Middleton man overcomes OCD with the help of Healthy Minds

MichaelA Middleton man whose life was made a ‘total nightmare’ by obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has had his life changed for the better thanks to a local health service.

Michael O’Rourke, 25, had spent years thinking his obsessive behaviour, which made normal day-to-day tasks a chore, was just a part of his personality.

He explained: “I’d always behaved that way – I checked things. I thought it was just one of those quirks that people have. But it was hard work all the time, everything was a chore. I’d do things like close the fridge door and then check it had shut properly 10 or 20 times.

“Getting into bed took at least 20 minutes because I’d constantly be checking that everything was safe and getting to work was a problem for the same reason. I live with my parents but if they were ever away, it was a total nightmare having to lock up the house. It took ages having to check everything was switched off and locked up securely.”

“I put it down to just being cautious and it was my girlfriend, not long after we got together, who pointed out that it might be something more. I didn’t realise just how much anxiety and distress it had been causing me.”

Michael went to see his GP who referred him to the local Healthy Minds service, run by Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust. Within a week, Michael had been for an appointment with therapist Patrick Rafferty, who recommended a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

“I had weekly CBT sessions, which started by Patrick asking questions and me telling stories about times the OCD had been bad. It helped to delve into it, explore and understand the reasons behind it. It completely opened my eyes – there were reasons behind those ‘quirks’. I now know that if you understand something you can destroy it.

“The CBT armed me with a toolkit so that now, even though the sessions are over, I know how to keep a handle on it. I can analyse my actions and realise what’s OCD behaviour and what isn’t - I feel like a new person.”

“I still have occasional bad days but the course taught me how to come back from those and not let them take over.

“I know some people get embarrassed talking about their feelings or behaviour but I’d encourage anyone who is feeling like I was to speak to someone about it. It can completely change your life. Too often people put up with feeling a certain way because they think it’s ‘just the way they are’ but it can have a devastating effect and no one should put up with it. If your quality of life can be improved, even just a bit, then it’s worth doing. Getting help has changed my life so much for the better.”

Healthy Minds is an NHS service that offers a range of support and treatment options for the difficulties that many people experience such as low mood, depression including post-natal depression, worry, stress and anxiety. The service also helps people who are living with long-term medical conditions and pain, who have experienced abuse or trauma and who experience difficulties with anger, low self-esteem, eating disorders and image problems.

Run by Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust and commissioned by NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Clinical Commissioning Group, the service is open to anyone over the age of 16 living in the area.

Depending on what people are struggling with and need, therapy can be offered from home, over the telephone or at one of the health care centres in a group or one-to-one basis. All the therapists are highly trained professionals who are skilled in helping people make the changes they need to make in their lives.

Patrick Rafferty, Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, said: “Being a therapist and helping people work towards the changes they want to make in their lives is a real honour. It gives you the opportunity to see how people like Michael can really turn their lives around and get the peace of mind they deserve.

“OCD, for example, is like a bully, forcing people to do a lot of things they don’t really want to do out of fear and trapping them in anxiety. When Michael came into therapy he wanted to understand how to break free from the OCD and the more Michael changed the way he thought and acted, the less he felt under the control of the OCD and the more he got his life back. I am really proud of what Michael has achieved so far.”

To access the service, people can visit the website, www.penninecare.nhs.uk/healthyminds, to fill in a simple form so that a member of the team can get in touch. Alternatively, people can visit their GP for advice.