David Beckham on living with ‘tiring’ OCD: Here are the symptoms, causes and treatments

David Beckham pictured at the launch of his Netflix documentary. (Getty Images)
David Beckham has opened up about the extensive cleaning rituals he feels compelled to complete while his family are in bed. (Getty Images) (Samir Hussein via Getty Images)

David Beckham has described having the urge to complete certain cleaning rituals while the rest of his family sleeps, hinting that the nightly routine forms part of the obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) he lives with.

In episode two of the new Netflix documentary, Beckham, which was launched this week, the former England football captain, 47, details his pre-bed routine, which involves cleaning every candle and clipping their wicks.

The opening clip of the episode sees David standing in an immaculate kitchen, prompting the director to ask if it had ever been used.

David responds by saying he had cooked the previous night but he "cleans so well" afterwards, adding that he doesn't believe his efforts are always "appreciated" by his wife, Victoria.

"The fact that when everyone’s in bed, I then go around cleaning the candles, turning the lights on to the right setting. I make sure everywhere is tidy because I hate coming down in the morning and there’s cups and plates and bowls.

"It’s tiring," he continues. "It’s tiring going around every single candle, cleaning it and clipping the wick.

"I clip the candle wax, I clean the glass, that’s my pet hate, the smoke around the inside of a candle,” he adds. "I know, it’s weird."

David and Victoria Beckham have both previously discussed the former footballer's condition. (Getty Images)
David and Victoria Beckham have both previously discussed the former footballer's condition. (Getty Images) (Samir Hussein via Getty Images)

Beckham previously discussed his experiences with OCD in an interview with ITV in 2006. "I have to have everything in a straight line or everything has to be in pairs," he said.

"I'll put my Pepsi cans in the fridge and if there’s one too many then I’ll put it in another cupboard somewhere.

‘I'll go into a hotel room and before I can relax I have to move all the leaflets and all the books and put them in a drawer. Everything has to be perfect."

When asked if he wanted to stop his obsessive behaviour, Beckham admitted: "I would like to. I’ve tried and can’t stop."

Victoria has also spoken about her husband’s OCD in the past, previously telling one interviewer: "He’s got that obsessive compulsive thing where everything has to match. If you open our fridge, it’s all coordinated down either side.

"We’ve got three fridges - food in one, salad in another and drinks in the third. In the drinks one, everything is symmetrical. If there’s three cans, he'll throw one away because it has to be an even number."

Read more: How to deal with a panic attack as Kerry Katona says she's been left feeling like she 'can't breathe' (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

There are many misconceptions surrounding OCD. (Getty Images)
There are many misconceptions surrounding OCD. (Getty Images) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

What is OCD and what are the symptoms?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health problem. The main symptoms of OCD can be categorised into two significant areas; obsessions and compulsions.

The mental health charity Mind describes obsessions as "unwelcome thoughts, feelings, images, urges, worries or doubts that keep coming into your mind".

Meanwhile, compulsions are described as "repetitive things that you do to reduce the distress or uncertainty caused by obsessions".

Compulsions can be things you do physically, like repeatedly checking a door is locked, or things you do in your head, like repeating a specific word to yourself.

While the charity says everyone can experience obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours at times, for those living with OCD, doubts and fears about their thoughts, and the things they do to feel better, can make them distressed, impacting their life.

OCD UK estimates that around three-quarters of a million people are thought to be living with severe, life-impacting and debilitating OCD in the UK.

Read more: The most common mental health conditions - and where to get help (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

There are many ways OCD can manifest. (Getty Images)
There are many ways OCD can manifest. (Getty Images)

What are the causes of OCD?

While there has been considerable research on the subject, experts so far have not been able to identify a definitive cause for why a person develops OCD. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

However, there are a number of theories.

"The condition may be triggered by a combination of genetic, neurological, behavioural, cognitive, and environmental factors," Abie Taylor-Spencer, TMS Technician at mental health clinic Smart TMS previously told Yahoo Life.

"Imbalances in neurotransmitters such as serotonin and glutamate have also been recognised as potential factors in the development of this disorder."

And having relatives with OCD can significantly increase the likelihood of an individual developing OCD.

What are the treatment options for OCD?

The NHS says there are two main treatments for OCD but the treatment recommended will depend on how much living with the condition is affecting your life.

  • Psychological treatments which include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP). This involves exposure to unwanted thoughts or situations to achieve habituation, which is where the compulsive response can be prevented over time.

  • Medications are available to treat OCD, which are typically used when an individual does not respond to psychological treatment. Commonly, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as citalopram and sertraline are used to alter the balance of chemicals in the brain. A tricyclic antidepressant such as clomipramine may be prescribed. But, around 40% of individuals with OCD do not respond to medication.

Further treatment by a specialist team may sometimes be necessary if you've tried talking therapy and medicine and your OCD is still not under control.

Some people with severe, long-term and difficult-to-treat OCD may be referred to a national specialist OCD service.

These services offer assessment and treatment to people with OCD who have not responded to treatments available from their local and regional OCD services.

OCD UK has more information about NHS Specialist OCD Treatment Services