Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Student Fact Sheet
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Student Fact Sheet
For many, going to university is usually the first experience of living away
from home. As is well documented, for people with OCD, stress can cause symptoms
to become worse. The student lifestyle can be very demanding and emotionally
stressful, and this is one reason why OCD often becomes its most severe for some
during those uni years.
We have put together this page to hopefully help you manage your OCD that little
Use the support services offered by your uni
Students are offered a range of support services through the ‘Student Union’, a
package partially funded by your tuition fees, including a professional
‘counselling team’, who act in a private and sensitive manner aware of mental
health issues and the impact on the sufferer. Contact your local student union
to make an appointment and talk about your feelings to someone who will
supportively listen with understanding. While the counselling team may not be
qualified to treat your OCD they will still help you cope with student life.
Exemptions and extensions
If you find it difficult completing your workload within the set deadlines, you
maybe eligible for extensions, extra time in exams and other special exemptions.
You can explore this further by talking in confidence to your tutor. Alongside
their personal experiences, the teaching staff is well aware of the demands
faced by students in higher education. As in any workplace, stress plays a
factor in productivity, and OCD can cut back the effectiveness in studying.
The student lifestyle can be very demanding, considering the limited funds, the
amount of coursework and lectures, part-time work, housekeeping, alongside
leisure and socialising. With the extra burden of OCD to handle, living
independently whilst in full time education increases self-demands and
expectations. Fitting everyday tasks around OCD results in physical and mental
stress, which again leads to difficulty coping with OCD demons, feeding a
‘vicious cycle’ of stress and OCD. There is a limit to what a human being can
tolerate stress-wise. Managing aspects of everyday life in a healthy way can
reduce stress despite the presence of OCD. Management often is an empty word for
those whose lifestyles are run with seemingly little effort and stress. For OCD
sufferers, however, everyday tasks are not as straightforward due to the
interference of OCD with its ‘bundles of symptoms’, from acute anxiety and panic
attacks, secret compulsive behaviour, evasive low self esteem, perfectionism, to
The intrusion of OCD can easily lead to the neglect of personal care and
interest due to its ‘demeaning’ nature. Therefore:
- Firstly, ‘be kind to yourself’! Remember, you have a mental health
disorder, and hence your thinking ability and emotions are disordered of no
fault of your own.
- Looking after yourself through a healthy balance of ‘food, sleep and
exercise’ will help provide the care and strength needed to cope with the
stress generated by OCD.
- When the intrusion of OCD is extreme, don’t force yourself into
uncomfortable circumstances. As it is with any illness, there is a limit to
how much stress you can (and are expected to) handle. Pre-awareness will help
avoid these situations and reduce stress. You will have your own routine and
approach to personal care. Remember, ‘no one is the same’ in how they handle
their challenges. Achievement and success goes hand in hand with looking after
your mental health, so find and respect your limits!
- The support of friends and family can take the burden of the secrecy
involved with OCD. Often, stress is caused by not being able to do what is
desired, due to the anxiety OCD causes. Continuously making excuses is
frustrating. Emotional support or expressing your feelings to someone trusted
can help reduce the stress of keeping this disappointment inside. Taking this
step is not easy, but the OCD-UK website can break down the barriers of
understanding and explanation.
University is THE opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and
cultures, or find good friends for life. But making friends or finding a people
who you can relate to is difficult for everyone. OCD or not, it takes time to
build new friendships. Remember, initially everyone is starting out fresh, with
same questions and insecurities, even if they don’t show it! No one is
superhuman! OCD sufferers commonly feel isolated, being self-conscious about
their behaviour being different, perhaps even ‘weird’ to others.
Obsessive-compulsive behaviour can potentially be misunderstood or
misinterpreted as ‘negative’ or ‘rude’ due to the secrecy and discomfort acted
out. However, many people will be unaware of it, because they are too busy
dealing with their own insecurities, or disregard OCD behaviour as what they
feel is ‘normal’ behaviour. Worrying what other people may perceive as ‘normal’
or unnoticeable will act as an initial barrier to any type of socialising.
Everyone is different, so be proud of who you are! If you are comfortable with
yourself, so will other people. Once settled in a social group, you will be more
comfortable about people becoming aware of your OCD and any issues affecting a
relationship. If they are your friends, they will accept you with your OCD.
The Student Union has many societies for different tastes and interests,
offering a chance to meet other students, so have a look! Don’t feel you are
alone even if your social circle is small or limited, as independent living can
feel like this for anyone. You may feel more dependent on others, but it is
likely that many others will, unnoticed by you, feel that way to.
It’s very easy to hyperventilate or unknowingly hold the breath when panic sets
in. When feeling uncomfortable in a social situation, become aware of your
breathing. Regulate it with slow deep breathing through the nose, fill the chest
and exhale out of the mouth.
It can be quite tempting to seek relief from OCD and other mental health
problems through recreational drinking and drug consumption. Be aware that using
these substances will offer only a short term fix and usually the next morning
the OCD will be even worse. The only way of combating OCD long term is
professional medical treatment.
Disabled students' allowances (DSAs)
Students suffering from OCD may not be aware that they may qualify for extra
funding through Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs).
Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) provide help for students who, because of
their disability, have additional costs. It is available to full- and part-time
undergraduate and postgraduate students. Part-time students must be studying at
least 50 per cent of a full-time course. An assessment will be carried out by an
experienced assessor to find out the level of support you are eligible for. You
may need to have a supporting GP's report.
The money you may get from DSA does not count as 'income' so you may still
qualify for Income Support or Housing Benefit, should you do need to apply.
You can contact your LEA in England and Wales and SAAS if you are in Scotland
for further information.
This leaflet was kindly written for StudentHealth.co.uk by
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