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Springfield University Hospital in South London has Britain's only 24/7 unit dedicated to the treating of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
For the first time ever, the hospital has granted cameras exclusive access to its OCD ward, to join the patients and staff fighting to beat it.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects nearly one million people in the UK and Springfield is home to 10 of the country’s most severe sufferers, where they live side-by-side for up to six months in the hope that they can learn to live a normal life.
OCD Ward looks at the impact the condition has on both the patients and their family relationships and the difficulty in treating it.
The documentary focuses on a young man who has been unable to hug his parents for a number of years, a woman who cannot have contact with her grandchildren, a man with a fear of germs who is using increasingly abrasive chemicals on his body and a woman plagued by horrific thoughts of bad things happening to her loved ones.
Dr Andra Ion, Specialist Psychiatrist at Springfield, explains the frustration experienced by those with the condition: ‘People with OCD always realise that what they are scared of is absolutely nonsense. They find a way to alleviate this discomfort and anxiety by performing a ritual.’
The road to recovery isn’t easy, with Dr Ion adding: ‘We do not have magic wands. The treatment here is extremely difficult.’
Peter Kolb, OCD Specialist at Springfield says: ‘For the patients, the therapy can seem worse than the OCD. OCD is totally irrational, but for some reason we don’t know their brain has switched on an alarm signal, it’s saying ‘This is highly dangerous.’’
One current resident at Springfield is 32-year-old Edward, who lives in constant fear of being dirty, making him terrified to touch anything.
Edward is a successful IT Consultant, but his OCD now affects every part of his life. He was admitted to the ward just two weeks ago after his desperate parents, John and Sally, wrote to the hospital asking them to help their son.
As Edwards explains, his fear of contamination means he has to avoid many every-day objects and situations: ‘Getting dressed, car door handles, making drinks, shaking hands, walking past people in the street, going to the toilet's a big ritual, and drinking as well.’
Explaining how OCD has affected his life, Edward says: ‘Literally five years ago I was living a perfectly normal life, everything was absolutely fine, I was living on my own, I’d graduated, I’d got a good job and I was moving up in life, getting to where I should have been. All of a sudden I just started picking up all these weird little traits of things that I was doing, which I didn’t realise were OCD at the time. Things have got so severe that I’ve got to do something to claw my life back.’
The team at Springfield is one of the most specialised in the world and for many patients it’s their last hope.
As Collen Baffana, OCD Ward Manager at Springfield explains: ‘They’ve tried medication, they’ve tried psychotherapy, they’ve tried psychology, maybe on two separate occasions, and they’ve failed. Then they come to us.’
Before coming to Springfield Edward’s home had become so contaminated to him that he had started sleeping in the car. However, Edward lived with his parents, so in his eyes they are also contaminated and therefore he cannot touch them. He is unable to hug his parents.
Edward says: ‘I think I’ve probably only done it (hugged them) twice in the last three years.’
Describing the effect which OCD has had on her son, Edward’s mum Sally explains: ‘He’s not an angry or aggressive person, but that’s what it turned him into.’
His dad, John, adds: ‘I know it’s going to the extreme but if you remember the film The Exorcist, it was like that. If he hadn't got into Springfield…’
Sally finishes her husband’s sentence: ’I think you’d be visiting us in somewhere like that.’
24-year-old Enis is the newest arrival on the ward at Springfield.
Before his admittance to the hospital Enis was spending hours at a time in the shower scrubbing his body, such was his fear of contamination. His OCD was paralysing him completely and he had barely left his house in three years.
Describing OCD, Enis says: ‘Every single human has got a little bit of OCD, that’s fact.’
OCD Ward Manager Baffana says: ‘Something has been stolen from him (Enis) and that makes me really upset. Ask me to jump from Niagara Falls without a helmet and I would tell you to go to hell. That's what it feels like for patients. It’s one of those illnesses that literally takes over a person's life, and the family get caught in it, it's a big web.’
Over the coming months, Edward and Enis will be expected to face their fears head on, every single day.
As Dr Lynne Drummond, Consultant Psychiatrist & Head of OCD Services at Springfield, explains: ‘We do ask people to do very bizarre, strange and unusual things…if I compare that to a lifetime of living imprisoned by OCD it’s a no brainer to me.'
For some OCD sufferers their battle with the disorder is carried out in their own homes.
Former care worker Hayley hasn’t been able to work for 10-years, plagued by thoughts that bad things will happen to her loved ones. So much so that she spends 20-hours a day checking on the safety and wellbeing of her dogs.
As Hayley explains: ‘That’s what my OCD is about, clinging onto everyone I love, trying to look after them so that they don’t die. It really kicked off when my nan died and my first dog died.’
Every time Hayley leaves the house she has a checking ritual, ensuring that the front door is securely closed: ‘When you walk away you just get these images of her (dog) running after me and a car hits her and I just see her lying under the wheels, and that’s why it's so hard.’
Hayley copes with her OCD day-to-day thanks to the support of her husband Pete, who says: ‘I know at least one person who has said, 'I would have left by now’, but when we got married I promised to love her and promised to cherish her. If that means doing what she wants, then that’s it.'
Meanwhile, mum-of-two Tricia, from Suffolk, has barely left her house in years.
Talking about her OCD, Tricia says: 'I know the difference between me and my OCD, and my OCD is not nice and I don’t like anything to do with it. It’s a terrible liar, it’s a bully and it’s a complete and utter monster.'
Tricia is not currently receiving any medical help for her OCD and lives in constant fear of contamination. Living with her husband and grown-up daughter, nobody else has been allowed in the house for over 10-years.
She hasn’t seen her mum in four years, despite living just 20-minutes apart. Though after years of planning and encouragement, Tricia is about to pay a visit to her mum’s house.
It’s an emotional reunion for the mother and daughter. On seeing her daughter for the first time in years, Tricia’s mum says: ‘I didn’t realise how ill she is, I knew she was ill, but looking at her...'
Describing the routine she has to carry out on the rare occasion she has left her house, Tricia says: ‘When I get home all my clothes come off in the garden. I wash down with a hose and then two hours in the shower. I haven’t got the energy to do it anymore. That’s why I don’t leave the house, it's a nightmare.’
Such is the devastating effect which OCD can have on relationships Tricia reveals how she plays no part in her grandchildren’s lives: ‘I've not seen them since the eldest was a baby. I don’t even know if she knows I exist.’
Contemplating her future, Tricia says: ‘I can’t see it getting better…it is just make the best of it.’
Back at Springfield, Enis is reaching a crisis point in his therapy.
He is struggling to give up his constant cleaning and continues to keep bags full of sponges, scourers and cleaning products, which he uses on himself and objects around him.
Enis explains his thoughts towards the therapy: ‘OCD is me, it's part of me, the worrying thing is if you're taking all of it away, you’re thinking, ‘Hold on a second, is my personality going to change?’ I just feel like exploding. I cry, get angry, get frustrated, it’s so difficult.’
He adds: 'OCD will always, always find a way…always.’
Meanwhile, Edward has made some good progress at Springfield, giving his parents hope that one day they will be able to hug their son again.
John says: ‘I’d still love to hug him, we haven’t done that in so long.’
Sally concludes: ‘I want to be able to give him a hug, so many times when he’s needed one…you just feel totally useless.’