OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The back ground tune of my life, the hidden force that has had me on my knees at time trying to control. I will share with you my experience, and how I believe their is a link to autism.
I believe that for me OCD was always with me. I can remember when I started to do things that I was driven to do to feel comfortable and safe and even to be able to leave the house. I was around the age of 4. I already had my sensory feelings about clothing and I can remember not wanting to leave the house without “checking” that my underwear was tucked into my vest. I would say to my parents ” am I tucked in”, they would reply yes of course but that would not satisfy me and I would continue with ” no but am I tucked in!”. At this point it being a desperate plea, as in my mind their reply had not satisfied my need. I remember my parents making a joke about this as I got older, which is fine but to be honest it really was the tell tale signs right there that I had far more going on then they would have ever realised. That coupled with a lisp and all the other signs of anxiety I had.
I put in bold the words “checking” as it is very relevant, and for those who may not really know what OCD is , checking is part of the behaviour for some people with OCD. The underlying thoughts behind this behaviour being that the person with OCD believes that if they do not “check” what ever it is they need to reassure themselves with, something really bad will happen to either themselves or other people.
This over compensatory behaviour is so very wearing and tiring. Their have been points when I have literally got stuck trying to do my OCD and feel like I am going to faint because it takes up so much energy to do it and if you can not be satisfied with the result you get trapped in a loop of repeat, repeat, repeat.
My fascination with numbers really kicked in when I was around 14. My sisters all had Saturday jobs and I wanted to be like them, even though I was riddled with anxiety. I loved babies and some how managed to get myself a Saturday job working in Mothercare. I can remember all kinds of difficulties I had there and kept them to myself (masking again), however the one thing I did love about that job was organising the clothes on the rails. I didn’t mention this job in my blog about “want to work but can’t “as I wanted to share about it here where it held more relevance to my OCD.
I remember loving sorting the age range of clothing into an order. And if a customer had been rummaging through they would have messed it up, so I would then sneak over and tidy it up. I have a natural ability to be able to sort and order things very quickly. My fascination with numbers was with the barcodes on the back of the clothes hangers and tags. I loved seeking out the numbers ” 1,5, 7 and 0 – which are often, as I have found through looking, found within most barcodes. Funny enough those numbers have stuck with me my whole life, and when we became registered as a charity I was filled with joy when we were emailed the registration number which is : “1171051” – how ironic is that?
I didn’t stay long at that job, in my usual fashion, it all became too much and I think at that time I was filming in GrangeHill and was hoping to become an actress …
I love order. I like things to be neat and tidy. I can not stand untidiness and mess. I am not fanatical with it, as I live with a messy husband (sorry he’s not overly messy, but), I know how seeing things out of place makes me feel. Over the years my OCD has peaked, and I notice that in times of great stress I do them even more.
I have things I do each day, but can say that over time I have let them go a bit more. Probably because I am now getting too tired of them. Its sad to see my youngest struggle so much with his OCD. I can totally relate to him, and this is not a learnt behaviour before you go thinking so, he didn’t even know I had OCD before we chatted about it when he was old enough to understand.
This then brings me onto autism and OCD. For me, I have a rhythm – a pattern in my head that I hear when I am doing my OCD, and its not until the rhythm is complete that I can relax – a bit. My son said he has the same thing, its a rhythm he has to do his checking to as well. We are both, as you will have learnt, autistic. My eldest daughter has her own sets of OCD too, and is awaiting a diagnosis. She said she has noted OCD’s in both her children- my grandchildren too.
It is known that autism and Obsessive Compulsive disorder do accompany each other.
From the outside autism and OCD would appear to be very different yet researchers have found there is an overlap between the two conditions.
The OCD “rituals” can resemble the repetitive behaviours which are seen in autism. The National Autistic Society shares information about the overlap of autism and OCD and gives an example of the difference which can be a bit confusing – a autistic person may repeatedly switch a light on and off as they like the sound it makes, or the flashing of the light so it has a soothing effect on them where as a person with OCD may do this as a ritual and a way of protecting themselves or others as if they do not do it a certain amount of times they perceive that something bad will happen.
Interestingly however, my son – who is autistic, and has a moderate learning disability ,as he is growing his OCD’s are getting worse. He has developed so much as we have home schooled him which is a story in itself, as he would not have come as far as he has if we had persisted with getting him to school. He has severe separation anxiety. His speech and understanding of the world has progressed so much now that I can talk to him about any subject. He has learnt so much about himself as he has been given so much time and talks to me freely about his OCD’s and has said that they , to him, are more apparent when he is stressed – which he is at the ,moment as we are trying to move (yet another story), so my point being his OCD’s are OCD’s and not a stimmy – self soothing mechanism. He recognises the difference which I find rather interesting. I personally believe that OCD is on par with a need for order and perfectionism. Which again could overlap with what is seen as autistic behaviour – things needing to be straight, in line and in order, such as lining up objects. Or even the need to be personally clean – which is something my son feels and causes him further rituals such as hand washing and spraying himself with deodorant – my daughter again has the “cleaning” rituals.
Its a fascinating area of which I am very interested as I am learning more about this as I witness it in my own children and grand children.
Like most conditions, there is so much more to be discovered. And just to be clear, an OCD would be classified as a mental health condition, autism is not a mental health condition but a complex, lifelong developmental condition. Many autistic people have what is known as Comorbid conditions, which simply means the presence of one or more additional conditions.
Thank you for reading this long blog. I am not finding as much time to write recently with things going on in my personal life, but I will keep blogging as its good for my own mental health. I hope you enjoyed this one 🙂