My name is Lily. I’ve had OCD ever since I can remember. Think OCD is an adjective for ‘perfectionist’, and involves ‘liking things just so’? Think again.

Lily Bailey by Amy Shore

Lily Bailey by Amy Shore

OCD is a mental health condition that involves having obsessions (unwanted, intrusive thoughts), and compulsions (the action, whether physical or mental, that you undertake in response to this thought). When seen in this light, you begin to understand how OCD is a disorder that can be about pretty much anything. The woman who obsessively fears she may have run over a child whilst driving, and is compelled to compulsively drive around the block and check has OCD as just as much as the person who spends hours checking their door is locked.

Lots of people with OCD have purely mental compulsions that are impossible to see as an outsider. I am one of them. From a young age, weird and uncomfortable thoughts flooded my mind. I often thought that if I thought ‘I want that person to die’, that I could make it happen, and would then have to mentally repeat ‘no, no, no’ to make sure it didn’t happen.

In fact, this was an intrusive thought that bore no reflection on me as a person. Ever stood on a platform and thought you might jump, or push someone else under a train? That’s an intrusive thought. Most people are able to dismiss those thoughts as not representative of themselves, and carry on with their lives. People with OCD are highly anxious and likely to attach significance to things. When they have intrusive thoughts, they often become obsessions. It does not mean that someone who has these thoughts is in any way dangerous or risky. A person with OCD would be the last person to carry out one of these thoughts. The reason these thoughts cause them so much distress is because they are so at odds with their personal values.

Working as a journalist, the way we misuse the phrase OCD had really started to annoy me. Why? Because every time someone makes a joke about this much misunderstood disorder, or claims to be ‘so OCD’, when in reality they just quite like their desk to be tidy, it stops someone like me realising what we have and seeking help. The average time taken to get help is 12 years. This is largely because so many sufferers actually have no idea they have OCD. When I was diagnosed, I thought the GP had made a mistake.

I’ve recently written a book about OCD, called Because We Are Bad – OCD And A Girl Lost In Thought. I had my reservations about putting my story out there, mostly because I was nervous about what everyone would think of me if I bared my soul and spoke about the weird reality of living with this condition. But equally, the World Health Organisation ranks OCD as in the top ten most disabling illnesses of any kind, in terms of diminished quality of life and loss of earnings. It’s time it sufferers receive the recognition and understanding they deserve; it’s time to stop joking about OCD.

Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought by Lily Bailey is out now (Canbury Press, £7.99)