Adam said he has suffered from anxiety and OCD for as long as he can remember
Adam Shaw, who has written an account of his OCD, anxiety and depression, said the illness took over his life and he now wants to help other sufferers who haven’t sought help.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive activity.
An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters a person’s mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.
A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that someone feels they need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.
Adam has set up a charity called the The Shaw Mind Foundation
Adam spoke to Express.co.uk about his overwhelming thoughts about killing people and how he overcame his condition with the help of psychologist Lauren Callaghan.
“I have had the illness since I can remember. I didn’t know what was going on in my head,” he said.
“My first intrusive thoughts that cause me distress were attachment issues.
Adam said he remembered worrying that something would happen to his mother in the car on the way to pick him up from school.
“I started compulsions which would provide reassurance – reassurance is a disloyal friend. It is a seductive drug.
Adam said seeing shapes in clouds became an obsession
“The reassurance would counteract the bad thoughts about my mum.
“I remember seeing clouds in the sky. If someone would see the same cloud shape I thought my mum with die. It was very distressing. I knew even at five or six years old it was irrational. People who have OCD know it is irrational. You can’t fathom it.”
Adam said he reached a point where he was concerned he was going to hurt people and even kill them.
“I thought I was going to hurt people as I was growing up. You start to have thoughts like I’m going to strangle my mum. I felt I was going to strangle my mum and my nan. I couldn’t be in the same room as them.”
Every day, humans have between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts.
But Adam explained people with OCD attach meaning and anxiety to those thoughts.
“It starts to really concern you,” he said. ”Nothing else matters in the world. It comes over you like a crashing wave.
“It got to the point where I went to the extremes of carrying handcuffs – I just thought what happens if something happens and I can’t control my thoughts. I saw an old woman walking and I just thought, ‘I could kill you’.”
Adam Shaw and Lauren Callaghan
Adam said it took for psychologist Lauren Callaghan to accept the obsessive thoughts he was having, embrace them and by doing do, control them.
“It is the worry about those thoughts which really affects you,” he added.
“I got to the point where I had battled with it my whole life. The more I tried to get rid of the thoughts, the more I had them. I was just looking for the constant reassurance.”
Adam said the condition made him follow strange ritual and habits.
He added: “I would look under my bed four times. Once for my mum, my dad, my sister and myself. I had to do it until it felt right.”
OCD can manifest itself in different ways. Some people, Adam said, have to wash their hands or clean until they get the ‘just right’ feeling’ – but he said the activity or the ritual itself is often irrelevant to the anxiety.
He said some people have an irrational fear they are paedophiles, and feel they can’t spend any time around children, while other people have experience sexual feelings towards God.
Some can’t leave the house because of the rituals they have to complete.
Adam’s illness, he believes, came around as a result of his attachment to his mother and his fear of something happening to her.
Lauren Callaghan is a leading psychologist who helped Adam overcome his anxiety
“I love my mum, so looking at clouds was something I did. When I was in college, I couldn’t have a pen next to me. You find rituals to deal with the anxiety.”
Adam said he was in the middle of studying to be an airline pilot when he suffered a breakdown.
“I was going through an airport,” he said.
“I just had a thought that there was a girl and I was going to kill her.
Adam explained how he couldn’t stop thinking of a worst case scenario, where he thought he would kill someone, lose his job and go to prison in Texas where they had the death penalty.
OCD can manifest in many ways including obsessive handwashing
Despite setting up and selling a successful business – Adam’s lifelong struggle led him to the brink of suicide. But it was at that point he sought the help he needed to recover from the illness.
He praised psychologist Lauren, who helped him cope with his OCD, and has written a book called Pulling the Trigger, OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Related Depression, The Definitive Survival and Recovery Approach.
“Lauren changed my life around. She taught me not to fight the fight the thoughts,” said Adam. “The key to recovery is about how you respond to them.”
Adam, who is now in recovery from his OCD, has established a global charity, the Shaw Mind Foundation to provide help and support for people with mental health issues.
Adam said he used to walk around with handcuffs in his pocket
“If someone has a breakdown, who do you call?” he said.
“There is no emergency number for mental health. It is something we need to start addressing.”
Adam said people who are in crisis should talk to parents, colleagues or friends.
“There was no awareness in 1980. The only things to do with mental health that I came across were in the news. There was a fear of mental health. Mum and Dad were really loving but we didn’t talk about things like that. But people will surprise you.
“The best thing you can do is open up and talk to someone.”
To find out more about the Shaw Mind Foundation visit shawmindfoundation.org.
For more information about mental health visit mind.org.uk/information-support.
Credit: Daily Express Newspaper
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