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OCD in Society: Making Sense of a Hidden Illness

The event “OCD in Society: Making Sense of a Hidden Illness” aimed to bring together people who suffer from OCD – including OCD advocates, charities, and artists – with social scientists to think about the different ways OCD is understood in society. In order to know how to take social action when raising awareness about the disorder, one needs an understanding of how different meanings of the disorder are created, circulated and regulated in society. Linguistics PhD student Elvis therefore organized this event with support from the Centre for Mind in Society to promote research about OCD that is not only done for, but also with and by the OCD community.


27 June 2019

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The event kicked off with a series of brilliant talks from three psychologists, a linguist, an anthropologist, and a historian who presented their fascinating research. The second half of the event was dedicated to OCD sufferers. We had a workshop with a psychologist about an alternative approach to the traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy (called inference-based therapy), and a roundtable with OCD advocates who discussed issues when raising awareness about OCD, their experience in working with journalists, the implications of self-disclosing their disorder to different people and in different contexts, and how their advocacy work impacts their identity. We also had The Secret Illness group which promoted fantastic artwork done by OCD sufferers about their condition (e.g. wood-carvings, poems, literary works, dance, plays, music). The event was a resounding success, with positive feedback:

I liked the variety of talks that made the whole day interesting (mixture of academics, workshop, visual arts, and open discussions). Better than expected! I learnt so much! Thank you!

I have absolutely no knowledge of OCD and this conference today really gave me an overview and an insight of how it is to live with OCD. Nothing needs to be improved! Great job!

I really liked to learn that there are studies from different disciplines about OCD.

Attendees found that the event created a safe space to share personal stories about their experience with OCD, while contributing to the academic discussions. We had around 250 people on that day watching us on the live YouTube stream, with people from America asking questions to the panelists! For more information about the event:

Webpage of the conference:

Youtube recording:

And check out the photos: (1) Jonathan Tilley and his fabulous wood-carvings and poems ( (2) Maximillian Hawker collecting funds for his great children’s book about OCD ( (3) The YouTube live stream of the roundtable discussion.



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