Extreme OCD Camp Megan shares her story of living with OCD at University

One of the paticipants from Extreme OCD Camp, which recently aired on BBC 3, Megan, has written an article about her experiences of living with OCD while at University. It’s a very inspirational and emotional account that is worth reading!

Megan goes on to talk about how her OCD worsened during the first year and the problems associated with keeping her OCD a secret. She says that even writing a section of the article was an exposure for her…you’ll need to read and find out what it was!

But she then discovers the wide ranging support she has gained since telling her tutor and hopes to continue with her studying this year. Good luck Megan!


Living with OCD at University

Going to university is supposed to be one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. I thought this would be true for me, but having OCD made it the most difficult thing I have done so far in my life. I decided that university was going to be a fresh start for me and I didn’t want to be labelled or get any special help, so I didn’t tell anyone about my OCD. Stress is the biggest trigger for my OCD, and when the reading and assignments started coming in full flow, my stress levels went through the roof. That meant I was constantly incredibly anxious and I stopped socialising as much with my new friends. Because I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t physically bring myself to do any work, and I slept all day and all night – due to the increase in intrusive thoughts using up mental energy and side effects of my medication. My compulsions became a lot more physical as I was repeating everything I picked up and opened many times. It took me at least an hour to get into bed every night because of all the routines I had to complete.

My OCD means that when it comes to reading psychology books, I have to read every single word. If you’ve ever seen a psychology textbook, you’ll know how much of an impossible task this is – especially when you have several of them to read. Another side of my OCD also comes out in reading. Many of the theories in psychology are developed by psychologists who are now dead. A lot of my OCD is related to life and death and so reading the names of dead people (or even just the word ‘his’) sparks off a lot of intrusive thoughts about them being in either heaven or hell. Wow, writing that last word is a massive exposure for me – I can’t actually look at it because  I know I’ll get an image of a family member and I’ll link them together so I’d think that person would go there. Because I carried out so many compulsions whilst reading the textbooks, this meant that I couldn’t actually pay any attention to the content, so I would get more stressed because I couldn’t learn anything.

A major part of my time at university was spent playing hockey and socialising with the team. Hockey is a big stress relief for me and I seem to have less OCD whilst playing. However because of my OCD and medication, a lot of the time I had to make up excuses for not being able to make training as I was too tired. I felt bad for lying to my captain and I was always worried they thought I just couldn’t be bothered to turn up, which was definitely not the case.

In university halls, there is a lot of time when you are alone in your room. Having OCD means that I need to always be doing something so I can be distracted from my intrusive thoughts. But this is not always possible as people were doing work or out somewhere. This therefore made my OCD really bad and I would spend a lot of my time crying down the phone to my parents telling them I couldn’t cope with university anymore.

In the end it all got too much for me, so I told my tutor everything. He was so supportive and we both decided it would be best to take interruption of study to get help, and then come back the next year. The time to start again is fast approaching, and the huge mistake I made first time around was not seeking help and keeping everything to myself. At Cardiff there is a big support network and when I go back I feel confident that I can complete my degree as I now have all the support I need, both academically and pastorally. I learnt my lesson that it is best to be open about your problems and get help and support from the start. My advice to anyone going to university is: believe in yourself, keep busy, and above all be open about your problems so that you get the help and support that is there waiting for you. You can do it!


(Read more on Megan’s blog!)



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