IMAGINE being controlled by your thoughts and worries.

Checking doors and windows are secure is something we all consciously do as a matter of course but imagine several checks before returning to go through the same routine again.

For those affected by OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) the Coronation Street storyline highlighting the plight of the character Craig Tinker played by actor Colson Smith must have been a hallelujah moment that the spotlight was finally being shone on what has been a relatively taboo subject for so long.

Watching Craig checking electrical switches; switching them on then off and repeating the pattern in a way which began to impact on his career and his relationship with family and friends must have resonated with those affected by OCD.

The revelation of Craig’s condition demonstrated how OCD can affect anyone at any time in their lives.

According to OCD Action, believed to be the largest charity in the UK focusing on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the estimated number of people diagnosed with OCD is between one and two per cent of the population.

Improvements in mental health awareness could be prompting more people to talk about the condition but there are probably many sufferers who remain silent about it. There isn’t a known cause for OCD although different theories suggest it could be factors such as genetics; environmental factors or a specific triggering event. It is treatable though - the two recommended treatments are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) including Exposure and Response Prevention techniques (ERP) and SSRI medication.

Worry is part of life and is inevitable with some of the circumstances we face, but for those with OCD worry and anxiety can hold a tightening grip.

Carol Bradman’s earliest recollections of OCD were of worrying about her parents and her pursuits. She enjoyed being in the church choir but her negative thoughts meant she avoided them - only now, since seeking help through therapy, has she been able to return to the buildings she once enjoyed visiting.

“The church was a big part of my life and I really enjoyed it. The intrusive thought I had did make attending christenings, weddings etc more difficult as I was so concentrating on thinking “good” thoughts to counteract “bad” ones that I couldn’t enjoy myself,” Carol explains.

The 47-year-old mother-of-two from near Keighley explains how she would get intrusive thoughts that something would happen so she had to go through a routine of what she describes as ‘safety seeking behaviours or avoidance of things’ to ‘neutralise’ the thought.

When Carol’s OCD began it was around the early Eighties before it was recognised as the condition we know much more about now through initiatives such as the Coronation Street storyline and also through people speaking out about the impact it has on their lives.

Reading a magazine article gave Carol an understanding of the struggles she had in her own life. She recalls her family thought of it as just something she did. “It was Carol’s funny thoughts and Mum and Dad thought I would grow out of it.”

Through her experience Carol immediately identified with it when she saw it played out on the small screen by Coronation Street character, Craig Tinker.

“I knew it straight away. With Craig he started doing it very subtly,” says Carol, who believes the soap handled the sensitive subject really well.

“It was amazing, it was really well portrayed, especially how it crept in with him.”

Carol believes her teenage years were hampered by her OCD. “My teenage years were hampered by these thoughts and one day I went to the doctors with something else and I sat reading a magazine and it was in there,” she says, referring to the magazine feature about OCD which she read when she was 17.

“I thought ‘this is what I do. It was like a light bulb moment.”

From then on Carol’s OCD was identified as a medical condition and treatment was put in place.

“It’s all about exposure to the thought,” says Carol, describing how she confronted her OCD through therapy.

Carol knows she will never be cured of the condition but therapy has given her the tools to cope with it.

“You are changing how you think,” she says.

For 35 years Carol has been coping with the condition and there have been times when she has struggled more than others as OCD can be triggered by life changing events. “The worst time was when I didn’t know what it was when I was a teenager. During my 20s it was much better,” says Carol.

“You can never get it out of your life you just learn to deal with it.”

Joanne Squires, clinical lead for psychological therapies Step 3 with Bradford Foundation Care Trust who supports clients over 16 across Bradford district through MyWellbeing College, explains intrusive thoughts are one symptom of OCD but intrusive thoughts alone are very common and most people have these and can just dismiss them as a ‘strange thoughts to have.’ “With those people who develop OCD, they tend to worry about the intrusive thoughts they experience, and get distressed by them,” says Joanne.

Clients with OCD often have obsessions which makes them fixated on usually one area of worry commonly (not always) about harm coming to someone or something bad happening. Compulsions are a symptom of OCD and are often things that people do to try to make themselves feel better or because they believe they will somehow make what they are worried about less likely to happen. “In treatment we work on both the obsessions and compulsions,” explains Joanne.

“We try to understand the fear, and some of the behaviours that people are using to try and make themselves feel better,” she says.

“The fear response in our body creates a lot of physical feelings, and sometimes within OCD these feelings are re enforced by some of the checking behaviours, or behaviours we use to reduce our feeling of fear. The treatment helps to re teach your body not to respond in such an extreme way to your thoughts. The type of therapy that is helpful is’ Cognitive Behaviour Therapy including Exposure with response Prevention’. This is researched and recommended by the National Institute to clinical excellence.”

Joanne is keen to encourage clients to seek help early to prevent their symptoms worsening. Clients can self-refer to the service.Visit or call 0300 555 5551.