- Samantha Brown, 27, was eventually diagnosed with unusual form of OCD
- Had she lost another half a stone, she may have suffered organ failure
- Says her weight loss was rooted in her desire for some control in her life
- Research has shown OCD increases the risk of suffering an eating disorder
04:49 EST, 12 November 2013
09:30 EST, 12 November 2013
An artist saw her weight drop to just 5st 7lb because she was terrified that all food was going to poison her.
Samantha Brown, 27, was eventually diagnosed with an unusual form of obsessive compulsive disorder.
Her chronic anxiety, an effect of an obsessive compulsion to control her food intake, caused her weight to shrink dangerously low, to the horror of her family and friends.
Recovered: Samantha Brown’s weight plummeted to to 5st 7lb because she thought basic foods were poisoning her. She was later diagnosed with a rare form of obsessive compulsive disorder and now weighs a healthy 9st 7lb having undergone therapy
Miss Brown was working as a freelance fashion stylist when her OCD began to manifest itself.
She said: ‘I was incredibly stressed, doing a job that I hated. The recession had hit and the work was drying up.
‘I was working so hard to make something of my freelance career, which involved a lot of rejection. I felt as if I had no control.
‘I began dictating to myself what I could and couldn’t eat. As my behaviour developed, it became an OCD, where I thought practically everything was poison.
‘It was all rooted in my desire for control.’
Decline: Samantha pictured while she was rapidly losing weight. Her chronic anxiety, an effect of an obsessive compulsion to control her food intake, meant she only ate Coco Pops, salt and vinegar crisps and pizza
While OCD is treated as an entirely
separate condition to eating disorders such anorexia and bulimia, it is
known that patients with OCD tend to experience eating disorders more
Miss Brown, of Leicester, suspects her paranoia that food was harming her was made worse by the fact that she also suffers from ME, which causes chronic fatigue.
Shrinking: Samantha says her eating habits were rooted in her desire for control
Miss Brown said: ‘I didn’t want to be thin. I wasn’t avoiding eating to stay skinny.
‘Instead, I was convinced that unless I restricted myself to the foods I had decided were OK, I would poison myself.
‘I drew up an “allowed” list and a “forbidden” list. Before long, the “allowed” list had just three things – Coco Pops, salt and vinegar crisps, and thin-crust pizza.
‘Eventually, all I could manage was Coco Pops. My mum became really concerned. She would try to tempt me with new foods like macaroni cheese, but all I could do was sob into the plate, pleading with her and warning her that it would kill me.’
At her lowest ebb in the spring of 2012, Miss Brown, who is 5ft 8in, weighed just 5st 7lb. The physical and emotional exertion was so great that she contemplated suicide.
She said: ‘I thought I was being an enormous burden on my parents, and I didn’t know whether I would ever get better. I couldn’t see any way out.’
An appointment with her GP finally put her anxieties in context and, after an intensive course of cognitive behavioural therapy, she finally began to put on weight.
She said: ‘I stood on the scales and the doctor said, “if you lose another half a stone, your organs are going to fail”. It was a wake-up call.
‘When the doctor diagnosed me with OCD I was surprised because I thought I would be described as having a simple eating disorder.
‘It never occurred to me that my
behaviour – my systematic approval and disapproval of foods – was
‘But once I heard that I had OCD, it all started to make
‘He said it was rare for OCD to have
the effect it had on me, but not unknown. He had seen two other women in
a similar situation over the course of his career.’
Now Miss Brown, who exhibits art all over London, weighs a healthy 9st 7lb and maintains a balanced, varied diet.
She said: ‘I want to help other people who are struggling with OCD issues, if only by raising awareness about the different forms the condition can take.’
OCD – A MISUNDERSTOOD OBSESSION…
Well-known symptom: Sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder carry out repetitive and ritualistic actions, such as washing hands
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety-based condition, characterised by the sufferer having uncontrolled intrusive thoughts that dictate their actions, moods and fears.
The disorder is often depicted incorrectly in films and on television, where the sufferer has endearing or ‘amusing’ ritualistic behaviour. This depiction underplays the debilitating and often alienating nature of the condition.
It affects children, adolescents and adults. The majority of sufferers display symptoms from an early age.
The most well-known symptom of OCD includes the continuous and obsessive washing of hands, sometimes until the skin is irritated and feels raw.
Other common symptoms include: repetitive rituals such as closing doors in a specific way, or repeatedly checking locks or appliances; hoarding; preoccupation with violent, religious or sexual thoughts; and aversion to particular numbers, words or objects.
OCD sufferers can appear paranoid and even psychotic, and they can suffer emotional stress from the resulting breakdown in relationships at work and in their private lives. Worse still, many sufferers are aware that their actions appear irrational, leading to further anxiety. Suicide rates in sufferers is high, and more than 50 per cent of sufferers experience suicidal tendencies.
Despite its irrational nature, OCD has been associated with above-average intelligence – both share personality traits such as high attention to detail, meticulous planning and a higher than normal sense of responsibility.
People suffering from OCD can have related disorders, such as bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa, Tourette syndrome, Aspergers syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and dermatillomania (skin picking) and trichotillomania (hair pulling).
Famous sufferers include: Dr Samuel Johnson, retrospectively diagnosed because of his ritualistic behaviour of counting stairs and crossing doorway thresholds in a specific way; actress Cameron Diaz, who says she is irrationally terrified by the transmission of germs – especially from doorknobs; singer Justin Timberlake, who admits that certain foods must be present in his fridge at all times; Leonardo DiCaprio, who used his childhood OCD as inspiration when he played fellow sufferer Howard Hughes in The Aviator; and footballer David Beckham, who has said he must count his clothes and arrange books and magazines in straight lines.
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Birmingham, United Kingdom,
4 days ago
Really heartfelt story… I hope she can remain well… Go Samantha for over coming such an awful illness
eugene, United States,
4 days ago
Looks rather like a typical model in the before picture, and we wonder why people have eating problems.
Epsom, United Kingdom,
4 days ago
I think she looks much healthier now I m also OCD myself always washing my hands constant until my hands are red i do it non stop all day every day I cannot snap out of it I’m nearly 34 I also always wash my hands after I touch a door handle I will not touch anything unless I do also underweight too I can’t eat regular meals I’m not scared of eating I just don’t have much of an appetite like I used to I m around 6 stone I do eat but I’m not anorexic. I guess you could say i have a food phobia i just can’t seem to put the weight on and I’m scared I will never be able too I have a lot of hangs up that I can’t get over I wish I just could overcome my fears .
4 days ago
Coco Pops, crisps and pizza?!
How can she lose so much weight?
4 days ago
OCD is a terrible, debiiitating mental illness. These famous sufferers,David Beckham Leo de Caprio, Cameron Diaz etc etc have very,very , very mild forms of it. It is not affecting their lives and personal relationships – it doesn’t stop them from having a normal life…it does not make their lives totally,absolutely miserable. People who suffer from it on a continual basis have a terrible life.There are some prescription drugs which can help enormously as it seems to be caused by some kind of metabolic imbalance in the brain. However, even when taking the drugs, it doesn’t go away completely.There but for the grace of God……..go I
Bristol, United Kingdom,
4 days ago
I have OCD, and so does my son. Now, to my horror, my nine year old grand-daughter is showing signs of it too. My only consolation is that our form of it isn’t as bad as with some people, and at least it is better understood now. I think my Mum had it, but neither she nor I knew what was the matter when I was young, and the anxiety around it makes life an uphill struggle.
London, United Kingdom,
4 days ago
She looks so beautiful , healthy and YOUNG now. Wen she was ill she looked so old . I cant believe how much losing weight ages u. Im so pleased she is better now i hope she carries on with the therapy and continues to get the support she needs to stay healthy and pretty as she is now
Houston, United States,
4 days ago
Now she looks the same weight as 99% of celebrites……. hmmm
Co. Tyrone, United Kingdom,
4 days ago
I am plagued daily with Pure OCD.. When i have a flare up i literally want to die because the intrusive thoughts are so bad and terrifying that i cannot see any way out of them! thankfully i would never kill myself but i can tell you that this illness is awful and terrifying and i honestly don’t think i will ever recover and fighting it everyday is so tiring, i would love a day of peace in my head. I am glad she is getting better i completely understand how real the fear of these thoughts are!
4 days ago
Glad you’re back to looking beautiful.
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