Lauren, a 21-year old from Essex, spent up to ten hours a day in the shower and two hours walking up stairs, as she was terrified that every inch of her body was crawling with bacteria.
“It got to the point where I had to have five showers a day, each lasting two hours,” said Lauren.
“I’d follow a set routine, starting from my head and working my way down. There were so many things, it took over my whole life. Every minute of every day was controlled by my condition.”
OCD comes in many different forms, including an obsession with hygiene, rituals and hoarding. The latter involves the excessive collecting of items which have no personal or emotional value to the collector. This can include items that are completely worthless, hazardous or unsanitary, and can sometimes lead to a house clearance being organised on behalf of the hoarder.
Like many suffering from these symptoms, Lauren knows that what she is doing is irrational. “That’s the thing about OCD, knowing it’s irrational doesn’t stop it,” she said.
OCD causes a voice in her head that convinced her that she was dirty, or that her family would come to harm if she did not repeatedly carry out a certain action. Simple tasks such as getting out of bed took 20 minutes, and using the toilet became a ritual requiring at least half an hour to complete.
Lauren has tried cognitive behavioural therapy and, while she is much better, she still suffers bad episodes: “All I’d like is to be free of OCD.”
“To be able to out, maybe have a boyfriend. All these things that everyone else takes for granted.”