'OCD can be an extremely lonely illness to have' - Rugby woman sets up pioneering OCD support group

It is believed to be the first group of its kind in Warwickshire

The Benn Partnership Centre, where the meetings will be held.

A Rugby woman who has been living with obsessive compulsive disorder since she was around five years old has set up what is believed to be the first OCD support group in Warwickshire.

Sophie Pulley, 34, has lived with the condition for almost 30 years, and she said the impact of the pandemic spurred her on to create the group.

She said: "What many people don't realise is that things like constant handwashing are often just the surface of the problem, for many people these things are a way to feel like there's control over really distressing symptoms like intrusive thoughts.

"So much of it is about the feeling of losing control - and a worldwide pandemic is certainly enough to make that worse."

The group's sessions will be free to attend and if someone is worried Sophie said they are welcome to bring along a friend or family member for support.

While Sophie said the group is not intended to be a substitute for formal treatment like cognitive behavioural therapy, she believes that being able to talk openly about the condition and share healthy coping mechanisms can be immensely beneficial to people's mental health.

She said: "It can feel like mental health treatment is impossible to get quickly - some people can wait up to 18 months, and the waiting times can be even worse for more niche conditions like OCD and eating disorders."

And to make matters worse, many people do not understand the condition, so they may unintentionally say things which make those with OCD feel upset and isolated.

Sophie said: "OCD can be a really lonely illness to have because so many people just don't understand it.

"There's a lot of stereotypes in society - at work I was once told, 'you can clean that all up because you've got OCD'.

"I know there was no harm meant, but things like that can make people feel worse."

Meetings will be held on the first Thursday of every month, starting September 2, at the Benn Partnership Centre on Railway Terrace.

Sophie asks that those interested contact her beforehand so she can estimate the numbers involved.

The meetings will be structured to make feel feel comfortable and safe.

Sophie said: "There's absolutely no obligation to talk if you don't want to, and you're welcome to come along for half an hour and leave if you don't want to stay for the full meeting.

"We're also going to have a system where you can write down questions or topics of discussion and we will pull them out of a hat - so you can bring something up anonymously."

To register your interest, or to learn more about the group, email [email protected]