Little Paxton OCD teen launches website to help others

KIRSTY Smith was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) at the tender age of 12. She has an overwhelming fear of becoming ill, a fear which causes her to obsess about germs and cleanliness. But Kirsty has managed to cope and is now planning to

KIRSTY Smith was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) at the tender age of 12. She has an overwhelming fear of becoming ill, a fear which causes her to obsess about germs and cleanliness. But Kirsty has managed to cope and is now planning to help others with OCD through her new website. ANGELA SINGER reports.

AT school, Kirsty liked to have all her pencils and her pencil case lined up in a row.

She felt uncomfortable otherwise. At home, she washed her hands, a lot, scrubbing them like a surgeon. She was obsessed with checking that the fridge door was shut so the food would not go off and avoided anything she thought might make her ill.

In the end, she made herself ill by worrying about becoming ill.

Soon she had no friends, other children tormented her and she felt isolated and alone.

However, Kirsty, now 17, from Little Paxton, says she has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in check and she wants to help other people with her website.

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On the site's homepage she says: "I have created this site to help teenagers who suffer from OCD and have to live with the anxiety and stress it causes. I was diagnosed with OCD at 12 but I am managing very well because of the help I received. I want everyone out there who is reading this to know that you are not alone. With the help and support of family and friends, you can get through this.

"We need to spread the word on OCD and what it is so that people can understand us. Don't let OCD ruin your lives."

There are links on the website to other sites explaining the condition, which is defined as "obsessions or compulsions that interfere with the person's ability to function socially, occupationally or educationally - either because of the time those obsessions take up or the fear and distress they cause."

The compulsion is irresistible to the OCD sufferer even when they know that what they are doing is irrational. Kirsty's obsession about germs, cleanliness and an overwhelming fear of getting ill is classic.

She said: "Most of my OCD was based on the fear of getting ill. My worries made me carry out all sorts of compulsions from washing hands, cleaning, checking, arranging objects in a neat line, superstitions and avoiding going out.

"I didn't like my mum and sister going out. I didn't eat meat or eggs because I thought I would get salmonella. I couldn't go out and I got depressed."

Kirsty, now in her first year studying travel and tourism at Cambridge Regional College, has written an OCD poem which describes "the bully living inside your head".

She says: "It feeds on your fears and makes matters worse. It confuses you and makes you anxious. You can't escape. You think just do what it says and it will go away but there is no escaping from your attacker unless you stand up to them."

Kirsty told The Hunts Post: "I tried to cover up the rituals I was carrying out but my mum found out and took me to the doctor. I saw a psychologist for two years and had cognitive behaviour therapy. Most of the time I found this helpful but I couldn't have got through the emotional times without the help and support of my family and friends.

"Kirsty says she had an emotional childhood. Her parents separated when she was five, she moved home and schools at 11, moving to Huntingdonshire from Hertfordshire and was affected by the death of her great grandmother.

"I managed to realise that I wanted and needed to get rid of OCD. My psychologist suggested that I delay carrying out the rituals that I felt I needed to make the thoughts go away. "Eventually, this helped. My mum recommended books which were useful. I also kept a diary about my worries, which I thought I couldn't tell anyone else. In the middle of Year 10 (aged 15) I finally made a lovely group of friends. I couldn't have got this far without them.

"It's hard for people who don't have OCD to understand what I went through but they made sure they were always there for me and would keep me happy. My family told me to hang on in there. I have taken part in therapeutic sessions and I take an anti-depressant. I feel like a new person. I still have OCD but it is in the background and I can cope with it.

"I want to say to all you sufferers out there, it is possible to fight OCD. Believe me, you will feel like a very different person. You will gain confidence and have a lot more energy to enjoy like with your family and friends. Always remember to keep strong and think positively even though it is very tough and to remember that you are not alone."


What causes OCD?

Many factors can play a part and one or more of those listed below may be involved:

OCD is sometimes inherited

Stressful life events bring it on in about one in three cases

Life changes - when you have to take on more responsibility such as puberty, the birth of a child or a new job

If you have OCD for more than a short time, an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin (also known as 5HT) may develop

You are a neat, meticulous, methodical person - but go too far.