OCD on the Brain (of Britain)

My name is Clive Dunning. I am 60 years old and have lived in Teesside all of my life. In 2014 I became the first person from Teesside to win BBC’s Mastermind. On top of that, in 2018, I became Brain of Britain, in the process becoming only the seventh person to achieve the Mastermind/Brain of Britain quiz double. One other thing: for most of my adult life I have suffered with OCD.

For those of you not familiar it, OCD is a mental health condition which involves repetitive thoughts and rituals. You may have seen programmes such as Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners on Channel 4 which sometimes characterise the condition as a somewhat “quirky” addiction to cleanliness and orderliness. In fact, the condition is much more complex, having many strands and varieties and in which in extreme cases can be severely disabling to the sufferer.

My OCD began to manifest itself at an early age. By the age of four I had begun to develop rituals cantered around activities such as turning lights on and off, and washing, which if not completed properly would lead to incredibly distressing thoughts of impending doom.

From the beginning I was aware that these thoughts and actions were completely illogical, yet no matter how hard I tried to rationalise, I quickly became a slave to the condition and it rapidly spread and developed.

I managed to hide my OCD relatively successfully until I reached my early twenties, but by then it had taken control of much of my life and it was becoming impossible to function on a day-to-day basis, whilst in addition it was taking much of the joy out of living.

It was at this time that I began to receive behavioural therapy. The lady therapist who helped me gave me an honest appraisal of my situation, saying that my problems were so ingrained that it was doubtful that I could make a full recovery.

She did, however, feel that through therapy that my condition could improve and over the next couple of years with much hard work of years we managed to extinguish all of my rituals, although my repetitive thoughts were to prove to be much more stubborn.

Still, with the massive improvements in my condition, I was able to resume my life. Hence, I was able to return to education and graduate with a degree in English. Furthermore, I trained as a teacher and would find employment as a college lecturer. On a more personal level I married and went on to have a family. However, OCD had not finished with me yet.

As indicated, although I no longer had rituals, I still had repetitive thoughts: a condition sometimes described as ‘Pure OCD’. One thing about OCD, as with many mental health conditions, is that it worsens in stressful situations and although I found my work as a lecturer fulfilling, there were times when the demands of the job actually exacerbated my condition.

Once again I sought treatment and after many false starts and blind alleys, a therapist specialising in CBT was recommended to me. Soon after commencing treatment my condition began to improve; so much so that I was able to attempt things that would have been impossible in the past. For example, the idea of appearing on a high-pressure quiz show would have been laughable to someone like myself, as I know I would have gone into meltdown due to the stress involved. Yet now I was not only able to participate in the show, but actually win it!

To those suffering with OCD, or for that matter any mental health condition my advice is simple: get help. In comparison to when I was young, the services and support for people who have these conditions are much more abundant. No matter how hopeless things seem, it is possible to change and improve. I am living proof of that.

An amazing story from Clive, showing that for all the battles we can have with our brain, it can still perform amazing things. Also, for anyone doubting whether therapy might help, hopefully Clive’s story will demonstrate that it can be enormously beneficial to managing their mental health.

If you’d like to find out more about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), you can check out our very own guide by clicking here!

This is normally the bit of the page where we link to their social media platforms or blog, but Clive isn’t on social media, because, well, he’s smart!