At 23, university student James is bright and engaging but has spent most of his teenage years in and out of psychiatric institutions suffering from extreme OCD.
He lives on an isolated farm in the Cotswolds with his mum Penny who's seen her son’s life torn apart by an irrational fear that he cannot control his bowel movements. He has spent up to seven hours in the toilet - too scared to leave in case he has an accident. Last year James' anxiety became so severe that he had to drop out of university. Penny talks about how she’s lost the little boy she once knew and how she’s desperate for him to live a normal life again.
The rituals and behaviour of people like James can often seem odd or bizarre but they are driven by a less well-known aspect of OCD called intrusive thoughts. James was treated at Bethlem Royal Psychiatric Hospital’s specialist residential anxiety unit and responded well to the 12-week therapy programme. He has since been able to return to university.
Helen is a 33-year-old librarian working at the British Museum in London. For the past two years she's lived as a virtual recluse in her parents’ home.
Helen’s anxiety is a severe form of OCD, driven by intrusive thoughts, which cause an irrational fear of harming strangers – she believes that somehow she's put strangers in bins or killed them in road traffic accidents.
It became so severe that she was unable to work or even leave the house and her long-term relationship broke down. Helen was treated at Bethlem Royal Hospital’s specialist residential anxiety unit where she took part in a 12-week therapy programme. Although she still struggles with intrusive thoughts, she made sufficient progress to go back to work and has been there for six months.