Seventeen years ago, Judy Karbritz worked on a helpline. A lady who rang each week - we will call her Sophie - wanted to send a small gift. Judy gave her the office address but Sophie said she did not dare send it in case she wrote an obscenity on the envelope.

Judy suggested she read it before she posted it but Sophie said she could still not be sure. She explained that she had Obsessional or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), otherwise known as the doubting disease.

She described what it was like having a bath. She started by washing her right arm 40 times before attempting the left. But she could not be sure she had washed her right arm exactly 40 times so she started again. Having a bath took untold hours until it was easier not to bathe at all.

Judy was so moved by Sophie’s call she began to read up about OCD. She learnt OCD occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviours an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her anxiety.

She discovered that although the cause of OCD is unknown, research has given some clues. The tendency to develop OCD seems to run in families with it frequently starting in childhood or adolescence.

It is a clinically recognised disorder that affects around 1-2 per cent of the population and is considered one of the ten most debilitating mental illnesses by the World Health Organisation.

Judy vowed to help other people like Sophie. Edgware Community Hospital generously offered premises in what is now the RF NRC unit, which is accessed via Deansbrook Road, and the Edgware OCD Support Group was formed.

Over the years, people with various forms of the disorder have been welcomed. A few examples are excessive washing and cleaning, intrusive thoughts, checking, hoarding and a fear of having run over someone, but there are so many more.

For the majority, OCD can be effectively controlled and treated by drugs and/or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). However it can be isolating and it is of huge benefit to meet other people who are also aware that their thoughts or actions are excessive or irrational but the anxiety they feel makes them difficult to ignore.

The group, which is facilitated by Judy and Tony, is held on the second Tuesday of each month from 7.30 to 9pm. People with all forms of OCD attend as do family members, sometimes without the sufferer. There is no charge and there is no need to be referred by an agency.

If readers fear they or a family member may have a form of OCD then either come along on the second Tuesday of the month or email Judy for more information at