A father of 5 from Sheffield became so consumed by his extreme OCD that he became convinced that he was going to murder people.
From the outside, it looked like Adam Shaw had it all – a loving family, a thriving business and beautiful home – but sadly this wasn’t the case.
Adam’s obsessive thoughts began in childhood, and became progressively worse as he got older.
He explains, ‘my fear was seeing on the news people being killed, people being murdered and overnight I thought I was going to be a murderer. I thought I was going to strangle people. I thought I was going to stab people.’
‘It wasn’t that I just thought it – I felt I was having urges to do it. I’d convince myself that I was having urges to strangle people.’
‘I was beating myself up about it thinking, ‘you’re such a horrible guy, you’re going to end up in prison, your family are going to be disgraced by you’. I didn’t realise this is a mental health problem. I thought, ‘I’m a killer, I’m a psychopath’.’
‘It was constant mental torture.’
Adam became so convinced that he would act on his murderous thoughts that he developed special rituals to help keep them at bay.
He says, ‘I would carry a pair of handcuffs in my pocket permanently and I couldn’t leave the house without them. They became a part of my life. The whole point of me having handcuffs was to alleviate the worry that I was going to kill somebody. Whenever I had an OCD thought come into my head I had to put my hands in my pocket to check they were there.’
Despite his inner turmoil, Adam didn’t tell his wife Alissa about his struggles until he had a break down on their first family holiday.
Alissa explains, ‘We’d gone to the Canary Islands and he was in the bedroom and he came out in floods of tears.’
‘I didn’t know what was happening. My first thought was, ‘is he seeing someone else and he’s decided to tell me here?’ Or ‘what if something is wrong with him physically?’ And then he started to explain a little about what was happening. He didn’t know himself so there was only so much he could tell me. I was totally, totally blown away when everything came to light and he started to explain what was happening.’
When the family returned from their holiday, Adam met with a therapist who finally diagnosed him with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
He says, ‘I was told that, ‘Adam you aren’t actually an evil person. You’re not actually going to carry out these thoughts.’ He wanted me to stay on and do more therapy with him because we’d only just scratched the surface but I was convinced I was fine.’
‘I made a massive mistake because I didn’t carry on with the therapy.’
After his initial diagnosis, Adam continued to battle his compulsions alone – but admits that it did have a negative impact on his life and family.
He says, ‘I’ve sometimes pretended to be in bed asleep when my son’s knocking on the door to come out and play because I was depressed.’
‘I missed out on things. I missed out on birthday events because I didn’t want to be around people.’
Left exhausted by battling his thoughts, Adam decided that the only option was to take his own life.
He says, ‘I was so tired of the battle. I was so scared of my thoughts. I had a break down of epic proportions. There was just nowhere to go from it and I sat on the bridge and that was it – I was going to end it.’
‘I’m sat on a bridge and I’m about to end it all and it’s like, these thoughts cannot hurt me any more – I’m relieving myself of it.’
‘I felt so relaxed, and I’ve never ever had that moment, but I thought, ‘how sad is that? Why can’t you have those sensations in the real world? There must be a way’. And it was that moment that I thought there was still hope.’
It was shortly after this turning point that Adam went to meet with Dr Laura Callaghan, a leading psychologist who specialises in complex anxiety disorders. Through therapy, she taught him to face his obsessive thoughts head on.
Adam says, ‘She said, ‘you’ve been running away, you’ve been battling away, you’ve been ritualising with them, you’ve put them up on a pedestal and given them more power than they deserve. And by giving them that power they’ve ruled your life. I want you to accept you have these thoughts, I want you to accept them for what they are and let them in.’’
After working with Dr Callaghan, Adam’s life was completely transformed. So much so, that the pair wrote a book to help others struggling with OCD, and also established The Shaw Mind Foundation which works to help those suffering from mental health problems.
Now, Adam is looking forward to a healthier and happier life with his loving family.
He says, ‘I will always have OCD traits as part of who I am. But will I ever be in a position where I’m on a bridge again, or distressed by my thoughts? No.’
‘I think I’m more mentally positive and more mentally healthy than people who’ve not had mental health problems because I’ve learnt to understand my mind.’
‘I’ve learnt to understand, to see how strong I was to go through what I went through, to know that I survived every day.’
We wish Adam and his family the very best for the future!