Archie Lamb talks to The Times about his struggles with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Norman Lamb’s son Archie has been talking to the Times about his experience of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Many people with this condition find it incredibly irritating when people casually joke about “being a bit OCD”. If you are one of them, perhaps you’ll stop after reading about what life is like for sufferers. This is not a condition to be belittled.

Archie talked about how the condition affects him:

“People think OCD is nothing, that it’s a bit of a joke. It is not just about being clean and washing your hands or lining up cans of Coke in the fridge. It’s not. It’s about terrible thoughts and what it does to you having them in your head all the time. It goes a lot deeper than rituals,” Archie says.

Archie’s rituals were about checking — that lights were switched off, that he had the right kit in his bag, keys, money, everything. Often accompanied with paranoia, they became so bad that at times he could not leave the house. On a simple walk down the road he would constantly check that he had not stepped in something.

Despite his illness, he left school and began to make his way in the music business, setting up a hip-hop night in a Norwich club, then moving on to managing performers. At the age of 21 he had a chart-topping hit on his hands when Tinchy Stryder went to No 1.

Sadly, his OCD was so bad that he had become a recluse. “I suddenly got spots on my face at that age and just could not go out of the house. Everyone was out partying because we had this No 1 hit and I didn’t even care. I just stayed in.”

He tells his story very candidly, detailing how the condition brought him into very dark places. He’s now much more stable and offers hope to others.

 Archie wants to get the message out to any youngsters in despair that it will get better. “Speak up, get help and don’t give up. You can get to a place where you can get through it. I was in a very bad place a year and a half ago and didn’t see any point in my life, but something in me made me stick it out.”

Archie is only too aware of the stigma that people with mental ill health have to put up with:

“Is there prejudice against people with mental illness? A hundred per cent yes. People look at me in a different way when they know. If there is someone normal and me, people will always want to go and talk to the normal person.”

He fears there is a long way to go. “I have never seen anyone do as much as my dad to get the spotlight on to mental health, and I’m not just saying that because he is my dad. But it’s going to be hard to get to the point where it is looked at in the same way as physical illness or disability. When I act up and I’m not nice, I still look normal. People don’t understand that, so they have a go at me. If I had one leg they would have sympathy and think: ‘Poor guy, he’s only got one leg’.”

If you have a Times subscription, you can read the whole article here (£).

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  • Kirsten johnson 24th Mar '15 - 9:00am

    It is very brave of Archie to speak out. My heart goes out to him and his family, and to all those who suffer silently with OCD. We must keep working on de-stigmatising mental health and educating the public about conditions such as OCD. Thank you, Archie, for sharing your story.

  • Some of what Archie is quoted as saying here brings to mind an article by George Monbiot in October.

  • Mark Littlewood 24th Mar '15 - 10:04am

    Rather like Caron Lindsay in a previous post, I blame Jason Beattie of the Daily Mirror for this outrageous intrusion (by The Times) into the Lamb’s family’s private affairs…..

  • I agree. It is really courageous of Archie to come out and discuss his individual problem with OCD. It can only help others. Thanks very much Archie. It is really unacceptable that this ever got reported in the newspapers though, but maybe some good will come of it.

    In my article a few months back asking whether we should ‘take the mental out of mental health’ I asked this question partly because of the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which Archie has yet again confirmed, but partly also because we are now learning that brain disturbances such as OCD and depression are down to genetic factors and caused because brain cells are not doing what they are supposed to i.e. the cause is very much a physical malfunction of the brain (just as heart disease is down to a malfunction of the heart). I still think the term mental health is outdated and we need new ways to talk about these problems.

    Incidentally, there is a really good voluntary organisation called Triumph Over Phobia (TOP) which works with people with phobias, including OCD:

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Mar '15 - 11:47am

    Mark Littlewood: This article came out after the Mirror’s intrusion and gave Archie a chance to tell his own story.The Mirror’s story was an abuse of power and a gross intrusion. The Times interview is Archie telling his story his way. That’s the difference.

  • Caron – but the Times interview was necessitated by the original Mirror story.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Mar '15 - 1:34pm

    Not necessarily – the Mirror interview was obligatory which was why it was an abuse of power. The Times interview was a free choice.

  • Philip Thomas 24th Mar '15 - 9:27pm

    Very brave indeed. Best wishes to Archie and to his family.
    Judy, while I appreciate the point about physical causes of mental health (and of course the causes must ultimately be physical, unless you are a dualist), does it really matter whether there is an identifiable physical cause? My fear is that you are inadvertently creating a new subdivision- between those mental illnesses with an identifiable physical cause on current science and those without.
    My Bipolar Disorder may well be due to a chemical imbalance- the fact that it appears to be possible to control the symptoms through the use of medication, and that the symptoms have (in the past) resumed when I ceased taking the medication is a powerful indication of this. Other forms of mental illness are diagnostically linked to past traumas. Am I somehow superior to someone with PTSD because my illness is chemical and their illness is trauma based? Of course not. We need to treat all the ill with compassion and dignity, not make divisions.

  • @Philip
    No I think you may have misunderstood what I said, or at least meant to say. I mean that all mental health conditions are due to physical changes in the brain, even trauma, even if the manifestation may be emotional. There is certainly no hierarchy and I did not want to suggest this at all. What I find troubling is the insistence on calling emotional disorders of all and every kind ‘mental health’ problems. Yes we can call them that, but it has done no one suffering from such conditions any favours as it is an unhelpful shorthand for a wide range of different illnesses. It also may account for the chronic under-funding of the treatment and research into such conditions because they have all been classed together. This under-funding is quite unacceptable.

    Psychologist, Professor Kindermann has written widely on this subject including on the dangers of labelling ever more conditions as ‘mental health’ problems.

    I suppose what I really object to is the reported discrimination and stigma faced by people for no good reason and if scrapping the term mental health would help then it might be worth it.

  • Philip Thomas 25th Mar '15 - 7:54am

    @Judy Abel- fair enough I probably was misunderstanding what you were saying. I agree the stigma is a problem and that more funding is needed.

  • Thanks Philip

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