'It took away my freedom': OCD controlled Auckland woman's life

The mental illness put Genevieve Mora in a psychiatric ward on two occasions
The mental illness put Genevieve Mora in a psychiatric ward on two occasions Photo credit: Supplied.

A young woman who was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder at the age of 12 says that if she didn't do what the voice in her head was telling her, she genuinely believed she or someone she loved would die.

"It landed me in the psychiatric ward on two occasions, stopped me from being able to enter my house without severe anxiety and contributed to me dropping out of school," Ms Mora told Newshub.

Genevieve Mora is speaking out about the debilitating mental illness, now determined to remove the stigma which surrounds OCD and the common misunderstandings about its tendencies.

Genevieve Mora wants to squash the misunderstandings about OCD.
Genevieve Mora wants to squash the misunderstandings about OCD. Photo credit: Supplied.

The 24-year-old said there are common false impressions about OCD but the anxiety disorder ruins lives and in Ms Mora's case prevented her from being able to function in society.

'"Oh! You have OCD, so you’re super clean, right?' Wrong. Yes, cleanliness, fear of germs and contamination is one trait of OCD but it does not define them all," she said.

"I was completely riddled with OCD and yet my room was a great representation of my life - it was a mess."

The Auckland-based mental health advocate explained nowadays the term is often used out of context.

'It took away my freedom': OCD controlled Auckland woman's life

"Do you know how frustrating it is to hear this term thrown around like it means nothing when OCD nearly killed me?

"Like most OCD sufferers, I knew that logically my thoughts and their consequences didn’t add up.

"But when your mind's telling you that if you don’t unlock the front door four times your family will be killed in a car crash, it’s easier to just unlock the door than sit with that fear."

Ms Mora has since established Voices of Hope - an organisation dedicated to providing hope for people struggling with mental health issues - and with co-founder Jazz Thornton will greet the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Wellington later in the month.

Ms Mora was diagnosed with OCD at 12 years old.
Ms Mora was diagnosed with OCD at 12 years old. Photo credit: Supplied.
'It took away my freedom': OCD controlled Auckland woman's life

For two years, Ms Mora's life was centred around a preoccupation the number four, even though she confesses she wasn't "particularly good at maths" but the OCD would force her to work it out.

"Odd numbers weren't even an option. Everything had to be done in evens. For a while, my obsession was with the number four, or multiples of four.

"I'd read a book and have to re-read the same page four times. I’d walk back and forth through the door four times."

Ms Mora's state of mind grew more clouded when she developed an eating disorder (ED) from the age of 14, weighing just 48kg at its worst.

"I was all over the show. It was all about control. And once the ED came along my exercise, food became very structured.

"I think OCD kind of triggered my ED. Hours of my day were spent trying to protect myself from doing OCD rituals that I felt so out of control so I started controlling food."

"It took away my freedom," Ms Mora told Newshub.
"It took away my freedom," Ms Mora told Newshub. Photo credit: Supplied.

Ms Mora is today grateful for the cognitive behavioural treatment with a psychologist who specialised in OCD.

"Each session he would challenge me more and more," she explained.

It started with writing a list of all of her rituals, from the most severe to the least. Severe meaning they were going to be very difficult to stop and least being easy to stop. 

"I had pages of these rituals. It was eye-opening to see just how much of my day was taken up by these thoughts and behaviours," Ms Mora said.

"Exposure technique is how we began to practically tackle my thoughts. It's a scary process that increases the sufferer’s anxiety but helped dramatically in reducing my behaviours.

The Auckland-based mental health advocate works with her Voices of Hope co-founder to promote change across New Zealand's mental health systems.
The Auckland-based mental health advocate works with her Voices of Hope co-founder to promote change across New Zealand's mental health systems. Photo credit: Supplied.
Ms Mora and Jazz Thornton will meet with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the end of October to discuss the work they have achieved.
Ms Mora and Jazz Thornton will meet with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the end of October to discuss the work they have achieved. Photo credit: Supplied.

"He would ask me to open the door ONCE whilst my OCD was telling me I needed to do it four times. We would then sit with that feeling while I tried to deal with the overwhelming anxiety.

"I would notice each time that my anxiety would disappear quicker and quicker. I worked on each of my behaviours over and over again.

"Often when you 'get over' a ritual, OCD chucks you something new to make up for it.

"Learning to sit with that anxiety and realising from practice that anxiety does pass made ignoring new rituals easier over time. 

She says to those who are fighting OCD, know that there is hope: "I am proof."

'It took away my freedom': OCD controlled Auckland woman's life

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