Bullying May Have Caused My OCD: A Case Study
OCD can develop as a result of anxiety. For Daniel Webster, bullying during his time at secondary school was a strong factor in the development of this OCD.
The anxiety created by the bullying manifested itself in OCD compulsions and intrusions, which have gone on to have a significant effect on his life.
AnxietyLike many children, Daniel experienced a difficult transition when moving to secondary school. He says, “I believe that fellow pupils picked up on this vulnerability and the fact that I “stood out” at school. It lasted for three years and took the form of verbal bullying such as name calling and accusations of being gay, but there were also elements of physical bullying. The bullying elevated my anxiety levels, thus producing early obsessive-compulsive symptoms”.
Daniel feels that his OCD was at its worst while he was living at home with his family, as they unwittingly added to his anxiety: “During that time (the late 1990's), OCD was widely overlooked and misunderstood. Through no fault of their own, my family did not really know that I was going through with my condition. Because of this, I felt that they lacked understanding about my OCD, which made me feel as though I had nowhere to turn.
This made my OCD worse, as my family were moving objects who could unintentionally upset a ritual. In this sense, they were a constant threat to my OCD compulsions and rituals, which further increased my anxiety”. This period coincided with the bullying that initially triggered his OCD.
His parents were initially unaware of the bullying, although as Daniel notes, “they began to see traces of irregular behaviour coinciding with the bullying” as his OCD symptoms intensified. “It was not until it gradually worsened that they picked up on something that they couldn't put their finger on”. Daniel had confided in another family member regarding the bullying and was upset when she informed his parents of the situation. He also contacted Childline several times and found it comforting to talk to someone who understand what he was going through.
Compulsions and IntrusionsAt first, Daniel dismissed his OCD symptoms as merely growing up. At first, this included closing the toilet seat, shutting doors and switching lights on and off. As his anxiety grew, his OCD compulsions developed to include cleaning the house thoroughly and even imitating other people's speech and behaviour.
Describing his OCD, Daniel says, “When my OCD crept in, they started off very gradually. I found myself doing more obsessions and compulsions as I increasingly submitted to the OCD. This became very time-consuming and affected my social life, education, family, diet and sleep. As I was spending a considerable amount of time fulfilling my thoughts and anxieties, I became trapped by the illness to the point that I vegetated and did not want to leave the house”.
Delaying the Thought ProcessesDaniel frequently experiences mental intrusions that he feels compelled to do to prevent his anxiety levels from rising too high. As his OCD developed, Daniel became aware that he could delay these thought processes for a short time through his love of singing.
On average, this lasts for up to three hours but it is only a temporary reprieve from the intrusions: “When I sing, I am usually away from home, which is the main site of my OCD. While I am out, I am sometimes subdued and nervous in anticipation of what may be happening at home while I am not there. Simultaneously, my mind wants to go back home to get the OCD over and done with”.