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Let’s Unpack That

How OCD can destroy relationships: ‘I had the obsessive fear that I might cheat’

Obsessive compulsive disorder can cause obtrusive thoughts that undermine attempts to create a loving bond – but there are treatments, discovers Sarah Ingram

Wednesday 31 May 2023 11:52 BST
‘I was terrified of everything; I was terrified to sleep. It was just a constant state of panic’
‘I was terrified of everything; I was terrified to sleep. It was just a constant state of panic’ (iStock)

Zachary James remembers the exact moment that his first intrusive thought lodged itself in his mind. He was 19 and working in a store when a “creepy man” entered the children’s clothing section. “A very human conversation started among me and my friends, discussing the psychology of someone who is a sexual predator. And my head said: ‘What if you’re a predator too?’” The question sent him on a frightening spiral in which he interrogated his identity and all his past experiences.

“The onslaught of graphic intrusive thoughts that followed left me paralysed. I vividly remember crying in my shower before work because I was that terrified that I was going to cause harm to someone, based on no evidence at all – other than these gross thoughts telling me I was a monster,” he says.

The obsessive thoughts preoccupied his waking hours and caused him intense anxiety, but James kept them to himself, outwardly living a normal life. He carried on socialising, going out clubbing with friends and distracting himself with party drugs – eventually becoming dependent – unaware that he was suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. When he began self-harming, he knew he needed help.

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