. OCD is still a bit taboo. People don’t understand it.
'I was a child when I started to notice I was different. I had a fear of fire and thought my house was going to burn down.
'I’d carry out rituals and couldn’t touch door handles because I thought somebody in my family was going to die.
When she was a child, Debbie (pictured with her daughter Mina, eight)thought that if she touched a doorknob, her family would die
OCD – A VERY COMMON MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic, long-term mental health condition that is usually associated with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour.
It is one of the most
common mental health conditions.
An estimated 3 in 100
adults and up to 5 in 100 children and teenagers have OCD.
The cause of OCD is unknown, but there is evidence to suggest it may be genetic. It has also been known to develop following a streptococcal infection, or a life-changing event for example a bereavement.
Famous OCD sufferers include:
Cameron Diaz: Like Debbie, the actress is OCD when it comes to doorknobs, and obsessively cleans them to the point that paint is peeling off of the ones in her house.
David Beckham: He's obsessed with order and is always putting things into pairs, in hotels, his wardrobe and the fridge.
Katy Perry: The singer has admitted to having OCD tendencies when she's over-stressed.
Sources: NHS.uk and nursingschools.net
'Sometimes I would wash my face excessively and I would have really dry skin.
'People didn’t know how to react. My behaviour was often very bizarre. I always felt isolated.'
Debbie was diagnosed with the illness
when she was 16 after her boyfriend at the time gave her a leaflet about
OCD. She said she didn’t know how to react at first and wasn’t fully
aware of the condition.
'Now I’m grateful for what he did because it was the first time I’d been pushed to get help,' she said.
'It was then that I was diagnosed with the disorder and started seeing a psychiatric nurse. It did help, but I think I was still in denial.
'She would talk to me about the disorder and I’d try to understand why I had certain obsessions. They were predominately about cleaning, dirt contamination and checking everything.
'I would move a chair loads of times until I felt it was in the right place.
'I thought I had control over whether people lived or died and it wasn’t rational, but at the time I couldn’t see beyond that.'
Although she says will never fully recover from her disorder, the future now looks bright for Debbie.
She has visited a service group in Hull which offers psychotherapy, and last summer set up a support group so that fellow sufferers can share their fears.
Debbie is also now in her second year at the
University of Hull, studying a degree in psychology which further helps her understand the disorder.
Debbie said: 'People think if you have OCD you can’t live a normal life.
'My parents didn’t understand, it was alien to them. My mum passed away last March and it spurred me on to start a group.
Debbie says: 'People think if you have OCD you cant live a normal life.' She is trying to break that taboo
'My dad now knows more about my condition and is really proud of what I’m doing.
'Sometimes I will still go into a cleaning frenzy and I will move things lots of times, but my condition is more under control. My old rituals are still in my mind, I just have to keep myself occupied.
'I’m quite obsessed about my weight and appearance and how people see me, but things are better. I want to continue to learn more about myself and I keep an open mind.
'I take life as it comes and the more I help other people, the more in turn it will help me.'
For more information about OCD, please visit OCD-UK