- Rose Bretécher, 29, suffered with intrusive sexual thoughts for ten years
- Started at 15, when Bretécher couldn’t get image of naked boy from mind
- Condition is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder known as pure O
- Exposure therapy has helped freelance writer manage the condition
Jo Tweedy For Mailonline
A woman has described how a rare strand of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) meant she was plagued with continuous sexual thoughts for more than a decade.
Rose Bretécher, 29, from London, says the condition hampered much of her young adult life after her first vision of a naked boy aged 15 until she finally underwent therapy to overcome the hallucinations and anxieties that left her unable to live normally in 2013.
Now in her new book, Pure, Bretécher documents her ten-year battle with invasive pornographic thoughts which were caused by an unusual but debilitating strand of OCD known as ‘pure O’.
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In recovery: 29-year-old Bretécher says the desire to get the message across about pure O outweighted any worries she had about telling her story
Rose Bretécher, 29, began suffering from obsessive visions and thoughts at the age of 15. She’s written about her experiences with pure O, a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, in a new book
While many OCD sufferers find themselves repeatedly checking things or washing their hands, Bretécher found herself dealing with uncontrollable thoughts and images of a highly sexual nature.
The freelance writer says that she experienced her first ‘vision’ of a naked boy aged 15 after a happy, Catholic upbringing.
She describes how the image plagued her and she could not get it to disappear.
In a blog for the charity OCD Action, she wrote: ‘I was just suddenly plunged into full blown obsessive fears, 24 hours a day, every day.
‘Fears that I may have committed a paedophilic act in my past without realising. Fears that the graphic mental images I was experiencing were proof of my depravity.’
It was an incident that would spark a decade of visual disturbances that would leave her seeing her friends topless, strangers copulating or even new colleagues completely naked.
An image shows how pure O visions might manifest. In the book, Bretécher recounts how she made eye contact with actor Jake Gyllenhaal only to find his head replaced by a giant, dancing vagina
Torment: Rose Bretécher says she missed out on key experiences in her teens because of the condition
Sitting down to watch a Ray Mears survival programme, for example, she saw a rock face replaced by the sight of vaginas sculpted across the wall.
The memoir reveals that the more Bretécher tried to rid herself of the images, the more likely it was they would appear.
She told ES Magazine: ‘The obsession is the thought and the compulsion is the attempt to explain away or get rid of the thought. The more you do, the worse the obsessions become.’
The book, which is out now, hopes to shine a light on a very unique strain of OCD, which manifests in thoughts and visions rather than physical activity
Despite desperately trying to live a normal teenage life, the writer says it ‘never felt like I was really there’. Parties and first dates were lost in a whirl of intrusive thoughts and images.
In the book, Bretécher speaks of the time she shared a trendy east end bar with Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
However she describes how when they locked eyes his face appeared to have been entirely replaced by a large, dancing vagina.
For a long time, she also questioned her own sexuality as the visions involved both genders.
She says anti-depressants made the problem worse and by the time she’d reached her second year of studying English Literature at Leeds University, the condition had taken over her life.
She took a year off, upon the recommendation of a GP and happened upon a self-diagnosis on the internet after finding a Wikipedia page about pure O.
It was a breakthrough moment that would see Bretécher embark upon different therapies.
The most effective has been Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), which involves the sufferer directly viewing the images that haunt them. For example, they might be asked to look at a scantily clad man or woman while unable to act out any compulsive behaviour.
Of the therapy, she said: ‘I was exposed to sexual content of gradually increasing explicitness and encouraged to tolerate my anxiety, thoughts and feelings, without engaging in compulsions.
‘Slowly I found myself less and less anxious in response to the stimuli.’
Bretécher felt unable to share the finer details of her condition with her parents until she finished therapy in 2013 and says she has worried that the book might make friends feel uncomfortable.
However, in her online blog for OCD Action, she concluded. ‘My fears about stigma were now outweighed by an intense gut feeling: pure O was a story that needed telling.’
Rose Bretécher’s book Pure is published by Unbound and out now, priced at £14.99
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