How an OCD voluntary group in Norfolk is making a difference to the lives of sufferers
- Credit: Archant
As part of our support of the Voluntary Norfolk Make a Difference in 2017 campaign, the EDP is shining a light on voluntary groups and individuals. Reporter Donna-Louise Bishop found out about the groundbreaking work happening at the Norwich and Norfolk Obsessional Compulsive Disorder Voluntary Support Group.
When Geraldine Scott decided to move back to Norfolk to be closer to family she was unaware how big that family would become.
For the last 13 years she has campaigned to help sufferers of Obsessional Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in the county, volunteering her time and effort to the cause - and now that hard work has finally paid off.
As well as achieving her dream of helping others within a support group, which she describes as 'one big family', she also offers free Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to those in need.
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A Norwich resident, Miss Scott comes from a corporate background and spent more than 26 years living and working in London, Paris, Moscow and Abu Dhabi.
Then in 2004 she founded the Norwich and Norfolk OCD Voluntary Support Group and since the organisation's inception it has grown from two attendees to more than 45 members at each monthly meeting.
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'At the time I was looking for a change of career,' she said. 'I thought Norwich would be ideal place to start a support group.
'We are a pioneering voluntary organisation and now the largest OCD specific therapy and support group in the UK.
'OCD is multi-faceted, multi-layered and I would also describe it as an accumulation of numerous phobias of varying sizes. It is therefore essential to have a specialised group in the Norwich and Norfolk area to help people to understand, gain knowledge, support and when and where applicable, tackle their OCD by CBT.'
Miss Scott has always had an interest in mental health and while meeting patients working at the Priory Hospital, in London, she discovered there were very few support groups for OCD in the UK.
Now a qualified psychotherapist and counsellor specialising in OCD using CBT, she explained that the condition can often be 'misunderstood, misjudged and its seriousness underestimated'.
'OCD can be difficult to quantify.
She said: '[It] can be made up of anything but there are usually four main categories and very often it consists of a primary and secondary group. Some of these categories are symmetry, checking, fear of contamination, and unwanted intrusive thoughts.
'During the earlier years of the support group people were presenting 'fear of contamination' as the most common of these behaviours but over the past two to three years it has been more about 'unwanted intrusive thoughts'. These thoughts are ego-dystonic which means they are the opposite of what the person believes morally.'
Following a recent grant from the Big Lottery fund, Miss Scott has been able to open an OCD Clinic offering six complimentary one to one counselling sessions of CBT, subject to availability, at the Norwich Wellbeing Centre, close to Chapelfield Gardens.
'I feel as if I have done what I set out to do but I can't walk away from it because it's so popular - we are like one family.
'I want to help people in the community. The reward is seeing people getting better. It is so liberating for them. When people find the group they keep coming back and that is why we are growing. I do this for the people. It's nice for them to know they can get help.
'I'm proud of the fact we have been able to stay consistent and we have gone from strength to strength.
'The group we run is professionally led with regular psychoeducational modules, we are friendly, discreet and good humour is also shared amongst our members.
'Our group discussions are very informative and quite frequently new discoveries relating to OCD are made. As well as those who have OCD, we are open to carers, family members, mental health trainees and anyone who wants to learn more about OCD.'
If you would like to join this group or the OCD clinic please visit www.norwichandnorfolkocdsupport.org.uk for further details or ring in confidence on 01603 619246 or 07432 655579. Please note, voice messages cannot be left on the mobile number.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviours an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.
Most people have obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviours at some point in their lives, but that does not mean that everyone has some OCD. In order for a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder to be made, this cycle of obsessions and compulsions becomes so extreme that it consumes a lot of time and gets in the way of important activities that the person values.
- This information is from the donor-supported nonprofit organisation, International OCD Foundation (https://iocdf.org).
It is important to get help if you think you have OCD and it is having a significant impact on your life.
If you think a friend or family member may have OCD, try talking to them about your concerns and suggest they seek help.
OCD is unlikely to get better on its own, but treatment and support is available to help manage symptoms and have a better quality of life.
There are two main ways to get help:
· Visit a GP. A GP will ask about symptoms and can refer to a local psychological therapy service if necessary.
· Refer directly to a psychological therapy service. Search for psychological therapy services near you to see if your local services accept self-referrals by visiting www.nhs.uk.
You can also phone the Samaritans on 116 123 or the NHS non-emergency number 111.