Trevor’s story (Naomi’s son)

Case study - Trevor

“The first thing, I think, was arranging objects in certain orders”

My OCD probably started in a minor way around the age of seven, but then the rituals grew. I think the first thing was arranging objects in certain orders. There was a bookshelf that I’d have to arrange and I banged things quite a lot – like, tapping the bedside table and the sideboard a certain amount of times.

We thought it was just a phase at first, but obviously it wasn’t. Then, when things got worse, the arranging dropped away and other things appeared. I jumped over thresholds, ran up and down the stairs, touched some things and not others, and generally spent a longer amount of time on the behaviours.

A couple of years later, it got so bad that my mum did some research into OCD and we were put in touch with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

“At one point, I was extremely stressed out. I literally couldn’t take any more”

The OCD was getting in the way of day-to-day stuff – like, getting ready for school in the morning took a long time. It wasn’t that bad while I was at school, but I didn’t really do it there because it wasn’t in my comfort zone.

Once we’d spoken to CAMHS, I started cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and that was really, really helpful. I had weekly sessions, where we’d talk, choose a ritual and assign a task to it. The idea was to confront the ritual and think of ways to tackle it when I had the urge. I used to get a particular feeling before doing a ritual, so we’d talk about deep breathing, things I could say to myself and think about.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a relief when I didn’t do the rituals, to be honest. Sometimes it was harder not doing the ritual, and then the urge would come back stronger than before.

“I didn’t really like CBT at first, but that changed when I could see it was helping”

About halfway through my time with CAMHS, we confronted one of my big rituals and I suddenly realised I wasn’t doing it anymore. That was a turning point because I could see the therapy working.

After the programme, things were a lot better for a couple of years, but then it got much worse again. It built up slowly and things just weren’t working out. The same rituals were reappearing and there were others too. I’d stare at things, bang things harder so they broke… there was counting, asking for reassurance a lot, washing my hands, stamping, hitting one object against another, closing my eyes a lot. It had  been a stressful couple of years, so I don’t think that helped. I’m in year nine at school now but that period was roughly when I came into year eight, so I was 13 years old.

“My therapist at the Michael Rutter Centre says I can be cured of OCD and now I’m proving that to myself”

The therapy at the Michael Rutter Centre is quite similar to what I did through CAMHS. Though – and this is hard to explain – where CAMHS said I couldn’t be completely cured of OCD, my therapist at the centre completely disagrees.

From the start, we tackled one ritual a week. I had a book to write the rituals in and she would ask me to give them an anxiety rating of 1 to 10, to express what it was like to have the ritual and how anxious I was about not doing it. It was hard to rate how I felt sometimes, but I managed – I think the highest was an 8 and the lowest was a 2. It helped, because rating my anxieties told me how I felt about each ritual and how I’d find a way to get over them.

When my therapist first said I could live without OCD, it was a shock, but now I feel I’m proving it to myself. A couple of sessions in, I could see things were changing again and I realised I was already getting better.

“Doing rituals is rare now”

I had 14 CBT sessions at the Michael Rutter Centre and now have regular sessions, which are like a catch-up, and assessments to see if my OCD score has come down. Day-to-day, things are really good. OCD used to ruin my day, but it’s rare I do a ritual now. I can watch TV in my bedroom without smashing the controller, I can play my PS3, I can talk to people more easily, and it’s much easier to focus.

I hope everything’s cool and relaxed by next term because I’m starting at a new school, where I’ll be studying theatre. I’m really excited about it.

I’d really encourage young people with OCD to try out the treatment at the Michael Rutter Centre. I was quite reluctant at first, but I can guarantee that everyone will find something that’ll help them. I’d say the treatment works for most people. Day-to-day, it’s made such a difference for me.

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