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Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners

OCD-UK today remain extremely disappointed that, despite our lengthy discussions with them, Channel 4 are continuing with their plans to broadcast a series of programmes which falsely gives the impression that people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder somehow gain pleasure from their compulsive cleaning. We feel that this not only trivialises the severity of those that suffer with contamination obsessive fears, but also adds further to the misconception that OCD is primarily about cleaning compulsions. This misrepresentation about what OCD is all about can only lead to increased stigma for those that suffer.

Next week (13th Feb, 9pm), Channel 4 launch the first of a six part series called Obsessive-Compulsive Cleaners, which follows a lady, that the channel 4 programme describe to be obsessed with cleaning so much that she setup an agency to recruit what the programme call ‘Compulsive Cleaners’. The programme description goes on to suggest that people with OCD that are compulsive cleaners have a special set of skills and a gift for cleaning that could change the habits of the nation, and in the programme Linda Dykes, sets out to recruit an army of obsessive compulsive cleaners to help clean Britain's dirty homes and filthy public spaces.

Whilst we are yet to see the programme, despite a request to do so, we are incredibly concerned that the title and emphasis of the programme might add to the wholly inaccurate and false stereotype that OCD is purely about people that clean. In fact, the direct opposite is true, the NICE guidelines for OCD suggest one study showed that only 26.5% of people with OCD actually have cleaning compulsions, and that figure goes down further in other parts of the world. In fact, people with OCD that do have contamination/cleaning issues find it incredibly disabling and actually get no pleasure what-so-ever from their compulsive rituals.

The notion that people with OCD get 'Monica from Friends' style enjoyable pleasure from cleaning is a totally inaccurate portrayal of OCD. Our own Chief Executive, Ashley Fulwood sufferers with contamination OCD, and told us “I and perhaps others with similar OCD fears totally bust the myth that we are all ‘neat freaks’, I live like a typical single bloke, a slob like kitchen and bathroom, my bathroom is sometimes disgusting with soap scum everywhere from over-washing myself. Not only that, I also detested the washing and cleaning I did when the OCD strikes, I would get no pleasure from it, and I just wanted to stop, but the OCD forced me to continue. So to suggest there is any sort of pleasure for people with OCD from cleaning is a misconception that must be challenged. From the programmes point of view a question I would like to ask an OCD specialist is if people who find cleaning so pleasurable would even get a diagnosis of OCD anyway?”

OCD-UK very much believe that language used by the media can be positive or negative in changing misconceptions about OCD, and any programme which features people with OCD involved in cleaning, and uses the language ‘Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners’, ‘Obsessive Cleaners’ or ‘Compulsive Cleaners’ will inadvertently or maybe intentionally have the connotation, that this programme is all about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

At a time when charities like OCD-UK work so hard each October to raise awareness and change perceptions during OCD Awareness Week, (and throughout the year infact), programmes like this may well set our awareness efforts back considerably by incorrectly adding to false stereo-types about OCD, and also to add further stigma to those that suffer with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

At the time of writing, the production company Betty TV have failed to discuss our concerns with us, despite a phone call and email being sent on Monday, their only response was to tell us to contact Channel 4. We have spoken to a disability consultant for Channel 4 on Monday, and again via email on Tuesday when we urged them to reconsider the wording used on their website, and the title of the programme which they have refused to do.

Ashley went on to comment "This also somewhat brings into question Channel 4’s desire to truly honour the Time to Change anti-stigma pledge that they signed last July, in which they became the first British broadcaster to pledge to tackle mental health stigma. If they're broadcasting programmes that could add to the stigma that people with OCD face, even after we have highlighted the possibility to them, then yes, they may have signed the pledge as an employer to challenge the discrimination and prejudice that their employees with mental health problems may face, but doing the opposite with their programmes is rather hypocritical."

OCD-UK feel that this type of programme is likely to lead to an upsurge in the trivialisation of OCD further with more cleaning companies using OCD in their marketing. We are already aware of several cleaning services using OCD in their marketing, which we condemn because for many thousands of people the impact of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can lead to utter devastation.

We now await viewing of the programmes, and we hope that our fears are unfounded. We have informed Channel 4 that we will be making a formal complaint directly and via Ofcom should the programmes indeed add to misconceptions and stigma, when prior to broadcast they had opportunity to change following those concerns being highlighted to them.

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