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What it's really like living with OCD in Ireland

A new documentary shows there is help out there.

Source: RTÉ TV Promotions/YouTube

WHAT IS IT like to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Ireland?

It affects 2-3% of the Irish population, and though there there tends to be a popular image of people excessively hand-washing or flicking light switches, OCD can take many different forms.

A new documentary, OCD and Me, due to be broadcast tonight at 9.35pm on RTÉ One, looks into the lives of people with OCD, and challenges some of the popular stereotypes around the disorder.

Obsessions are defined as intrusive thoughts or images, while the compulsion is the action people take to make the thought go away. The documentary explains these actions can include washing or touching, or repeating the thought over and over again.

Living with OCD

We meet four people in the documentary:


A 25-year-old Dublin artist whose daily existence is dominated by his battle with severe contamination OCD where he views himself as ‘OCD clean’ and most of the world as ‘OCD dirty’.

His mother, Mella, also lives with her own form of OCD, and gives a perspective as a parent. She says that she chose to take part because a lot of people are hurting due to OCD.


In her 60’s, lives in Sligo town and is part of a local anxiety support group. She has lived with her OCD for the last 50 years and says it has destroyed her life. She hopes sharing her story might stop others from going through the same hell. Her OCD has come in many forms, hand washing, praying, folding clothes etc. If she does certain rituals she believes it will prevent terrible things from happening to people in her family.


A highly functional 32-year-old Dubliner who works for a prominent radio station. He has lived with a variety of forms of OCD and has started talking openly about the condition in recent months.

“It opened my eyes”

Director Adrian McCarthy told TheJournal.ie that he didn’t realise how serious OCD was until he started filming the documentary.

It was on meeting people who were living with OCD that you realise that we all have our quirks – all of us, everybody, no matter what it is. But the difference between that and having something that is really obstructing you from living your life in a normal way, that is what OCD is.

He described it as “a big huge leap of faith” for people to decided to go public about their experiences. “It’s a very embarrassing disorder.”

While some of us might get certain thoughts, for people with OCD, those thoughts get stuck, said McCarthy. It could be a thought about hurting somebody they love, thinking they are contaminated, or the outside world is contaminated, or, as the documentary shows, can include extremely distressing thoughts.

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“They are brave. They have decided themselves to put themselves forward,” he said of the four participants. “It took a whole a lot of work. A lot of meetings. There was a certain amount of wariness as to why I was doing it.”

The main reason why people chose to take part was because “there are a lot of people out there who are living with these thoughts who don’t know what’s wrong with them and they don’t know it’s OCD”. The people in the documentary want to help others, and raise awareness.

Getting help

The documentary shows that there is help out there for people, and focuses on the therapeutic assistance available.

“I think it’s certainly opened my eyes, and I think these people are fantastic,” said McCarthy, who hopes that the show will stoke up a national conversation around obsessive compulsive disorder, and show that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. “I have huge admiration for them for doing it because of what OCD is.”

OCD and Me is produced and directed by Adrian McCarthy and executive producer is Martha O’Neill. Editor is Brenda Morrissey. the 52-minute documentary will be broadcast tonight at 9.35pm on RTÉ One.

For more information or help with OCD, see:

First published 30 January

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