With exam season approaching, those living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may be particularly worried about this stressful time.
OCD is a mental health condition that causes unwanted, intrusive thoughts (also known as obsessions) and repetitive behaviours or acts (compulsions) that a person feels compelled to perform in response to the obsessive thoughts.
Exam season at university can cause extended periods of stress which can exacerbate symptoms of OCD, leading to intensifying obsessions and compulsions. For instance, the fear of making a mistake on an exam or forgetting to study a particular topic can lead to intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that take up valuable revision time and mental energy. This can make it difficult to focus on studying and can even lead to avoidance of studying altogether.
In a study in Sweden in 2018, researchers found that those living with OCD were 40% to 60% less likely to meet educational milestones in their mid-teens. This effect on their academic life would continue into further education as it was found that those with OCD were 28% less likely to start a program at university. If they did, they were 41% less likely to finish a degree and 48% less likely to finish post-graduate education compared to their peers who did not have OCD.
One of the most challenging aspects of living with OCD during exam season is the constant need for reassurance. This can manifest in repeatedly checking and rechecking work, asking for feedback and seeking validation, be it from family, close friends or teachers. Although reassurance can provide some temporary relief to the feelings of anxiety and distress, it can reinforce the cycle of OCD and lead to a sense of dependency on external validation.
Another common challenge for those living with OCD during exam season is the fear of making mistakes. This can lead to excessive checking and rechecking of work, even when it has already been reviewed multiple times. The fear of making a mistake can also lead to procrastination and avoidance of studying, as the thought of facing potential mistakes can be overwhelming.
Living with OCD during exam season can be a challenging experience, but there are strategies that can help. People living with OCD may be treated with psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or ERP, they may practice mindfulness or meditation, or could be prescribed medication such as antidepressants to help treat the condition.
However, around half of patients don’t receive adequate benefit from SSRIs so there is a need for improved treatment options. MAC Clinical Research are currently seeking participants for a clinical trial investigating a potential new treatment for OCD which works differently to current antidepressants. People with obsessive compulsive disorder tend to have signalling pathways in the brain which are overactive, causing intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviour, or other OCD symptoms. This investigational OCD medication is believed to dampen down these overactive pathways, which may help people with OCD when used in combination with their usual OCD medication.
With your participation, you may be able to contribute to scientific research which could lead to a new medicine to help people living with OCD.
The study is running at MAC clinics in Lancashire (Blackpool), Manchester, Merseyside (Liverpool), South Staffordshire (Cannock), South Yorkshire, Teesside, and West Yorkshire (Leeds).
To meet the eligibility criteria, you must:
- be between 18 and 65 years old.
- have had OCD, or OCD symptoms for at least 1 year.
- feel that your current antidepressant medication is not fully working.
Eligible participants will receive up to £490 for their time and commitment to the study, along with reasonable travel costs. If the medication works, on completion of the study, participants may be offered the medication free of charge for 1 year.