TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 20, 2022

Meet Ferly: The Sexual Wellness App Making Healing Fun

The app was established back in July 2019 and is backed by experts in women's health to inject the most up to date research and techniques in sex education into its foundations.

Sex. That seemingly nonchalant three letter word is loaded (excuse the pun) with meaning, experience, emotion, and sometimes trauma.  It should be fun, although sometimes complicated, and during the times we can’t get enough of it the joys of feeling sensual, empowered and desired can’t be beaten. But for so many, sex isn’t as simple as that. For the 51% of women that struggle with sex, be it painful intercourse, feeling shame or overthinking the experience as a whole, finding support and resources to help on the journey to becoming more sexually confident and liberated can be a struggle. 

Its aim is to help users feel present and empowered to explore and lead a healthy and pleasurable sex life

Enter: Ferly. The sexual wellness app led by science and research-based therapy sessions, its aim is to help users feel present and empowered to explore and lead a healthy and pleasurable sex life, because who doesn’t want that? Based around three main programmes (Cultivating Desire, Sex After Trauma and Body Confidence), and with other resources such as body mapping sessions, journaling prompts, podcast episodes and interviews and sensual stories to help get you in the mood, Ferly is a one-stop-shop for taking back control and slowly but surely helping sex to feel good again.

The app was established back in July 2019 and is backed by experts in women’s health to inject the most up to date research and techniques in sex education into its foundations, helping incorproate mindfulness based cognitive therapy and form an accessible means of overcoming trauma, understanding pleasure and redefining sex ed. Ferly founders Billie Quinlan and Anna Hushlak are survivors of sexual assault and violence themselves, and have sought to create a safe space to help others in similar situations rebuild their confidence and reclaim their sex lives. 

We caught up with Billie to chat all things sexual healing and education, and learn more about the app itself…

Hi guys! Having explored the app, its features, tools and sensual stories it’s safe to say we’re obsessed! What was the inspiration behind building the app and how did the Ferly journey begin?

Hi, I’m Billie. I’m one-half of Ferly’s founders and Dr Anna Hushlak is my amazing partner in crime. Our journey building Ferly started in 2019 but the seed started growing way before that. Unfortunately, Anna lost her virginity through rape when she was 15 and it took her 10 years to really make sense of the experience, move through her trauma and find pleasure again.

We wanted to build a sex positive platform that normalised investing in your sexual wellbeing. Billie

As for me, I was sexually assaulted by a senior colleague at work. For the first time this made me see the connection between health and pleasure, and between a healthy sexuality and our quality of life. When the two of us met, we immediately bonded over our shared experience, our desire to empower women and our passion for healthy living. We were so frustrated that there were all these beautiful, consumer friendly tools out there for our physical and mental health, but the only help available for our sexual health was expensive to access (therapy) or hard to digest (books, medical journals etc). We wanted to build a sex positive platform that normalised investing in your sexual wellbeing. A safe space that smashed sexual taboos and gave women permission to prioitise their pleasure, because when women do that, it transforms their quality of life!

How does Ferly differ from other similar apps in this space or would you consider it to be completely one of a kind?

When we launched in 2019, we were one of two companies operating in this space. The other company really focused on creating an alternative to porn and they built an entertainment platform that made listening to sexual stimuli a really pleasurable experience. We decided to focus more on the health angle. Roughly 51% of women struggle with a sexual difficulty which could be anything from low libido to trouble reaching orgasm or sexual anxiety to pain during sex (FYI around 25% of men struggle with sexual difficulties yet there’s a multi-billion dollar industry out there to help them and what do women have as a way of support…very little!)

Our mission is to help all women have great sex. To do that, we had to help those that weren’t always having the best time. Ferly is a digital therapeutic which means we’ve created an evidence-based program that helps women have better sex in just 12 weeks! The results are truly amazing. Women write in and tell us we’ve saved their marriages, that we’ve given them the confidence to date again, that they’ve had their first orgasm and never been happier. Hearing from our customers is really overwhelming and it drives us to work so hard every day.  

Unfortunately so many womxn struggle with their sexual journey’s at some point in their lives. How does Ferly help with these struggles and what can people expect from using the app? Talk us through the journey of using Ferly from download to working through these issues…

Our sexual pleasure is contingent on our bodies, minds and social world all working in harmony. The reality is, it’s hard for us to always align those things. So when they aren’t operating quite like they should, we step in to help. Ferly helps you understand which of the three (body, mind, world) are out of whack and then we give you an incredible framework to follow that will move them back into harmony. Within our framework you’ll learn about the science of sex, recieve the sex education you should have had, be walked through beautiful practices that encourage you to get out of your head and into your body and discover more about yourself and your pleasure than ever before.

After 12 weeks, 90% of our community say they’ve never felt so sexually confident. When you join Ferly you also get a personal coach and gain access to a group of other women going on the same journey so you never feel alone in this experience. 

Who do you consider the target audience for Ferly? Is it primarily for those who have experienced trauma during sex or can anyone benefit from the tools available on the app?

We’re for any woman or vulva owner that wants to have better sex. Some women come to us because they’ve experienced trauma but that’s not the case for most of our community. The reality is, we all had shit sex education at school, so unless you grew up in a very sex-positive household you probably didn’t learn how to have great sex. And I’m not just talking about the physical act of sex. I’m also talking about how to communicate with your partner, form healthy relationships, develop sexual beliefs that make it possible for you to know your pleasure matters and that prioritising your needs is essential and not at all indulgent! Our sexuality is a living, breathing part of who we are. It’s how we express ourselves and form relationships, and Ferly gives you all the tools you need to live authentically you, basking in your sexual power. 

How would you describe sexual wellness to someone who doesn’t know what this phase means?

Sexual wellness is leading a healthy, confident and pleasurable life where your relationship to sex positively contributes to your quality of life.

How does Ferly work with experts in the field and could you tell us a little more about the science behind the app?

Anna is a scientist by training so when we set out to build Ferly we had scientific rigour in our DNA. We wanted to build a wellness solution that was rooted in evidence from the world’s leading institutions and academics. From day one we partnered with the best experts in the U.K. and North America and as a result, we’ve created a solution that truly delivers on its promise. There is no woo woo science in Ferly. 

Ferly has taken clinically proven interventions in women’s sexual pleasure and used technology to scale them so that we can reach millions of women around the world. We need to democratise this type of care so that every woman that wants better sex, can have it!

Billie

How important do you guys see masturbation to be in helping womxn reconnect with their bodies and enjoy feeling pleasure sexually?

We live in an increasingly busy world where we live mostly in our minds. Our attention is being hijacked by advertisers, social media or work and it’s becoming harder and harder to truly switch off and unwind. But so much living happens in our bodies. If we don’t carve out space to ground ourselves we lose touch of our senses and our intuition. Being too in our heads and not enough in our body is also a huge contributor to sex being a bit shit. Masturbation is a phenomenal practice to help you reconnect with yourself, to tune into your needs and to practice the art of mindfulness.

It also teaches you what you like, what feels good and equally what doesn’t. There is a huge pleasure gap in heterosexual relationships. Men have more pleasure than women. Masturbation helps women learn the art of their pleasure which in turn gives them the language to communicate to their partners. It’s one of the most powerful ways women can unlock more pleasure in their lives!

The pandemic has impacted our lives in every possible way during the past few years, be it with our mental and physical health and a complete upheaval of our previous lifestyles. Have you seen an uptake in people using Ferly during this time and seeking out support due to feeling isolated in their struggles?

Definitely, we saw a rise of over 600% during the first lockdown in 2020 and that trend has continued. It feels like there has been a huge shift in consumer awareness when it comes to the importance of sex to a happy and healthy life and on top of that, we are seeing a dialogue open up like never before. We always say that the sexual revolution of the 60s/70s was for men and the pandemic has brought about a sexual revolution for women. It’s such an exciting time for the sexual wellness industry because women’s sexual awakening is driving the growth!

What’s been the proudest/biggest ‘pinch me’ moment in the Ferly journey so far?

We’ve had a few but the fact that we’ve been used by almost 300,000 women in over 200 countries is pretty cool. Women around the world are prioritising their pleasure and it feels like one giant community of incredible women. On the product side, being featured by Apple as their App of the Day and now being added to their Apple Health app alongside industry giants like Clue and Flo is also amazing. This really highlights the change in consumer awareness and demand! Oh, and of course being interviewed by Zoella 😉

What’s been the biggest challenge so far in building Ferly from concept to viable business?

Getting funded when the purse strings are held by middle-aged white men who don’t think women’s pleasure matters as much as men’s pleasure. The patriarchy is alive and kicking my friends!

Do you have a message of hope or healing you could share with anyone reading this who is currently struggling with their sex life, be it with painful intercourse or feeling disconnected from their body? It’s easy to feel really isolated when battling these issues.

The number one question we get asked at Ferly is ‘am I normal’ and whilst there is no normal, there are enough of us struggling with the same issues to say you absolutely are. It’s so unbelievably common to struggle with sexual issues but with the right information and support, you can and will overcome them. With Ferly, that help is really accessible and you can access it from the comfort of your home. So whatever you’re navigating, we’re here to help. Waiting for you on the other side is a life filled with beautiful experiences and pleasurable moments.

Where do you hope to take Ferly next and what are your hopes for the future?

Our goal is to be the number one destination for women’s mental and sexual wellbeing as it’s all so intrinsically linked. We believe women deserve a platform that is designed solely for their lived experiences and their needs. And designed in a way that makes investing in their health exciting, joyful and more than anything, easy. Ferly’s mission is to empower every woman to live a healthy, confident and pleasurable life. We won’t stop until we’ve created the right solutions for all their needs. 

Check out Ferly on the app store, and find more incredible resources via their Instagram at @weareferly.

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 19, 2022

​​Time to Break Up With Diet Culture: The Dangers of Fad Money Making Diets

The year is 2022 and it appears the mainstream media and diet companies specifically are yet to cotton on to the fact that talking about weight loss in the period directly after Christmas (or the other 11 months of the year for that matter) can be really damaging to the mental health of so many.

If waking up in darkness wasn’t enough to prompt Airbnb hunting for destinations literally *anywhere* but here, it turns out we can’t even run to social media as a usual form of escapism in the New Year. Why, you may ask? Diets. Diets everywhere!

The year is 2022 and it appears the mainstream media and diet companies specifically are yet to cotton on to the fact that talking about weight loss in the period directly after Christmas (or the other 11 months of the year for that matter) can be really damaging to the mental health of so many.

Who knew this concept was so hard to fathom! It’s natural after a period of indulgence, aka Christmas, to intuitively feel like change is what your body may need, be it getting out of the house more and adding in some extra greens to your meals, but the pressure to ‘glow up’, transform your body and never touch a carb again simply ain’t it. Practising new habits intuitively is the aim, but sadly the diet companies of the world that profit from weight loss tend to have a different metric for success, and if you’ve been thinking about ending this toxic relationship, we’re here to encourage you to go through with the diet culture break up for good! 

But what exactly is diet culture? The term has become part of our modern-day vernacular, increasingly sparking debate over the past few years, but what does this clickable phrase actually mean, and how does it impact our daily lives? 

Isa Robinson, nutritionist and previous disordered eating sufferer, explains that “As a rule of thumb, diet culture is anything that equates health and beauty to slenderness and links food and eating to morality. It’s the system that tells you that you are what you eat, that you need to earn your food and that you “should” spend time, money and effort into making your body smaller or stronger or look a certain way, or that you are “good” when you eat certain types of foods, and “bad” when you eat others.” 

If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business

Dr Gail Dines

Diet culture and beauty standards, in general, are sneaky, they change along with trends (be it small boobs one decade and big the next, the BBL aesthetic vs Kate Moss in the 90s), meaning we’re constantly chasing an ideal that is impossible to reach. Once we finally get close to achieving what is considered ‘beautiful’, the goalposts are moved, and once more we turn to spending money on cosmetic procedures, putting effort into diets and workout routines to build a bigger bum or get rid of a thigh gap (remember this era of the internet?) until our whole world is focused upon meeting a criteria that will soon shift again.

Diet companies capitalise on this system of beliefs, with their messaging and intentions focused upon helping people lose weight in ways that aren’t sustainable, ensuring that their customers will likely be dieting for a long time, and become reliant on the groups and mechanisms they often promote as healthy ‘lifestyle changes’. 

So, how can you spot diet culture in the wild? 

  • Labelling foods as good or bad
  • The idea of ‘cheat days’
  • The concept of needing to burn off a big meal e.g. Christmas dinner
  • Complimenting weight loss 
  • Eliminating food groups in the name of ‘health’
  • Detox/skinny teas and appetite suppressants pills being readily available in pharmacies/shops

Not so fun fact: did you know the diet industry is worth $60 billion, largely due to the 80% failure rate of these diets, and the fact the majority of dieters will regain the weight, plus more, within 12 months. This is because diet-induced weight loss is accompanied by several physiological changes, including alterations in energy expenditure, metabolism and hormone pathways involved in appetite regulation, meaning maintaining weight loss becomes difficult and mentally exhausting. It means dieters may have to continually lower their calorie intake, and can then lead to bingeing large volumes of food thanks to the shame > restrict > binge > shame > restrict > binge cycle that can be triggered when our bodies are in starvation mode. 

One of our favourite anti-diet writers and activists Megan Jayne Crabbe (formerly Body Posi Panda) has endless resources on this very subject, and in her 2017 book Body Positive Power, she explains exactly why dieting based upon restriction is counterintuitive, ineffective in the long run, and the means by which companies can profit from its only short term benefits:

“We are biologically programmed not to stick to diets. Way back when we were hunter-gatherers, food could get scarce at times. The only way to survive famines was to have plenty of juicy fat stores that the body could use for energy when it got desperate. Thanks to natural selection we still have that same survival technique, meaning that when we experience starvation (and many diets prescribe exactly that), our bodies hold onto their fat stores extra tightly by slowing down our metabolism. If you do manage to lose body fat, you disturb the balance of hormones produced by adipose cells that regulate hunger and fullness signals in the brain. In other words, lose weight, and you start feeling even hungrier than usual, your metabolism is slow, and your body will start fighting back against the diet why? Because your body already knows the weight it wants to be.” Intuitive eating, meaning recognising your hunger and honouring it, is one of the best ways we can create a healthier relationship with ourselves and food, as we give our bodies what they need and eliminate restrictions that only serve to feel like punishment. 

Roberta Pollack, social historian and author commented in her 1991 book Never Too Thin: “anorexia nervosa could be called the paradigm of our age, for our creed encourages us all to adopt the behaviour and attitude of the anorexic. The difference is one of degree, not of kind.” It seems that although 30 years may have passed since Roberta’s book was published, diet culture’s hold on us is still going strong. 

If you’re sitting here thinking,  “But I want to lose weight and think I would feel great if I did” then that’s cool too!

Let’s pause for a moment though. If you’re sitting here thinking,  “But I want to lose weight and think I would feel great if I did” then that’s cool too! Losing weight by exercising to feel strong and empowered, and eating in a way that helps you feel like the best version of yourself is 100% okay, because after all, body autonomy exists and having agency to make decisions about your health and appearance is all on you. Losing weight in itself is not inherently bad, but diet culture so often overlaps with this choice, meaning the lines become increasingly blurred. It’s totally possible to be body positive and want to lose weight, but when the idea of thinness as the elite becomes intertwined with this, we know diet culture has had its wicked way. 

Because diet culture has gained such a bad rep in the era of body positivity/neutrality and Instagram Explore pages showing the marginalised bodies once hidden from the media, many of the old school fad diets companies have changed their tactics. Companies such as Slimming World and WW brand their methods of weight loss as ‘lifestyle’ and ‘wellness changes’, disguising what is still a restrictive means of eating as something more palatable in today’s more progressive society.

But does a company advertising “No Blue Monday here! Get 50% off with £0 upfront. PLUS, use promo code 10EXTRA at checkout for an additional £10 off!” really have our best interests at heart? In implying that the January blues can be solved by losing weight, it only serves to reinforce the notion that life is better when you’re slimmer, that you’ll be happier when you can fit back into your pre lockdown jeans, and that you wouldn’t be feeling down in the dumps if only you were a dress size smaller. We call b*llshit.  

But although it seems that all hope is lost, that it’s impossible to beat down this beast of an industry that has such a hold over our perceptions of ourselves, try to feel safe in the knowledge that things are changing, slowly but surely. If you search ‘body positivity’ on Google (as of January 2022) 1,270,000,000 results appear.

If you take to Spotify and search ‘body neutrality’, you’ll be met with hundreds of podcast episodes and suggested listening tools to support a journey in finding peace in your appearance. If you take to Instagram, TikTok, YouTube or even Facebook (amongst the posts from Auntie Karen and the girl from secondary school you barely remember) you’ll find post after post encouraging kinder attitudes towards ourselves and our bodies that deserve nothing but respect for how they carry us through life. In the second half of its financial year in 2019, Weight Watchers (now known as WW) dropped 600,000 subscribers, and what a joy it is to wake up to the idea that our bodies were never the problem in the first place. 

If you’re ready to ditch diet culture for good and foster a healthier relationship with your self-image, then remember the conversations, media sources and images you surround yourself with on a daily basis all contribute to this. In many senses, you are what you read. Enter: A Spoonful of Alice.

Anti-diet activist, slimming world survivor and food freedom advocate, her Instagram page is a safe haven for anyone that has struggled with the restrictions of dieting or felt the pressure to be slimmer, and we couldn’t love her more! We spoke to Alice about the pressure the new year can bring when it comes to narratives around detoxing and ‘glowing up’, and there’s no better time than the present to reclaim your body as the perfect size just the way it is…

How do you think social media contributes to a feeling of needing to diet in the new year? 

While I do think there’s been a slight shift away from the ‘new year, new me’ rhetoric of previous Januarys, social media makes it *very* difficult not to compare ourselves to our peers as we scroll through their highlight reel. Oh, and adverts! My feed is full to the brim of adverts promoting diet companies at the moment (I’m looking at you, Noom…)

What can people do if they feel pressured to restrict their eating in January and beyond? What are some easy self-care tips for being kind to our minds and bodies?

Instead of detoxing your body, detox your social feeds by unfollowing (or muting) anyone who makes you feel like you aren’t good enough. Then, follow people of all shapes and sizes – it’ll help you diversify your idea of beauty!

There’s nothing wrong with setting health-related goals, but choose things that have nothing to do with weight – and remember that mental health is health too.

Gaining weight is often made to feel like a personal failure in our society. What do you think the reason for this is and how can we challenge this belief system?

We’ve grown up in a society governed by diet culture, meaning that we’ve been taught to equate being thin with being beautiful, healthy and worthy of love. While none of these things are true, it’s no wonder that we place a LOT of importance on the size of our jeans. We’re also led to believe that we have far more control over our weight than we actually do – which is why it can feel like when we’ve gained weight, we’ve failed.

The best way to challenge this belief is to fight against weight stigma whenever we can. It’s a systemic issue, which means it runs VERY deep – but advocating for those in bigger bodies than you and challenging your own beliefs about weight are great places to start.

What long term issues can arise from taking part in fad diets/diet programmes in terms of someone’s relationship with food? 

Despite many of them claiming not to, all fad diets and weight loss programmes involve restricting what you eat. Whether you’re counting calories or syns, restrictive behaviours can quickly develop into disordered eating habits that are VERY hard to shake – even turning into full-blown eating disorders in some cases.

Do you believe companies that profit from weight loss ever have the best interest of their customers at heart?

It’s difficult to believe that any for-profit company is concerned with anything over making money, and diet companies are no exception. They are businesses, at the end of the day!

If they really cared about what was best for their customers, they’d make it very clear that weight loss isn’t healthy for everyone – and that their plans involve food restriction which can lead to eating disorders, instead of hiding behind slogans like ‘it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!’

For those coming from diet groups who have never heard of intuitive eating, how would you best describe this practice and how to switch to this way of honouring your body and hunger?

Intuitive Eating is the exact opposite of a diet – it’s a framework designed to help you heal your relationship with food, and it has nothing to do with weight loss. It teaches us to eat when we’re hungry, stop when we’re full and choose food that makes us feel good – like we did as infants (before diet culture got involved!)

If you want to learn more, I’d recommend a book called ‘Just Eat It’ by Laura Thomas – she taught me everything I know.

What are some small and manageable steps someone could take to begin to reject diet culture?

Get rid of your scales, calorie counting apps and anything else you use to track your weight or eating habits.

Donate any clothes that no longer fit instead of saving them ‘to slim back into’.

Stop eating low fat, sugar-free or ‘diet-friendly’ foods unless you genuinely enjoy them.

Read books like ‘Body Positive Power’ by Megan Jayne Crabbe and ‘Food Isn’t Medicine’ by Dr Joshua Wolrich.

Listen to ‘Maintenance Phase’ – a brilliant podcast dedicated to debunking the myths of diet culture.

Be kind to yourself, because you’re bloody amazing just as you are.

You can find Alice on Instagram at @aspoonfulofalice!

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 18, 2022

The Fascinating World of ASMR and the ASMRtists Who Live in It

From hair brushing, mic scratching, applying skincare or even unwrapping a lint roller, gentle ASMR videos have cemented themselves as the ultimate easy-listening material with legions of fans and creators alike. 

Remember in primary school when a friend would draw a letter on your back and you’d have to guess what it was, or was that a game we exclusively played in West Sussex? Well, let it be known that some of us (naming no names) purposely got the letter wrong so that we’d get another back tickle out of it. Fast forward 20 years and that unnamed sensation would be known as, klaxon: ASMR. 

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response was a term first coined in 2010 by Healthcare IT Consultant Jennifer Allen, although a lot of people would claim Bob Ross is the godfather of ASMR – but maybe that’s just a happy accident.

It’s characterised by the tingly sensations we get throughout the scalp, neck and spine when we hear, see and feel certain triggers (that explains the aforementioned tickle tactics). Since its 00s debut, we’ve become obsessed with this whisper-quiet community. It’s gone from a relatively untapped corner of the internet to a viral phenomenon as normal as mindfulness and meditation. 

From hair brushing, mic scratching, applying skincare or even unwrapping a lint roller, gentle ASMR videos have cemented themselves as the ultimate easy-listening material with legions of fans and creators alike. 

The content itself can vary from the mundane right through to the theatrical, incorporating elements of costume and role-play. Some content creators go all out, dressing up as characters, making entire sets and writing scripts – they don’t call them ASMRtists for nothing. 

A particularly iconic video we stumbled across whilst researching for this article was an ‘Afternoon at the Herbologist’s Greenhouse’. We challenge you to watch Goodnight Moon tinkering around in her cabin in the forest tending to all her plants without slipping into a delightful disco nap. 

In the world of ASMR content, anything goes – so long as it’s quiet and weirdly satisfying – so whether your audio aura is calming cosplay or slime ASMR, there’s a genre out there that will speak to your soul. 

Despite its technical name (Allen wasn’t sold on Braingasm), the science-based research for ASMR is pretty limited. Experienced ASMRers can certainly vouch for the tingles and their mental health benefits but whilst the feelings may be real, no one knows exactly how it works and why, which only adds to the mystery and magic surrounding this new age spoken word phenomenon. 

So, what’s it like to be a professional whisperer, or an ASMRtist, as they’re known in the community? We set about finding out about this intriguing career… 

Whispering Willow

With 1.2M followers on TikTok and 207K subscribers on her YouTube channel, Whispering Willow (11/10 name) started her ASMR journey as a viewer but made the leap to ASMRtist in 2020. Now a full-time professional whisperer and content creator, she talks to us about breaking into the industry, the meditative benefits of ASMR, triggers, fetish mining, and the future of this weird and wonderful art form. 

In your own *soothing* words, what does ASMR feel like for you and when did you first become aware of the concept? Were you an ASMR viewer before you were a creator?

Everybody experiences ASMR differently, but for me it puts my brain on co-pilot. I instantly become relaxed and just focus on the sounds and actions of the video. In many instances it is described as a “tingly” feeling in the neck and spine, which I occasionally experience, but usually my entire body just becomes relaxed. I find the personal attention videos like makeup roleplays, haircut roleplays, and other personal attention scenarios the most relaxing and satisfying.

I remember being 8 years old and experiencing the sensation when I was playing doctor with my friend and I was the patient.Whispering Willow

I have experienced the personal attention ASMR sensation for my entire life, but never had a word to describe it. I remember being 8 years old and experiencing the sensation when I was playing doctor with my friend and I was the patient. In 2015, an ASMR makeup roleplay kept popping up in my YouTube recommendations and eventually I caved in and watched it out of curiosity. I was confused at first, because it was a person through a screen pretending to put makeup on me, but I did find it very relaxing. From that point on I was an avid ASMR viewer and found more creators, videos, and triggers that I loved. 

How long have you been making ASMR content and how did you start out?

With my five years of viewer experience I started making videos in October of 2020. Before I started my channel I would come up with ASMR video ideas that I would have liked my favorite creators to make, so I just decided to do them myself. I had always wanted to start a YouTube channel and ASMR seemed to be the right fit for me.

For those who are new to the world of ASMR, what does being an ASMRtist entail? Is it a lucrative career/ hobby?

Now that I am a full-time Youtuber/ASMRtist, my day is mostly focused on how to grow all of my social media accounts. A huge chunk of my time goes to video ideas, trend research, engaging with viewers, video prep, filming and editing. I try to make my background as relaxing as possible, and do research on what my audience would like to see.

ASMR can be lucrative if you do it right. Just like other types of social media content, it can be monetized and turned into a business. I am still not totally sure if I’m doing it right, but I am always learning from my mistakes and evolving. I originally started my channel as a hobby and creative outlet. When it became monetized at 1,000 subscribers I thought, “Oh cool! I have a little side hustle. This is great”. When I continued to grow, I decided that I wanted to put all my effort into my channel and turn a hobby into my job.

ASMR is a relatively new phenomenon, why do you think it’s blown up into this hugely popular content / entertainment / self-care form?

Now, this might not be true, but it is just my theory on the popularity of ASMR. I think ASMR originally blew up because, at first glance, it’s weird. If you don’t understand its purpose, ASMR can be confusing and bizarre. I remember YouTubers would react to it and it even received ridicule from Ellen Degeneres on the Ellen Show. More people began to be exposed to ASMR and its purpose, and it found its way into many people’s lives. It’s effective, useful, and attention-grabbing in its own relaxing way.

What are some of the most common ASMR requests you get?

On my channel I see a fair amount of requests for hair brushing, stress plucking and pulling, makeup roleplays, and medical roleplays.

How about strange / niche requests. Have you had many of those…

I don’t fulfil those requests because fetish mining is a huge issue right now in the ASMR community.Whispering Willow

I don’t see any strange requests on YouTube, but I do see them in my TikTok comments. For example, someone suggested I try out a trigger that involved plucking invisible bugs from the microphone. It wasn’t my cup of tea but still fun to try out. Obviously, I do ignore some requests like “kidnap ASMR” or “murder ASMR”. I have no idea why, but over the summer that was a common request in my TikTok comments and I had to ban the word. However, I love trying out new triggers and niche requests when they seem innocent enough. Also, I do occasionally get some strange and specific requests in my DMs. I don’t fulfil those requests because fetish mining is a huge issue right now in the ASMR community.

What are your favourite objects to work with, or triggers?

I go through phases but I love to work with water, glass, wood, and cork. Wood tapping sounds are divine and there are so many different ways to make relaxing sounds with them (tapping, scratching, brushing). I recently started incorporating wooden bowls into my videos and haven’t stopped!

Despite the lack of Science-based research around ASMR, what would you say are the holistic / mental health benefits of engaging with ASMR content?

To me, the main benefit of ASMR is to help people fall asleep and stay asleep. Most people use it before bed to help them relax, quiet the mind, and eventually, fall asleep. Also, from my viewers, I have learned that ASMR has helped their ADHD and ADD. Viewers have told me that listening to ASMR quiets their mind and helps them focus on the task at hand. I have not been diagnosed with ADHD or ADD, but I do have a hard time staying focused and I agree that putting on ASMR in the background of my day to day tasks has increased my focus and productivity. ASMR could have a plethora of positive impacts on a person, they just need to be open and willing to try it out.

What’s the best thing about creating ASMR content for you personally? I’d imagine it’s a great creative outlet as well as a rewarding job?

I LOVE that my content has the ability to positively impact an unlimited amount of people. And not only does it have the ability to help people, but it actually does! I get to help viewers relax and fall asleep, but I also get to dress up, create sets, plots, storylines, scripts, and basically do whatever I want with my channel. It’s very rewarding to see people enjoy your videos as much as you enjoyed making them.

How do you ensure you keep things fresh and find new ideas, it must require a lot of time and creative energy?

I go through creative phases on my channel and take breaks to keep from burning out. I have brainstorming days where I write down every idea, good and bad. I also try to keep a notebook with me at all times because sometimes a good video idea will just hit me with no warning. I try to come up with my own ideas that no one has filmed before, or put my own creative spin on it.

Can you tell us a bit about the production process? Some people go all out with costumes and role play – what skills did you already possess that have proved useful in ASMR work and what have you learned along the way?

It depends on the video for sure. Sometimes I just sit on the floor with a stack of books as my microphone stand and film a cozy roleplay video with my iPhone. Low production ASMR videos are cozy, homey, and comfortable for myself and viewers. With other videos like my Harry Potter and fairy series, I put a lot of effort into costumes, lighting, triggers, props, scripts, etc. Both types of videos do well.

My ASMR technique and whisper has improved greatly since my first ever post.Whispering Willow

In the past year I have learned more about YouTube strategies and what makes an effective ASMR video. My ASMR technique and whisper has improved greatly since my first ever post. I have also had to learn the business side of social media like taxes, investing in gear, how to deal with brands, and sponsorships. There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to YouTube and I always have to be growing and evolving to succeed.

It’s certainly not your average 9-5 office job – what do your friends and family think of your ASMR channel?

My family and friends are very supportive of my ASMR endeavors. They were a bit confused when I told them I was doing ASMR full time because I majored in biology, but they were still supportive! Some older members of my family still don’t understand what ASMR is, but they are supportive of my social media business nonetheless. It is becoming more and more common to have an unconventional online job that can support you financially as well as a typical 9-5 office job. Maybe less common for that online job to ASMR but still!

Finish the sentence: A great ASMRtist must be… 

Kind. SUCH a basic word I know. But I believe there has to be good intentions behind your videos. I create ASMR content to help others de-stress, find some peace, and fall asleep. If an ASMRtist isn’t fully compassionate or kind then their videos aren’t going to be as effective. I fully believe that putting kind and positive intentions into the work I do increases the quality of my videos.

What do you think the next big thing will be in ASMR, from triggers to themes. What does the future of ASMR look like?

Hmmm… I think fast, aggressive, and chaotic ASMR will continue to grow traction and popularity. ASMR live streams are also becoming more and more popular on all social media platforms. For whatever reason, a large number of people prefer their ASMR live instead of prerecorded.

I am excited for the future of ASMR. As time goes on there seems to be less of a stigma towards ASMR and its creators. It is becoming normalized as more people learn about it and its benefits. I hope more science based research goes into ASMR because there is so much we don’t know about it.

You can follow more of Willow’s content on her Tiktok: @whisperingwillowasmr and her YouTube: Whispering Willow ASMR 

Dreamscape

Next up, we spoke to Dream, the ASMRtist behind the TikTok account @dreamscapeasmr. From an eye exam with an elf to vampire cosplay and crystal healing, Dream has already crafted her own fantasy role play niche, despite only being in the industry since February 2021. Here she speaks to Zoella about special effects, script writing and her hopes to take ASMR to the big screen…

In your own *soothing* words, what does ASMR feel like for you and when did you first become aware of the concept? Were you a viewer before you were a creator?

I first came across ASMR on YouTube several years ago but I did not feel the effects of it or understand it at first. Now, I look back and realise that there are so many different sub-genres of ASMR and I just hadn’t discovered the right one for me. A couple of years later I randomly came across it again – but this time I found a certain genre that I thought was very comforting and relaxing. Most people who experience ASMR describe it as a tingling sensation in the back of their head or down their spine. I feel that sensation occasionally with certain triggers, however, most of the time I just find it really relaxing and soothing. After a month or two of listening to it every day, I decided that I wanted to try it out myself. 

How long have you been making ASMR content and how did you start out?

I eventually figured out that I enjoyed making fantasy role play ASMR and have been creating in that sub-genre ever since.Dream

I started making ASMR content in February of 2021. I began making videos for TikTok and YouTube in front of my bed with a Blue Yeti Microphone and my iPhone. I had no idea how to make ASMR content when I started, so I experimented with several different sub-genres. I eventually figured out that I enjoyed making fantasy role play ASMR and have been creating in that sub-genre ever since.  

For those who are new to the world of ASMR, what does being an ASMRtist entail? Is it a lucrative career/ hobby?

Being an ASMRtist is extremely fulfilling and it can be as much or as little work as you make it. It just depends on the genre of ASMR you want to create. The kind of videos I produce take 15-20 hours to film and edit since I am a fantasy role play ASMRtist. My process is very time-consuming due to the fact that I write and memorize my own scripts, design/put together a costume for each video, and film and edit all by myself. I really enjoy using CGI and special effects in my videos—which adds to the amount of time I spend crafting each video. It can be a lucrative career or hobby, but it does take a lot of dedication to be successful. 

ASMR is a relatively new phenomenon, why do you think it’s blown up into this hugely popular content/entertainment / self-care form? 

I think this genre of content has become really popular over the last 10 years because of how accessible it is. Since the majority of ASMR videos are hosted on YouTube, anyone can easily pull up a video and relax for free. ASMR content can also be extremely entertaining depending on the genre, which broadens the potential audience.

What are some of the most common ASMR requests you get? 

Since I am a role play ASMRtist, most of my requests come in the form of ideas about basic plot lines or characters. For example, “can you do a pirate role play?” 

How about strange / niche requests. Have you had many of those… 

Absolutely! Most of the time I really appreciate the more niche requests because they are more interesting to me. I would classify my videos as being very unconventional in the realm of role-play ASMR content, so when I see a bizarre idea in the comments I always make note of it. 

What are your favourite objects to work with, or triggers? 

I don’t really work with a lot of objects because of the genre of ASMR I create, however, I have several videos that involve the use of medical tools. My favourite prop to use in a medical role-play is my stethoscope.

Despite the lack of Science-based research around ASMR, what would you say are the holistic/mental health benefits of engaging with ASMR content?

ASMR can be a really useful tool to those who experience anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks. Personally, I love listening to ASMR when I am very stressed and need help calming down. One aspect of ASMR that I specifically focus on in my own videos is receiving loneliness. I like to format my videos to be like a scene from a movie— only the viewer is another main character. 

What’s the best thing about creating ASMR content for you personally? I’d imagine it’s a great creative outlet as well as a rewarding job? 

My favourite part of making ASMR is morphing myself into different characters and creating bizarre scenarios. There’s something really satisfying about seeing my ideas come to life. It’s also super rewarding to interact with my followers. I’m still in disbelief that there is a community of people that enjoy my videos and find them helpful. 

How do you ensure you keep things fresh and find new ideas, it must require a lot of time and creative energy?

It does take a lot of time and creative energy to craft my videos, but I absolutely love the creative process. I have definitely felt burnt out several times along my journey, however, I have never struggled to come up with fresh ideas. I have a list of ideas so long I could never get to all of them in my lifetime. I also try to avoid trending video concepts or find a way to put a strange twist on a trending theme.  

Can you tell us a bit about the production process? Some people go all out with costumes and role-play – what skills did you already possess that have proved useful in ASMR work and what have you learned along the way?

A lot of my videos are in the fantasy genre, which requires the use of CGI and special effects. I always try to make my scenes look as realistic as possible.Dream

I have a pretty lengthy production process. Since I am a fantasy role play ASMRtist, I begin by creating a character in my mind to go with a particular concept. Next, I either make or put together a costume. Then, I write and memorize a script. Once all that has been completed, I film in front of a green screen. It usually takes me a whole day just to film since most of my videos have several scenes. Then I spend about 15 hours (or more) editing. A lot of my videos are in the fantasy genre, which requires the use of CGI and special effects. I always try to make my scenes look as realistic as possible.  

It’s certainly not your average 9-5 office job – what do your friends and family think of your ASMR channel?

My friends and family have been incredibly supportive of me throughout my journey. Sure, some of them don’t understand it or experience ASMR themselves—but they are happy to see that I am doing what I love. 

Finish the sentence: A great ASMRtist must be…

Unique. 

What do you think the next big thing will be in ASMR, from triggers to themes. What does the future of ASMR look like?

I think ASMR content will lean towards the cinematic side of things in the future. There are some creators who are already creating entire sets for their role play videos and I see the line between ASMR content and film blending. I myself have dreamed of making ASMR movies one day!

You can see more of Dream’s ASMR content on her TikTok: @dreamscapeasmr and her YouTube: Dreamscape ASMR

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 17, 2022

Are You a Lion, a Wolf, a Bear or a Dolphin? How Working with Your Chronotype Can Help You Live Your *Best* Life

Have you ever stopped to consider why your best mate’s up and at ‘em at 5:00am but you consider waking up any time before 8:00am as violence? Introducing: Chronotypes. 

Have you ever stopped to consider why your best mate’s up and at ‘em at 5:00am but you consider waking up any time before 8:00am as violence? Introducing: Chronotypes. 

You’re probably familiar with the terms ‘night owl’, referring to people who habitually stay up late and remain active past midnight, and the contrasting ‘early bird’ or ‘morning lark’, known for rising with the roosters and feeling well-rested upon waking up. 

Margaret Thatcher was a notorious (and extreme) early bird, with a morning routine as iron-fisted as her leadership. She would rise at 4am and go to bed at 1am, *treating* herself to the occasional lie-in at the weekend after a particularly tense game of Ibbile Dibble at Balmoral. 

But what if the way we’re wired to sleep and wake isn’t as binary as owl vs lark? For any outliers who don’t seem to fit into this two-bird system – neither catching the early worm nor burning the midnight oil – fear not. As good ol’ science would have it, there are two other categories that represent us hybrid types. 

What Is A Chronotype? 

Based on work by clinical psychologist and author of The Power of When, Dr. Michael Breus (aka The Sleep Doctor), a chronotype is, “your body’s natural disposition to be awake or asleep at certain times. Your chronotype is closely related to your body’s circadian rhythm, which controls your body’s sleep-wake cycle and melatonin production.

“Our circadian rhythm is primarily influenced by light exposure, and tends to rise and set with the sun. This means less melatonin is produced in the morning to help you wake up, and more is produced during the evenings to help you fall asleep. Unlike our circadian rhythm, our specific chronotype isn’t influenced by any outside force, except for genetics. This is why it’s so important to work with your chronotype rather than against it if you want to be as rested and productive as possible”

Chronotypes fall on a spectrum of morningness and eveningness and are genetically predetermined based on your biological clock. If you have a long PER3 gene, you’re an early riser, if you have a short PER3 gene, you’re a late riser and get by without a solid 8 hours kip. Unlike your circadian rhythm which can be trained, you cannot actively change your chronotype (more’s the pity). However, it can shift on its own throughout your life due to age, as seen in the transition from children to adults. 

The Four Chronotypes & Their Characteristics 

Your chronotype doesn’t just affect sleep. It’s closely linked to appetite, productivity windows, your core body temperature and more. The more you understand your chronotype, the more you can use it to your advantage, from scheduling meetings at certain times, eating lunch and sinking that last cup of coffee for the day.

People typically fall into one of four categories: the dolphin, the lion, the bear and the wolf, all loosely based on the respective mammal’s habits and sleep behaviours. 

The Dolphin Chronotype (10% of the population)

Dolphins are sensitive sleepers and tend to wake up at the slightest noise or light. They may experience insomnia or anxious sleeping behaviours and have difficulty following a routine. 

A day in the life of a dolphin:

Bedtime: 11:30pm

Wake up at: 6:30am

Window of productivity: 3:00pm – 9:00pm 

The Lion Chronotype (15% of the population) 

The lion is your textbook morning person, alert first thing and most productive before noon. Sooner rather than later is the lion’s daily mantra because that afternoon slump hits them hard. Lions benefit from a zen evening routine that sets them up for a sound night’s sleep at a sensible hour. 

A day in the life of a lion:

Bedtime: 10:00pm

Wake up at: 6:00am 

Window of productivity: 8:00am – 12:00pm

The Bear Chronotype (55% of the population)

The majority of individuals fall into the bear chronotype category, meaning your energy levels are aligned with the sun and traditional office hours / society’s schedule. 

People with the bear chronotype are most likely to be part of a hybrid type, sharing traits with  the morning-centric lion, the night-centric wolf and even the dolphin. These people can be categorised as early bears or late bears. A true bear tends to hit the ground running in the late morning and decline in the afternoon slump. 

A day in the life of a bear:

Bedtime: 11:00pm

Wake up at: 7:00am 

Window of productivity: 10:00am – 2:00pm

The Wolf Chronotype: 15% of the population

*Creative types everywhere let out an almighty howl* Wolves do their best work at night, staying up late and going to bed just as the morning-lovin’ lions are getting up. Due to that restless nocturnal energy, mornings are especially savage for wolves often with multiple snooze buttons. If they had it their way, all meetings would take place from 4pm onwards. 

A day in the life of a wolf:

Bedtime: 12:00am

Wake up at: 8:00am / as late as they can get away with

Window of productivity: 5:00pm – 12:00am

Hybrid Chronotypes 

As with the Early Bird vs Night Owl system, one size does not fit all, and this is especially true for bears. Each chronotype comprises many attributes, sleep/wake preferences and behaviours, all with biological differences within them. If you don’t feel particularly aligned with one chronotype, don’t worry you’re not broken. This isn’t about fitting into neat little bio boxes. Embrace every trait and get to know all of the bio profiles that resonate with you so you can live in sync with your individual rhythm and maximise your creativity, productivity and sleep. 

There’s no such thing as a superior chronotype, every bear, dolphin, lion and wolf has its challenges as Dr. Beus explains: “Chronotypes are the expression of our individual genetic and biological identity […]. There are advantages and disadvantages that come with every bio type. And chronotypes are just that: a biological reality, not a statement about character, or potential.” 

What’s My Chronotype?

Ready to discover your chronotype? Take the quiz to find out and start adapting your life to suit your body’s natural energy cycles. 

  • The Power of When quiz based on Dr. Michael Breus’ book of the same name. This takes into account personality, sleep timing and preference, and sleep drive. 
  • Munich Chronotype Questionnaire, developed by Till Roenneberg. Currently unavailable online but you can download a copy to print here. 
TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 16, 2022

POV: You’re The Cool Employee Heading Back to Work With an 11/10 Wardrobe Update

Colourful, chic, sophisticated yet fun, nothing about a 9-5 outfit needs to be as boring as Steve from accounts, let us promise you that.

Fancy serving Andrea Sachs realness in your 2022 office wardrobe? Duh, who wouldn’t! Colourful, chic, sophisticated yet fun, nothing about a 9-5 outfit needs to be as boring as Steve from accounts, let us promise you that. And if 2022 is feeling like it’s off to a dreary start (is the sun on furlough pls?), what better way to add some joy into your day than with a primary colour blazer and suit trouser combo or adorable fit and flare jumpsuit? Confidence begins with a killer outfit and we are prepared to die on this hill. Pick a few statement pieces to see you through the days when you’re faking it till you make it and combine with the wardrobe essentials you know you can throw on at 6.30am with no worries whatsoever and embrace a professional wardrobe that truly feels like ‘you’. 

So whether you’re teaching fractions to 8 year olds who insist on speaking in TikTok audios, handling the almighty stress of a GP surgery reception desk, or are about to interview for your dream job in marketing, put your best (loafer wearing) foot forward in these bad b*tch office looks this January and beyond …

*This post contains ad-affiliate links 

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 15, 2022

Adult Acne 101: Why It Happens, How to Manage It and the Skin Positivity Influencers Changing the Face of Beauty

Whether you need help embracing it or hoping to change it, you probably still want to understand what’s triggering these breakouts. So, what causes adult acne, especially if someone has never dealt with troublesome skin before?

Airdrop, the Internet, and why one hour at the gym feels 10 times longer than a Netflix hour are amongst the things that our brains struggle to understand. Want to know one more? Acne. As an adult. The evenings of homework and awkward interactions with literally everyone are behind us (kinda), so what could be the reason for troublesome skin clinging on as long as this pandemic well into sufferers late 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond? 

Adult acne, characterised as acne presenting in those aged 25 and above, is oftentimes caused by the same root issues as those in their teens, however continues presenting into adulthood during which time it is expected that sebum (oil) production would decrease and skin would naturally calm down. As with troublesome skin at any age, these spots can be extremely painful and difficult to manage, and despite skin positive movements on social media and a shift towards embracing complexions that aren’t airbrushed beyond recognition, a study by the British Journal of Dermatology found that there was a 63% increased risk of depression in those with acne compared to someone without. Narratives around conventional beauty are continually evolving in the 21st century, but it’s clear that acne and skin conditions in general still have a huge impact upon self-esteem and self-image.

Last year saw #CleanBeauty and makeup routines take TikTok For You Pages by storm, and when mostly donned by those without so much of a pore insight,  it’s easy to feel like your natural, textured skin falls short of these unattainable beauty ideals. 

Adult acne occurs due to a combination of factors. Hormonal shifts stimulate increased oil production and a build of keratin in the pores, leading to spots. Derrick Phillips

Whether you’re embracing it or hoping to change it, you probably still want to understand what’s triggering these breakouts. So, what causes adult acne, especially if someone has never dealt with troublesome skin before? Dr Derrick Phillips, Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic says, “Adult acne occurs due to a combination of factors. Hormonal shifts (particularly changes in progesterone) stimulate increased oil production and a build of keratin in the pores, leading to spots. This combined with lifestyle factors (e.g. makeup, stress, smoking, diet) and genetics is largely responsible for the development of acne. In some women, acne may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition (e.g. polycystic ovaries syndrome) or a side effect of medication (e.g. steroids).

“Acne can certainly be influenced by stress too, and taking steps to reduce stress levels in your life may have a positive impact on your skin. Body acne can be exacerbated by wearing tight-fitting occlusive clothing for prolonged periods of time. Avoid staying in sweaty gym gear after a workout.” Whilst lifestyle factors and taking care to manage habits that could exacerbate a buildup of oil and dirt are helpful, Dr Phillips also notes that it’s important not to overlook changes to your skin in adulthood if this is unusual for you. “If the symptoms have come out of the blue, medical assessment is important to exclude any potential underlying conditions. The British Association of Dermatologists website is an excellent resource with information leaflets, support groups and explanation of treatments” 

Image credit: @cottyconcha

The impact of other factors like diet and drinking 2 litres of water a day is somewhat disputed in its impact upon acne, and it can be frustrating for those who suffer with long term skin issues to feel that they’re seemingly not doing ‘enough’ to control breakouts. So whilst eating your 5 a day and staying hydrated on the daily won’t resolve acne overnight, it can be a useful first step in improving your skin’s overall health. 

Reducing dairy consumption has been shown to help improve acne breakouts, as well as reducing the amount of processed sugars in your diet too.Holly Zoccolan

Holly Zoccolan, Nutritional Health Coach & Founder of The Health Zoc says, “Reducing dairy consumption has been shown to help improve acne breakouts, as well as reducing the amount of processed sugars in your diet too. We want to be making sure that we are eating whole foods and including plenty of healthy fats in our diet to help manage acne flare-ups. A diet rich in vegetables, oily fish such as salmon, avocados, nuts and seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds and a range of fruits are great to add into your diet to help manage acne. These types of foods really feed the skin from within and can help the skin to heal by reducing inflammation.”

How to know which type of spot you’re dealing with

The first step in progress is education, so whether you’re content with your texture, spots and blackheads as they are, or want to take small steps to manage acne in 2022, learning about why our skin behaves the way it does is integral to making progress. Technical lingo incoming…

A comedo (medical term) is a hair follicle that has become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, which can develop into bumps commonly known as the classic whitehead and blackhead. Non- scientific fact: they always appear when you have a first date or wedding coming up because the universe is frankly cruel. 

Blackheads

Blackheads are comedones that are open at the surface of the skin and often look dark in appearance, hence the name, occurring when a clogor plug develops in the opening of the hair follicle. Their black appearance occurs from the oxidation of build-up within the pore, but they are classed as a relatively mild form of acne and can often be managed with the right skincare. 

Whiteheads

Comedones that stay closed at the surface of the skin are called whiteheads- the main difference between white and blackheads being one remains open whilst the other is closed. A combination of dirt, oil, sweat and dead skin cells are still the main cause, and again can be treated with the right skincare and managing oil levels. 

Top tip:  Make-up labelled as non comedogenic is less likely to block pores and lead to these kinds of spots. 

Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is generally considered the most serious form of acne, typically occurring to those with oily skin and mostly caused by a combination of bacteria, oil, and dry skin cells getting trapped within pores. Cystic acne often looks like boils underneath the skin, are usually white or red in appearance and can be painful and tender to touch. These cysts are typically filled with pus, and whilst mostly occurring on the face, can also be present on the back, chest, neck and shoulders.  

Nodular Acne

Nodular acne feels firm to touch in comparison to cystic acne and can also be incredibly painful, occurring deeper underneath the skin’s surface. Nodular acne can be very persistent and it may take weeks or months for these nodules to heal as they are incredibly stubborn once formed. This type of acne can be caused by overactive oil glands, an overgrowth of acne-causing bacteria and an increase in androgen hormones, which can lead to more and thicker skin oil.

Acne Conglobata 

Acne conglobata occurs when acne cysts and nodules begin to grow together deep below the skin. This form of acne is rare, but can be serious because of the significant scarring that can follow. Following a dermatologist’s advice and using a combination of medication in combination with topical treatments is recommended as these products applied directly to the skin will not be able to resolve this form of acne.

Regardless of the type of acne you’re dealing with, receiving expert advice and medical support in managing this complex condition is always recommended in finding the perfect formula of skincare, lifestyle changes and potentially medication that works for you in managing breakouts.

Dr Phillips advises: “Make an appointment to see your GP or dermatologist. They can provide emotional support and evidence-based advice on how to manage your acne. Acne is caused by a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Whilst we cannot change our genes, environmental factors can be modified with topical treatments, antibiotics, Roaccutane, hormonal treatments, diet and skincare.”

Roaccutane is an oral medication often prescribed as a last resort for those suffering with long term acne in adulthood, and although it has a 95% success rate of clearing up acne in four to six months, with 70% of those who take it saying they never suffer from acne again, it does come with a heavy list of side effects and warnings that make it somewhat controversial. Keep your eyes peeled on Zoella.com later this month for a full rundown of this life changing yet divisive drug…

Phew! Acne in adulthood can be a difficult and complex condition to manage, but amongst the skincare remedies, lifestyle changes and medication options, it’s important to hold space for a slice of self love, compassion and acceptance for where you’re currently at, and try to celebrate the beauty of skin in all its forms. Fill your social media with those that look like and represent you, repeat affirmations that cement in your mind that your worth is not based upon your appearance, and remind yourself often that real skin contains pores, texture, spots, redness and everything in between. Real life doesn’t come with an airbrush filter, and we’re glad of it…  

Our favourite skin positivity influencers to add a dose of realness and unfiltered beauty to your feed

@rocioceja_

Image Credit: @rocioceja_

Outfit inspo, infectious positivity and came-to-slay makeup looks: Rocio has all bases covered for a truly feel-good scroll. The queen of recreating Euphoria looks that will have you reaching for the gem stones ASAP, Rocio has long documented her acne journey and the skincare, foundations and powders you need to feel confident going bare faced when you want to, and rocking a 10/10 glam on the other days too. 

@emeraldxbeauty

Image Credit: @emeraldxbeauty

Kadeeja’s Instagram is one for both acne and PCOS sufferers alike, as she shares the raw reality of living with these conditions and the impact it has on her daily life, self esteem and mental health too. Kadeeja practises ‘progress not perfection’ when it comes to her skin journey and healing, and it’s no surprise she’s built such a wide community of followers who feel seen and heard by her story.   

@lounorthcote

Image Credit: @lounorthcote

Creator of the #FreeThePimple hashtag and through and through real skin activist, Lou dreamed up this hashtag and now worldwide community after losing her modelling contract to her acne and difficulties with her skin. Her Instagram is a one stop shop for skincare recommendations, a raw look at her personal Roaccutane journey, and daily reminders that you are more than the condition of your skin, always. 

@oyintofe.o

Image Credit: @oyintofe.o

Describing herself as a ‘skin realist’, Oyintofe has long shared how acne has impacted her mental health before finding, embracing and practising the lessons of the skin positivity movement that have helped so many find acceptance in their complexion. She says, “I realised that acne itself didn’t affect my confidence, it was the way I looked at it that did. I am still trying to accept that it is normal. It happens to a lot of people and it doesn’t make me less beautiful.” Preach it sister!

@moniqueschreiber

Image Credit: @moniqueschreiber

Recent bride (her October 2021 wedding has us shook at THAT 11/10 dress), South African dreamboat Monique has shared her Roaccutane and skin journey in all its highs and lows, giving a real and relatable insight into life with painful breakouts and cystic acne. Her honesty in sharing the messy reality of learning to love and appreciate the skin society so often demonises is unmatched, and her work in normalising acne saw her featured in Cosmopolitan magazine last year. 

@cottyconcha

Image Credit: @cottyconcha

Skin, body *and* OCD awareness has cemented Constanza as one of our favourite people to follow on Instagram when in need of a raw, normal look at the female body and the complexities that come with occupying it. Her honesty in sharing her acne and scarred skin journey even saw her feature as a Glamour magazine digital cover star in 2021, and we couldn’t think of anyone more deserving! 

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 14, 2022

From Netflix Inspired Monikers to Spotify Listening Habits – The Baby Name Trends to Watch Out For in 2022

Stumped on the perfect name for your little one? Whether you’re pregnant, trying to conceive, doing your due diligence for a mama-to-be in your life, or simply want to keep your iPhone notes names well-stocked, here’s a look at the top baby name predictions!

Cottagecore, Bridgerton and nature were all big themes for the babies of 2021, and given the last two years of turbulence and confinement, it’s really no surprise that new parents were drawn to a sense of hope, escapism, bygone eras and the great outdoors. 

When you think about the magnitude of, ya know, naming a tiny human for the rest of their life, it’s a wonder any parent manages to name their child at all. You need a moniker that’s sweet enough for primary school, strong enough to serve them in parliament and low stakes in the risk-of-becoming-a-meme department (Karen is basically extinct at this point). With a brief like that, it’s easy to spiral into overwhelm, but looking at the 2022 trend forecast is a great starting point, even if it’s to identify exactly what names you want to avoid. 

Stumped on the perfect name for your little one? Whether you’re pregnant, trying to conceive, doing your due diligence for a mama-to-be in your life, or simply want to keep your iPhone notes well-stocked for when a future bun is in the proverbial oven (*locked* iPhone notes because no one will get their mitts on your name), here’s a look at the top baby name predictions for 2022… 

The most popular names for 2020 

Before we get into this year’s predictions, let’s look at the names that topped the charts over the course of the pandemic. 

According to the latest data from Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2020, Oliver held onto the top spot for the eighth year running, whilst Olivia remained the favourite girls name for the fifth consecutive year. Ivy climbed 221 places to the sixth most popular girls name, entering the top 10 charts for the first time alongside Rosie, and replacing Grace and Freya.

For the first time since 2010, Charlie dropped off the top 10 boys list and Archie, the name chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for their firstborn, entered the top 10 for the first time since records began.

Maeve has also enjoyed a beautiful renaissance, climbing 124 places since 2019, as has Otis which was among the largest movers too, moving 28 places to 96th in the top 100 list. The power of Sex Education knows no bounds. 

Sian Bradford, Senior Research Officer at ONS, said, “We continue to see the age of mothers having an impact on the choice of baby name. Archie jumped into the top 10 boys’ names for the first time, driven by younger mothers as well as the obvious Royal link. While on the girls’ side Ivy rose to sixth place.”

“Popular culture continues to provide inspiration for baby names, whether it’s characters in our favourite show or trending celebrities. Maeve and Otis, characters from the popular programme ‘Sex Education’, have seen a surge in popularity in 2020. While the name Margot has been rapidly climbing since actress Margot Robbie appeared in the popular film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’.”

Top 100 Girls Names of 2021

  • Olivia 
  • Amelia
  • Isla
  • Ava
  • Mia
  • Ivy
  • Lily
  • Isabella
  • Rosie
  • Sophia 
  • Grace
  • Freya
  • Willow
  • Florence
  • Emily
  • Ella
  • Poppy
  • Evie
  • Elsie
  • Charlotte
  • Evelyn
  • Sienna
  • Sofia
  • Daisy
  • Phoebe
  • Sophie
  • Alice
  • Harper
  • Matilda
  • Ruby
  • Emilia
  • Maya
  • Millie
  • Isabelle
  • Eva
  • Luna
  • Jessica
  • Ada
  • Aria
  • Arabella
  • Maisie
  • Esme
  • Eliza
  • Penelope
  • Bonnie
  • Chloe
  • Mila
  • Violet
  • Hallie
  • Scarlett
  • Layla
  • Imogen
  • Eleanor
  • Molly
  • Harriet
  • Elizabeth
  • Thea
  • Erin
  • Lottie
  • Emma
  • Rose
  • Deliah
  • Bella
  • Aurora
  • Lola
  • Nancy
  • Ellie
  • Mabel
  • Lucy
  • Ayla
  • Maria
  • Orla
  • Zara
  • Robyn
  • Hannah
  • Gracie
  • Iris
  • Jasmine
  • Darcie
  • Margot
  • Holly
  • Amelie
  • Amber
  • Georgia
  • Edith
  • Maryam
  • Abigail
  • Myla
  • Anna
  • Clara
  • Lilly
  • Lyra
  • Summer
  • Maeve
  • Heidi
  • Elodie
  • Lyla
  • Eden
  • Olive
  • Aisha 

Top 100 Boys Names

  • Oliver
  • George
  • Arthur 
  • Noah
  • Muhammad
  • Leo
  • Oscar
  • Harry
  • Archie
  • Jack 
  • Henry
  • Charlie
  • Freddie
  • Theodore
  • Thomas
  • Finley
  • Theo
  • Alfie
  • Jacob
  • William
  • Isaac
  • Tommy
  • Joshua
  • James
  • Lucas
  • Alexander
  • Arlo
  • Roman
  • Edward
  • Elijah
  • Teddy
  • Mohammed
  • Max
  • Adam
  • Albie
  • Ethan
  • Logan
  • Joseph
  • Sebastian
  • Benjamin
  • Harrison
  • Mason
  • Rory
  • Reuben
  • Luca
  • Louie
  • Samuel
  • Reggie
  • Jaxon
  • Daniel
  • Hugo
  • Louis
  • Jude
  • Ronnie
  • Dylan
  • Zachary
  • Albert
  • Hunter
  • Ezra
  • David
  • Frankie
  • Toby
  • Frederick
  • Carter
  • Gabriel
  • Grayson
  • Riley
  • Jesse
  • Hudson
  • Bobby
  • Rowan
  • Jenson
  • Finn
  • Michael
  • Mohammad
  • Stanley
  • Felix
  • Jasper
  • Liam
  • Milo
  • Sonny
  • Oakley
  • Elliot
  • Chester
  • Caleb
  • Harvey
  • Elliott
  • Charles
  • Ellis
  • Jackson
  • Alfred
  • Ollie
  • Leon
  • Yusuf
  • Ralph
  • Otis
  • Harley
  • Ibrahim
  • Jayden
  • Myles

Baby Name Trend Predictions for 2022 

Character Names

With season 2 landing in March (Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers will be heading to print any day now), Bridgerton is the talk of the Ton once more. Regencycore names such as Daphne, Phoebe and Benedict are set to dominate the charts as they did in 2021, shortly after the acclaimed period drama first graced our screens in December 2020 and subsequently took over our lives. 

Nameberry, the world’s largest website dedicated to baby names, wagers that the likes of more uncommon character names and on-trend actor names will also ascend the charts this year *adds Regé to the list immediately*. 

More examples: 

  • Albion
  • Cressida
  • Edwina
  • Eloise
  • Euphemia
  • Francesca 
  • Genevieve
  • Hyacinth
  • Kity
  • Marina
  • Philippa
  • Portia
  • Prudence
  • Rupert
  • Simon
  • Theo

Playful Names 

Listen up mums of 2022, you’re not a regular mum, you’re a cool mum, and fun is the name of the game this year. Short, lighthearted and endearing names, sometimes with a nod to animals, such as Coco, Ziggy, Bear, Birdie, Gigi and Buddy, are predicted to be more popular than ever after two years of restrictions, isolation and living in a pit of despair, to put it bluntly. A cute, uplifting name to match your light at the end of the tunnel – what could be more apt than that? 

More examples: 

  • Bee
  • Cricket
  • Dovie
  • Honey
  • Lucky
  • Lulu
  • Moxie
  • Ozzy
  • Pixie
  • Rocky
  • Sonny
  • Teddy
  • Trixie 

Escapist Names 

Unsurprisingly, cool ‘n’ earthy nature names are here to stay after even our best-laid travel plans went awry thanks to *drum roll please* another new variant. Our appreciation for mama nature coupled with some serious wanderlust has meant we’re expanding our horizons this year from the coast to the woodlands. 

“We expect to see beachy baby names get a boost, especially in the wake of the hit HBO series The White Lotus, set in an idyllic Hawaiian island resort.

Other trending nature names for 2022 will evoke wild, rugged, expansive landscapes – think Prairie, Dune, Ridge and Sequoia,” the Nameberry experts have predicted. 

Bali, Bay, Capri, Forest, Coast, Woods and Ocean are also tipped to rock the charts this year. We’re thinking of Katie Hopkins at this difficult time…

More examples: 

  • Banyan
  • Horizon
  • Koa
  • Lotus
  • Meridian
  • Palmer
  • Reef
  • Ridge
  • Taiga
  • Zephyr 

Gender Neutral Names

Spoiler: They’re going nowhere. As conversations around gender evolve beyond the pink is for girls and blue is for boys narrative, non-binary baby names will continue to rise up the ranks, with boys names being used for girls and softer girls names such as Artemis, Juniper and Nova, for boys.

Hell yes for progress and more choice, whatever the sex of your child. The biggest trend for 2022 is challenging societal expectations and calling your baby whatever gender-bending name you want. 

  • Artemis 
  • Blair 
  • Echo
  • Harlow
  • Holland
  • Honor
  • Indigo
  • Juniper 
  • Laurie
  • Lou
  • Lux
  • Marlowe
  • Nova
  • Nyx
  • Sasha
  • Scout
  • Shiloh
  • Sunny
  • Winter
  • Wren 

Spiritual & Virtue Names 

To balance out the negative energy of the last two years, parents will be drawing on divine powers, looking to ancient mythology and spirituality for inspiration. 

Expect to see virtue names such as Dream, True, Shine, Psalm and Praise pop up alongside Sanskrit names like Veda and Rishi. The Kardashians, as ever, were way ahead of the curve with this one. 

  • Alma
  • Amenadiel
  • Brave
  • Creed
  • Galilee
  • Irie
  • Jericho 
  • Kali
  • Promise
  • Revere
  • Righteous
  • Soul 

Names Ending in ‘S’

How a name sounds is just as important as how it looks in 2022, so make way for some seriously stylish names ending in ‘S’ – as pleasing for the ears as they are on the eyes. 

  • Atlas
  • Aurelius
  • Banks 
  • Collins
  • Emrys
  • Eros
  • Helios
  • Hollis
  • Idris
  • Ignatius
  • Jules
  • Lois
  • Osiris
  • Ozias
  • Rhodes
  • Rivers
  • Thaddeus 
  • Townes
  • Wells

Retro Names 

If you’re looking for a name that will stand the test of time, old school is always a good idea. Charming vintage names steeped in history offer something distinctive and characterful, without the risk of being too ‘edgy’. From classic books and authors to the golden age of cinema and the period drama greats such as Downton Abbey, looking to the past for your modern day baby is one way to discover an antique gem. 

Naming your baby after a favourite grandparent can also be a meaningful way to honour their memory with the ultimate tribute. Make like Meghan and Prince Harry and opt for a timeless name like Lilibet that’ll transcend the trends for years to come. Grandma / grandpa chic is going nowhere, kids!

  • Betty
  • Bobby
  • Constance
  • Etta
  • Frank
  • Goldie
  • Gene 
  • Gus
  • Hank 
  • Louie
  • Mae
  • Ned
  • Nellie
  • Polly
  • Ralph
  • Ray
  • Sally
  • Susie
  • Victor
  • Vincent 

Lyrical Names

For the music lovers of the universe, your Spotify Wrapped is all you need to have an on-trend child in 2022. Lyrical names are on the rise, from Sonnet meaning ‘little song’ to Rhapsody (Queen fans, our work here is done) and it feels different from anything we’ve seen before. If you’re on the hunt for something unique, your listening habits could provide all the shortlist potential you need. 

The feminine urge to name our collective Team Zoella child: Evermore

  • Allegra
  • Anthem
  • Brio
  • Calypso
  • Caprice
  • Coda
  • Drummer
  • Jazz
  • Lyra 
  • Major
  • Rhapsody
  • Rhythm
  • Solo
  • Sonnet
  • Strummer
  • Symphony 
TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 13, 2022

“It feels like your mind is betraying you” – The Reality of Living With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Living with OCD goes far beyond perfectionism, cleanliness and next-level organisation skills, and to suggest ‘being a bit OCD’ is a personality quirk is undermining the severity of the disorder.

Here in the UK, three-quarters of a million people are thought to be living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but despite the figures and recent strides in mental health awareness, it’s still misunderstood by those who haven’t experienced it firsthand.

Although many of us might question if we’ve locked the car or turned the hob off, these thoughts are manageable, not obsessional, and don’t impact our day-to-day lives, jobs or social interactions. Living with OCD goes far beyond perfectionism, cleanliness and next-level organisation skills, and to suggest ‘being a bit OCD’ is a personality quirk is undermining the severity of the disorder. A clean home, perfectly styled rainbow bookcase or carefully curated Kardashian cookie jar is an interior styling choice, if anything, not a mental health disorder. 

Even if they know their obsessions are not realistic, people with OCD have difficulty disengaging from their obsessive thoughts and compulsions, making it a particularly isolating experience often accompanied with an element of shame and secrecy. The anxiety caused by OCD makes it difficult to resist the urge to carry out a compulsion once an obsession is triggered. 

What is OCD?

OCD is a serious anxiety-related condition that affects 1-2% of the UK population (OCD Action), with around half of those cases falling into the severe category. It is typically characterised by two components – recurring intrusive thoughts referred to as obsessions, and compulsive behaviours arising as a result of the anxiety caused by the intrusive thoughts.

Despite how it’s portrayed in the media and in popular culture, it can present itself in many different forms, not just frequent hand washing and checking light switches. According to OCD UK, there are five main categories but it’s possible for obsessions and compulsions to differ from the below or overlap, depending on the individual and the severity of their disorder. 

  • Checking
  • Contamination / Mental Contamination
  • Symmetry and Ordering
  • Ruminations / Intrusive Thoughts
  • Hoarding 

OCD is often referred to as the secret problem, so it isn’t always easy to spot due to the misconceptions surrounding the disorder and the very nature of it being a mental health condition. Some people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder contend with mental chatter and ruminations, alongside rituals such as repeating words or numbers in their mind until they feel safe to resume, rather than physical compulsions. Pure O (Purely Obsessional), for example, is a type of OCD in which a sufferer has obsessions and mental as opposed to external compulsions, such as trying to stop the thoughts, avoidance or trying to replace unwanted intrusive thoughts with good thoughts.  

The average time between the onset of OCD and treatment is 12 years, namely due to the stigma associated with mental health disorders but once diagnosed, OCD can be managed effectively with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, medication and support groups. 

Professor David Veale, one of the Founders of OCD Action and Consultant Psychiatrist in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy explains, “The first treatment for OCD is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy that includes exposure. This means having a good understanding of how your current solutions are maintaining your distress. You then go on to face your fears, to tolerate your anxiety and to test out your expectations. For example, if you have unacceptable thoughts about harming children, it means being with children without any checking that you have not harmed a child or trying to undo a harm that you think you might have done. It also means helping you to reclaim your life.

“As your OCD improves, it’s important to ‘fill the void’ left, deepening your connection with others, and engaging in the work, education and interests that are important to you. Sometimes medication in the form of a SSRI may be helpful in more severe forms of OCD.”

In this interview, we speak to people with OCD to understand what living with the mental health disorder is really like. From how they manage their obsessions and compulsions, seeking professional help and the myths vs reality of having an incredibly misunderstood mental health condition. 

Image Credit: @ObsessivelyEverAfter

Darcey’s Story

How long have you had OCD and what was the road to diagnosis like for you?

I’ve had OCD symptoms since around age 8 I believe, I remember quite clearly as a child constantly having the need to put my tongue to the roof of my mouth and it used to really frustrate me that I couldn’t stop, I now know this was a form of compulsion. I wasn’t actually diagnosed with OCD though until I was 20, I had always been diagnosed with anxiety, although anxiety and OCD quite often go hand-in-hand.

I attended a CBT course for anxiety and said to the woman running it that this course helped but it didn’t pinpoint everything I was feeling, like the need to do a ritual otherwise something bad would happen, even small things like if the volume on the TV was on an odd number I’d be convinced something terrible would happen if I didn’t change the volume to an even number, which meant either I had to change it or I had to vocalise my discomfort to the person controlling the volume. After this, I was quite quickly diagnosed with OCD after discussing more of my compulsions etc, but to be honest even reading up online prior I knew I had it, but I didn’t want to self-diagnose.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) vary from person to person, what does OCD look like for you and how does it affect your day-to-day life?

My OCD seemed to develop over time and quite slowly, so it began when I was younger having this need to do small compulsions like touching the roof of my mouth and not knowing why I was doing them. Then as I got older I constantly checked things, if I unplugged my straighteners, did I leave the hob on, did I lock the door. I had to check these things multiple times otherwise I’d convince myself something awful would happen and it would be all my fault. This is kind of just like anxiety too, so I think this is why it didn’t get recognised in me sooner.

It was only really in my late teens / early 20’s that I started to feel the full force of OCD. I’d have such distressing thoughts and imagery in my mind of stuff I would never want to do to anyone or myself. This would be towards people I love, my friends, children, animals and even strangers, the thoughts would circle in my mind so much I convinced myself I was a terrible person.

Mentally it is so incredibly draining as it feels like your mind is betraying you, why am I thinking these things? This led to compulsions like doing ‘touchwood’ repetitively in order to feel safe from these thoughts or making a wish at 11:11 every day in order to keep me and my family safe. It really started to affect my daily life as I spent hours thinking about these images, being upset by them and feeling like I couldn’t tell anyone because I was worried about what people would think. OCD also caused me to completely mistrust myself, to the point I’d question my religious views, my sexuality, who I am as a person, how do people view me if I can’t even view myself properly? I know deep down my beliefs and who I am, but OCD makes you question EVERYTHING. 

Are there certain triggers for your obsessions/compulsions?

When I’m having a bad spell of OCD anything that is even remotely related to my intrusive thoughts can trigger them, TV, books, daily life. I went through a stage of avoiding things in order to stop the thoughts, but that’s not healthy and really it makes you think about it more. I still, to this day, can’t pick up a kettle without envisioning me spilling the boiling water on me, same with a pan of boiling rice or pasta. I also can’t have volume on an uneven number as it still fills me with fear, but luckily these thoughts don’t affect me as much after a lot of therapy. 

Are there certain times or situations when your symptoms worsen?

My symptoms are usually worse when I am having a bad anxious period, this is when the fear behind the intrusive thoughts creeps back in and therefore I find I start to slip back into doing compulsions. 

How do you manage living with OCD? Have you explored psychological treatment, support groups or anxiety management techniques?

My OCD has improved greatly due to two main things;

1) I went through a really traumatic period when my Mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, after this happened I realised that any compulsion I gave into didn’t stop bad things happening to me, especially like making a wish at 11:11. Awful circumstances but since that day we found out I’ve never made a wish at 11:11 or touched wood in order to calm myself and these compulsions took over my life prior.

2) I went to therapy and have been for over a year now, it took quite a while to open up about my intrusive thoughts due to fear of being judged but once I had spoken about them, they instantly began to lose their power. Anyone struggling with OCD, please don’t underestimate how freeing it will be once you speak to a professional. 

Whilst there are some external, physical signs & symptoms of OCD, it can also be an invisible mental illness. Can you talk to us about the emotional struggle of living with OCD and how some compulsions are not always quite so obvious?

I think most of my compulsions were within my mind (except for touching wood / my head if there was no wood around ha). I know a few people with OCD who find the ruminating about things the hardest, the thoughts and then the more thoughts about how terrible you must be if you are having those thoughts, they circle around your head for hours. I think that’s the real reality for OCD for most people. 

Many people use the phrase “I’m a bit OCD” to describe themselves but there’s an acute difference between, say, liking an organised desk and having OCD. What common misconceptions or assumptions do you find particularly frustrating?

This is the misconception I find the most frustrating! It’s perpetuated by celebrities like Khloe Kardashian who is super organised and tidy, so says she’s super OCD. Of course, I don’t know her medical history, but OCD is so debilitating and exhausting, so when someone makes light of it, you usually know they probably aren’t really experiencing it. The media is to blame as well, with cleaning programmes having people with OCD tidying messy houses. Don’t get me wrong, cleaning and contamination is a real side of OCD, but it’s the tip of the iceberg. 

The lack of understanding, even amongst professionals, can be particularly isolating. What changes would you like to see to ensure those living with OCD are seen, understood and supported?

I’d really like large platforms speaking more openly about the less ‘glamorous’ side of OCD. I think seeing others speak about their own experiences is so helpful for others suffering. I found so much peace when I found Instagram and Tik Tok accounts from other people with OCD and realised we all had the same thoughts, I cried for hours after seeing a random video on Tik Tok pop up from someone talking about their experience as I just felt so reassured and heard by it. If it was more openly spoken about, more people would get the help they need from professionals, but because the nature of our thoughts can be so scary and horrendous, people keep it a secret, I certainly did for a while.

Image Credit: @ObessesivelyEverAfter

Lauren’s Story

How long have you had OCD and what was the road to diagnosis like for you?

I was officially diagnosed with OCD at age 15, but I was struggling with symptoms of OCD many years before I even knew what it was. I was “functioning” with my OCD for more than two years before I hit a “crisis point” when I needed medical intervention, as I was no longer able to function in my everyday life. Once I had my diagnosis, I was put on medication and partook in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Since then, my condition has been very manageable.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) vary from person to person, what does OCD look like for you and how does it affect your day-to-day life?

My symptoms include a variety of obsessions, compulsions and associated mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and some disordered eating. My obsessive thoughts include an irrational fear of harming others by mistake, and a subsequent fear of contamination, an illogical fear that I am unwanted by my friends and family and a large fear of failure. These obsessions lead to compulsions, such as repeatedly checking appliances, hand washing, asking for reassurance and avoiding people or places that may “trigger” my obsessive thoughts.

Currently, my everyday life is largely unaffected by OCD (though I still have some relapses, especially during the pandemic), but before my diagnosis, I would try and neutralise my obsessive thoughts with compulsive behaviour many times every day.

Are there certain triggers for your obsessions or compulsions? Are there certain times or situations when your symptoms worsen?

Unfortunately, the pandemic is a trigger for my obsessive thoughts about contamination. I think that a lot of people with this specific aspect of OCD have been greatly affected by this very uncertain time in our lives. Being in isolation, without any social interaction, worsens my symptoms as I do much better mentally when I am busy. Furthermore, exams are a big trigger for my obsessive thoughts about failure and thus exam periods would be very difficult for me! Luckily, I’m at the stage in my life where I no longer must do exams.

How do you manage living with OCD? Have you explored psychological treatment, support groups or anxiety management techniques?

I manage my depression, a by-product of my OCD, through medication. I have explored CBT and to a lesser extent, DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), both of which I have found to be very helpful. I find breathing techniques, and distraction to be useful management techniques for my anxiety. I am very lucky that I have a support network of loved ones that I can talk to if I need any help.

Whilst there are some external, physical signs & symptoms of OCD, it can also be an invisible mental illness. Can you talk to us about the emotional struggle of living with OCD and how some compulsions are not always quite so obvious?

One of the hardest parts of living with OCD, for me, is living with something called “intrusive thoughts”. In my case, these involved horrible thoughts of my family and friends being harmed and thus makes me start worrying that I am not doing enough to protect my family. The burden of having to live with these thoughts without knowing what they were or being able to tell anyone (pre-diagnosis) was extremely mentally taxing. Going to school and socialising with friends became something incredibly stressful, rather than a normal part of life to be enjoyed.

One compulsion I had regarding my intrusive thoughts was to think about the thought a lot as if to “neutralise” it. It was as if the more I thought about it, the less scary the thoughts would be. As this part of my illness is invisible, no one knew that I was struggling on a day-to-day basis.

Many people use the phrase “I’m a bit OCD” to describe themselves but there’s an acute difference between, say, liking an organised desk and having OCD. What common misconceptions or assumptions do you find particularly frustrating?

I try to be understanding when I hear things like this, as I know how easy it is to say silly things accidentally. I think the misconception that OCD is about having an incredibly tidy desk is, thankfully, not as commonplace as it used to be. While it is a little frustrating that some people assume that having OCD is just about turning light switches on and off, the thing that frustrates me most is ignorance in the face of education. If you listen to people’s experiences and learn from what they are saying, you are doing everything right, in my opinion.

The lack of understanding, even amongst professionals, can be particularly isolating. What changes would you like to see to ensure those living with OCD are seen, understood and supported?

While I have been lucky in the sense that I have always had a positive and professional experience when talking to doctors about my condition, I have had negative experiences with mental health professionals in schools. When I was 17, I had a lot of my support system for exams removed, as I seemed on the surface to not need it. This was against the advice from my doctor. I found this to be devastating as I did not feel like the invisible nature of my condition was understood by these professionals. More education and funding for supporting young people with OCD in schools should be a priority. If you are unsure how best to support someone with OCD, don’t be afraid to ask. With the right support and treatment, people with OCD can (and do) live a very full and happy life.

Ellie’s Story

How long have you had OCD and what was the road to diagnosis like for you?

While I was only recently diagnosed (early September), I’ve struggled with OCD symptoms since I was fourteen years old. I found it hard talking about my symptoms – intrusive thoughts & compulsions were rarely spoken about in the media I was consuming! It was only when I turned seventeen that I started to read up on what could be causing these distressing thoughts. I put getting professional help off for a while, shrugging it off as being ‘not important enough’ (reality check: any mental health problem, big or small, is important!) but thankfully, with the support of loved ones, I reached out to medical professionals & a cognitive behavioural therapist – and that was that. 

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) vary from person to person, what does OCD look like for you and how does it affect your day-to-day life?

OCD for me is a very subtle & invisible mental illness. It was very easy for me to put on a brave face & perform as if all was ok, when in reality, it wasn’t. Inside my head were intrusive thoughts that genuinely scared & frightened me. Thoughts of loved ones or myself in danger or in harm’s way seemed to lurk around each corner. My main struggle was compulsions. Whenever I’d have an intrusive thought, I’d compulsively have to tap anything five to twenty-five times. It was exhausting – I can’t explain where it came from or why it eased the thoughts, but deep down I knew it wouldn’t prevent anything. If I didn’t do it, I’d panic. It was like my body was forcing me! 

Are there certain triggers for your obsessions or compulsions?

I had certain triggers – horror movies being my biggest one. For some reason, in my head, I would replace the characters I was watching on screen experiencing these terrible fates with myself, and people I knew in real life. It was nasty (having a horror-obsessed boyfriend wasn’t helping!) & honestly, made me feel more childish than I was. I had to be SO weary of the media I was consuming. So frustrating! Hearing of any sad event in someone’s life made me automatically think ‘that will happen in my life’ and happy events made me think ‘this is too good to be true – something bad is ought to happen’. 

Are there certain times or situations when your symptoms worsen?

Thankfully I could go a while sometimes without experiencing my compulsions. Periods of high stress or emotion made everything so much worse, which is to be expected. As an anxious person in my day to day life, I would often become overwhelmed and have a short burst of constant intrusive thoughts and tapping things over and over. 

How do you manage living with OCD? Have you explored psychological treatment, support groups or anxiety management techniques?

Living with OCD now is much easier than it was, now that I’m aware of it. It’s not this monster without a face anymore, it’s something I can name and talk about. My therapist taught me to recognise that I am not my thoughts, no matter how awful they are. These intrusive thoughts do not make me a horrible person for thinking them, nor do they represent what I truly want in life. Finding the evidence for my thoughts (usually there would be none!) and evaluating the true likelihood of them becoming reality was hard to master, and much easier said than done – yet once I did, it truly changed my life. 

Whilst there are some external, physical signs & symptoms of OCD, it can also be an invisible mental illness. Can you talk to us about the emotional struggle of living with OCD and how some compulsions are not always quite so obvious?

Having OCD was an emotional rollercoaster. The frustration & guilt was the awful part. When you experience thoughts of bad things happening to those you truly love, it changes the way you view yourself as a person. While the thoughts didn’t define me as a person, I thought I was evil and inhumane. How dare I think these things? Why am I thinking these things? Am I a bad person? It was like having the little devil on your shoulder – yet they aren’t whispering as they do stereotypically, they’re shouting & screaming. 

Many people use the phrase “I’m a bit OCD” to describe themselves but there’s an acute difference between, say, liking an organised desk and having OCD. What common misconceptions or assumptions do you find particularly frustrating?

“I’m a bit OCD.” We’ve all said it. Whether you like things in colour order, hate mess or must have your shoes in a particular order, this phrase is more common than it ever should have been. It takes the importance away from this mental illness and instead turns it into this adjective to be used for enjoying things that most of us like – organisation & cleanliness. It almost belittles the issue and brushes it under the carpet. Never to be spoken about. 

The lack of understanding, even amongst professionals, can be particularly isolating. What changes would you like to see to ensure those living with OCD are seen, understood and supported?

I wish more people would try to understand. It’s hard, I appreciate that. But little steps change the most! If people could be more open-minded about OCD, that would do a whole world of good. People I’ve spoken to about intrusive thoughts have genuinely said things like “gosh, that’s a bit freaky of you”. While it’s a lot to take in and understand, us intrusive thoughts & compulsions – having humans can’t control them! We’re not freaks & our thoughts and compulsions don’t make us strange or any different from you.

We need support and we need compassion from others. I’ve found that OCD is one of the least spoken about mental illnesses, especially in secondary schools. If it ever is mentioned or represented in the media, it’s almost always the same type. More diverse representation and more education to provide a better understanding of OCD would be an absolutely amazing thing for everyone. 

Image Credit: @ObsessivelyEverAfter

Olivia’s Story

How long have you had OCD and what was the road to diagnosis like for you?

I have had OCD for about 8 years now. I started experiencing symptoms in January 2014 and did not get diagnosed until 10 months later. I was only 16. The road to diagnosis was a hard one, I think this was primarily because of my family’s lack of knowledge around mental illness and our finances at the time. When it first started I didn’t really understand what was happening to me, I thought I was going crazy. At the time I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about it so I ended up self-diagnosing from researching how I felt online. My parents eventually brought it up with me and we decided I should see someone about it, by that time it had gotten so severe I couldn’t hide it anymore. Mental health care professionals can be really expensive so it took time for my parents to find the money for me to see one. Eventually, I saw a psychologist and she diagnosed me with OCD, General Anxiety, Sleep Apnea and insomnia.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) vary from person to person, what does OCD look like for you and how does it affect your day-to-day life?

My symptoms really change depending on the context and how I am feeling internally. Because I have had OCD for 8 years now I am pretty good at knowing what places and situations trigger me, but it can be hard to communicate those needs to other people. If I am having a particularly hard day with it I will just stay home and avoid people because it is most controllable in a familiar space. I know that when I am stressed or tired I will feel it the worse so I always have to prepare myself mentally for days like that. I do have some friends who are great with me about it but whenever I do have to explain it to someone it gets worse because I feel totally insane describing what I feel!

Are there certain triggers for your obsessions or compulsions?

My biggest trigger is with anything that lathers or foams, so washing my hands, showering, brushing my teeth and household cleaning takes a lot longer than what’s typically normal. I will always opt for sanitiser over washing my hands and will only wash my hair when I have to. Walking on surfaces that have lines or cracks can be difficult too, I always try not to look at my feet when I am walking in case I get trigged. I also tend to develop obsessions about the placement of my hands when I’m sitting or how my feet are placed when I’m standing. Honestly though, when my OCD is at its worse anything and everything will trigger me, I just have to look at something and I’ll develop an obsession!

Are there certain times or situations when your symptoms worsen?

I am currently doing my master’s degree and I know that when an assessment or exams are coming up I’m going to feel it. Avoiding stress and emotional distress are key for me to contain my OCD. In 2020 I lost three of my grandparents in one year and when I was dealing with that grief my OCD got worse. But totally avoiding negative stress and emotions is impossible so for me it’s all about preparing myself mentally and self-compassion!

How do you manage living with OCD? Have you explored psychological treatment, support groups or anxiety management techniques?

I think for a long time I didn’t manage it, I just went every day being pushed to my mental limit. I didn’t find that the first psychologist I saw helped me so I was pretty sceptical about trying another therapist. However, in 2020 I found a Counsellor who really helped me deal with the trauma which caused me to develop OCD and in the process, I have been able to get a handle on my OCD rather than it having a hold on me! Exposure therapy has also been key for me, fighting my compulsions has helped reduce the severity of them over time. I also use a CBT app which helps me feel in touch with my emotions and body.

Whilst there are some external, physical signs & symptoms of OCD, it can also be an invisible mental illness. Can you talk to us about the emotional struggle of living with OCD and how some compulsions are not always quite so obvious?

Living with OCD can definitely be really hard, especially if you are doing it alone. Before I got treatment for it there were days where I didn’t think I could do it anymore. It’s like constantly having a voice in your head telling you to do something that is totally crazy and unnecessary but is the only thing that will make you feel better. Dealing with my past trauma was definitely key to overcoming the emotional battle I was having because of my OCD, it allowed me to develop self-compassion for why I had OCD in the first place and a sense of gratitude toward myself for finding a way to cope in a time that was really terrible! 

Many people use the phrase “I’m a bit OCD” to describe themselves but there’s an acute difference between, say, liking an organised desk and having OCD. What common misconceptions or assumptions do you find particularly frustrating?

Yes! I think that phrase is the easiest way for someone to make a person with OCD feel small and even more crazy than they already do! comments like that can really hurt someone battling it; especially if they don’t have the voice to correct them. But the biggest misconception I find frustrating is when people limit what OCD can look like, OCD isn’t just about washing your hands or organising how some books look! OCD can look a myriad of ways and ultimately looks like whatever it does to the person who has it!

The lack of understanding, even amongst professionals, can be particularly isolating. What changes would you like to see to ensure those living with OCD are seen, understood and supported?

I would love to see more therapists specialise in helping people with OCD, especially becoming aware of the different types of OCD and the non-medical options people have to overcome it. A lot of people who have OCD are prescribed medication and are never told what other treatment options there are! It would also be great to see some tools developed to help people explain what OCD is like to friends and family easier!

Caitlin’s Story

How long have you had OCD and what was the road to diagnosis like for you?

I’ve had OCD for (I think) about 7 years now, as I started to experience it while I was at college. It started with checking and hand-washing compulsions, and it was actually something my mum pointed out to a doctor when I was at an appointment for something else. I was then referred to a mental health specialist, who talked to me about what I was experiencing and gave me information on OCD.

This wasn’t something I’d even thought I could have, despite looking up information on things like OCD and anxiety online, so it was quite the shock! I also had to fill in both the general mental health questionnaire and also one called the OCI (Obsessive Compulsive Inventory) which gave the specialist more of an idea about which type(s) of OCD I had. I’ve not tried medication for it, but I’ve done Exposure and Response Prevention, which is the gold standard treatment, and this worked well for me! I’m actually not sure how the diagnosis and support system works, but I’ve been treated for OCD on several different occasions both privately and on the NHS, and also declared it to my uni while I was there. I’ve never applied for disabled students allowance or anything like that though, so I can’t offer any insight on that, although I know that students with OCD were encouraged to at my uni.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) vary from person to person, what does OCD look like for you and how does it affect your day-to-day life?

My OCD was noticed because it manifested in quite a physical way – I washed my hands so much that it made them really dry and cracked, especially on the back, around my wrist. At my worst, during my first year of uni, I was spending a shocking amount of time washing my hands – I would soap up and rinse them over 30 times, and this meant my new friends would often have to wait for me so we could go to eat dinner together. I would go through a bottle of liquid hand soap a week, and also used a lot of hand sanitiser while I was out and about. I would also have to use lots of hand creams to try and stop my hands from being damaged. I’m doing a lot better now, even with COVID, but I still wash my hands a lot. I often worry that people will judge me at work for it, and I’ve only ever admitted to having ‘a bit of a thing about germs’ because I’m worried it’ll affect my job if people know.

It also manifested as a lot of checking – sometimes this would involve checking ‘sensible’ things like doors being locked, or the stove being off, but I was also incredibly afraid of having posted something unpleasant on social media/email without knowing about it so I would get caught in a vicious cycle of checking and refreshing everything (usually at night, so it started to affect my sleep). It got to a point where I avoided almost all social media for several years, but I’ve slowly introduced almost everything back into my life. I still sometimes check things, both the ‘sensible’ and the social media, and can still find myself compulsively screenshotting things I’ve posted ‘just in case’.

Are there certain triggers for your obsessions or compulsions?

I’m most often triggered by things not feeling/being ‘clean’ – if I’ve touched something I would have to wash my hands before touching my face, or eating/preparing food. This is somewhat ironic to me, considering my job at the moment involves a lot of mud! If I see a fly land on my food or glass, that’s quite upsetting to me. COVID has also been quite a big trigger, but I was always careful about washing my hands (etc) anyway, and I try to follow the rules about social distancing and masks as best I can.

I can also be triggered by social media – by feelings of something not being ‘right’, or when I want to go to sleep I might still feel the need to check. For this reason, there are certain social media sites I avoid. I’m also really frightened by the idea of computer viruses or accounts being hacked, so I can be really wary of things my friends send me like YouTube/TikTok links etc.

On one very memorable occasion, OCD was used in the crime show Criminal Minds (which I used to be a big fan of), and this upset my OCD as it caused me to worry that I, like the character with the disorder, would commit some horrible crime. This is because OCD is something that goes against your values – it wants to convince you that you’re a horrible person and are putting people in danger. I often worry about things happening to my friends or family for this reason, and OCD convinces me I’m responsible for ‘preventing’ the bad things.

Are there certain times or situations when your symptoms worsen?

It seems that my OCD has been at its worst when I’ve gone through a big life change – like starting uni, for example. This is something that goes into the plan you make at the end of a limited course of therapy sessions – you talk about and note down anything that might trigger the OCD and/or cause it to worsen. I would definitely count the pandemic as one of these times – there was a point where I could barely get dressed during lockdown due to the thought of germs being on my clothes and my hands/feet, and the constant messages on TV/social media about washing hands wasn’t helpful either! I think that a breakup might also be one of those times, especially if I’ve been hiding my OCD from the person, but with that, it’s more about coping with feelings of being ‘unlovable’ or ‘a freak’ – it’s easy to blame mental health for these things, even if it’s just a case of being incompatible. On a smaller scale, my symptoms can be worse before important events or dates – I used to worry about getting sick before or on the day of trips/exams (etc) and I also find I worry about becoming ill at work, so I get warier of certain foods (e.g. not eating a lot of dairy as large amounts can make me ill) and food safety.

How do you manage living with OCD? Have you explored psychological treatment, support groups or anxiety management techniques?

I’ve tried a lot of things over the years, from meditation and yoga (fun and relaxing, but not specifically helpful for my OCD) to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention. CBT and ERP are considered ‘gold-standard’ treatments, and I’ve been able to manage my OCD really well (with the help of a therapist) using them, but it’s a lot of homework – there’s no easy fix, but it’s worth it. I had tried a support group in the past, which helped me to feel less alone, and there was a student-run support group at my uni that was absolutely invaluable during that first year, but I found one-on-one treatment more effective when I could access it. In terms of everyday stuff, I’ve tried to push myself outside of my comfort zone by getting a job, but I’ve also found video games, books, writing and general fandom culture to be a really helpful distraction and form of stress relief.

Getting my job was something I tried to just do, rather than overthinking it and avoiding it like the OCD would want – it was a lot to adjust to, but I was fortunate enough to be in a place where I could handle it and it provided great opportunities and distractions. It’s also really nice to have friends and family that try their best to understand my OCD without enabling it or ‘feeding’ it, but on balance, there are lots of people that don’t know, especially at work, and that can be hard.

Whilst there are some external, physical signs & symptoms of OCD, it can also be an invisible mental illness. Can you talk to us about the emotional struggle of living with OCD and how some compulsions are not always quite so obvious?

I’m fortunate that my OCD began in a way that was externally visible and pretty stereotypical, but it’s not always been like that. One of the main emotional things I’ve struggled with over the years is that feeling of being a ‘freak’ or a ‘bad person’ – it can be hard to explain obsessions and compulsions, and sometimes the thoughts can be so horrifying that you worry about admitting them in case you’re treated like a criminal or a ‘crazy person’. Of course, these are thoughts and images specifically created by the OCD to get a reaction from you (like a bully) – they’re ‘egodystonic’ which means they go against your values, and attack the things that are important to you such as your friends, family, health and reputation. It would have taken me a lot longer to find help if my OCD only consisted of those thoughts and images, as this isn’t something many people associate with the disorder due to the ‘clean and organised’ stereotype. People with OCD might worry that they’ll cause physical or emotional harm, or that they’re a bad person, due to thoughts that go against their morals/religions – I worry sometimes that I’ve said something awful to a friend or stranger, even though it’s something I would never do.

Some days it’s difficult to accept that I have OCD and that it’s something that’ll be a part of me forever – however, I know that with a bit of work I can (and do) manage it, so it’s not all doom and gloom! It also feels rarer than, say, depression or anxiety, so sometimes it feels a bit harder to find people I can relate to. That being said, one of my best friends was recently diagnosed with OCD, so it’s good to know that we’ll be able to support each other through it.

Many people use the phrase “I’m a bit OCD” to describe themselves but there’s an acute difference between, say, liking an organised desk and having OCD. What common misconceptions or assumptions do you find particularly frustrating?

The “I’m/you’re a bit OCD” thing really annoys me, as it trivialises the condition and stops people that are being seriously harmed by the disorder from seeking help. I’ve seen it thrown around as an insult on pages meant to be for cleaning tips, and at my first job back in college I was told “don’t be OCD about this task”…that was fun to hear as someone coming to terms with actually having OCD! Hearing it constantly referred to in an insulting or negative light can really add to the feelings of isolation and self-loathing, those feelings of being ‘a freak’.

The ‘clean and organised’ stereotype can also do a lot of harm, as it means people suffering with other types of OCD such as harm OCD or Pure O don’t even associate their symptoms with the disorder. Sometimes it’s a little awkward for me to admit to the germaphobic aspect of my OCD as it can fuel the stereotype, but I can tell you now that my room is not nearly as clean or organised as you might expect! Indeed, even with the most stereotypical form of OCD, I didn’t realise I had it, so anything that perpetuates misconceptions can be really harmful.

The lack of understanding, even amongst professionals, can be particularly isolating. What changes would you like to see to ensure those living with OCD are seen, understood and supported?

I think having more awareness of how OCD can be for real people is important (I’m really happy to see Zoella looking into this, and happy to help out!). There are a lot of social media accounts run by trained therapists and people with OCD that are really informative as well which helps (though of course, you have to be careful about misinformation). Charities like Mind and OCD Action are really useful too, as they can provide information and support for the sufferer and also friends/family, and it’s quite easy to access and understand. Depictions of OCD in TV/film that are realistic and not treated as a joke can also be helpful, and can give people characters to look up to (similarly, celebs being honest about their experiences of the disorder can be positive too). It’s a big ask, but I’d love to see the end of “I’m/you’re a bit OCD” – it’s not helpful and it really gets on my nerves, even if the person means well!

I also think that an awareness of OCD would be helpful at the college/university level, and in the NHS – my main barrier to help was that I got kind of… funnelled through the university and NHS systems in a way that pointed me to the wrong kind of treatment initially (one that was more general, made to deal with general uni stresses and anxieties), when I should have been on a more specific form of treatment that actually worked really well when I got to it! One of the most helpful things during that difficult first year was simply feeling seen and cared for by the student welfare team at my uni – they made sure I made and went to appointments, and helped me to feel less alone. Indeed, I was able to poke fun at a shared OCD experience with one of them, a fellow sufferer, because we could connect and understand how truly strange OCD can be.

Image Credit: @ObsessivelyEverAfter

Violet’s Story

How long have you had OCD and what was the road to diagnosis like for you?

I’ve officially had OCD for nearly 4 years, however, I personally think I have had it for around 5/6. The road to diagnosis for me was difficult, I went through CAMHS which did take a while (as most people know) but 2020 was the year I finally got to the top of the list and started to receive therapy.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) vary from person to person, what does OCD look like for you and how does it affect your day-to-day life?

For me, my OCD was mainly Reassurance, Germ and Ritual OCD. This means I was washing my hands habitually almost every hour. After using the toilet I’d spent at least 5 minutes at the sink making SURE they are clean. From this, my OCD stemmed to ritual OCD in which where I would have to do something a certain amount of times, this was things from light switches to locking the doors. This is where the Reassurance OCD came in and I would stay up after everyone else and spend at least 20 minutes a night making sure all doors are locked and switches are off, this was all reassuring me that my family would be safe which was a big part of my OCD.

A lot of my OCD was family-based. My main trigger would be dripping taps, this is because I didn’t want to waste any money, and later figured that I’d been told as a child that “every drip is worth a penny, so make sure the tap is OFF”, which every child gets told, to make sure they turn off the tap as it wastes water! However in my head, the OCD took this information and twisted it, so I would make sure the tap is definitely off because I didn’t want my mum (who is a single parent and works so hard for her children) to waste money on a drippy tap. Additionally, I also had intrusive thoughts, this came in the forms of “if I don’t do this then something bad will happen”.

Are there certain triggers for your obsessions or compulsions?

I suffer from depression as well, so a low mood is a huge trigger. Right now there are very few triggers for me. One big one was obviously COVID, having had OCD before COVID, when the virus came around my OCD was probably at its peak and the fact a deadly virus was going around didn’t help! My main trigger was the dripping tap. Any time I would see a tap drip, I’d have to keep checking it’s off, keep touching it so it stays off.

Are there certain times or situations when your symptoms worsen?

When around lots of people, being in places I don’t know are clean. Fatigue and tiredness.

How do you manage living with OCD? Have you explored psychological treatment, support groups or anxiety management techniques?

I’ve received CBT via CAMHS. The therapy lasted around 6 months. Through the therapy I was taught so many techniques, one of the ones I still use is ERP. ERP is Exposure Response Prevention. Although it may seem weird, one of my targets was to simply sit in front of the sink and watch the tap drip. By doing this once and seeing after that in fact nothing bad did happen, I began to see things a lot differently!

Whilst there are some external, physical signs & symptoms of OCD, it can also be an invisible mental illness. Can you talk to us about the emotional struggle of living with OCD and how some compulsions are not always quite so obvious?

For me personally, my OCD had a huge impact on my emotions and general mental health. I’d hear a lot of the time people saying at school and college “oh I’m so OCD” and “omg you’re triggering my OCD” and I’d think to myself how little they actually know, I’d think how they have no idea that I was counting how many people touched the door handle, and how I would be about to ask to go to the toilet just to wash my hands again but most of all, how I was about to go home and the compulsions would start all over again and it would mean another restless night. It became difficult as well to tell some of my friends, I’d tell them that I have been diagnosed with OCD and I distinctly remember one moment, where I felt so insignificant and silly for telling them, a friend said “oh well yeah everyone’s a bit OCD”. I remember after she said that I smiled and agreed and went home later and cried a lot.

Many people use the phrase “I’m a bit OCD” to describe themselves but there’s an acute difference between, say, liking an organised desk and having OCD. What common misconceptions or assumptions do you find particularly frustrating?

This leads on nicely from what I was just saying! For me a huge misconception is people thinking and assuming that OCD is just being super clean and organised. It really is not. Of course for some, part of their OCD is being really organised (me included) but anyone can be organised. A good way I like to explain it is that, anyone can organise their pens in colour order, but those with OCD may do this over and over and over until they feel satisfied.

The lack of understanding, even amongst professionals, can be particularly isolating. What changes would you like to see to ensure those living with OCD are seen, understood and supported?

For me, I’d like to see a bigger focus on the understanding of the indirect impact that OCD can have on an individual and their loved ones. For example, my OCD at one point meant that my mum struggled to sleep most nights as she was awake making sure I wasn’t washing my hands for too long, or wasn’t checking the doors too much.

Personally, I think OCD is one of the few disorders that people do not know enough about. I personally believe there is definitely a lack of professionals who know what and how to help OCD. Additionally, something I really think is necessary is for mental health to be taught in schools, for children and young people to learn what different mental health conditions mean and how they can identify and help them.

If you’re struggling with OCD, you can get help here at ocduk.org  or ocdaction.org.uk

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 12, 2022

Good Vibes Only – The Best Sex Toys for 2022!

Gorgeous, gorgeous girls, guys and non-binary folk, we give you the best sex toys the year of the tiger has to offer. May genitals everywhere get the love and attention they deserve. 

New year, new sex toys. Vision boards at the ready pals! It’s time to manifest more orgasms – the only NY resolution we’re serious about in 2022, quite frankly. 

Maybe this is the year you want to elevate your sex life and try new things with your partner (hello vibrating butt plug), or perhaps starting afresh with a shiny set of bedside companions is the only way you can deal with January, whatever reason you’re in the market for something truly up-and-cumming, rest assured there is a toy for every goal and indeed, every hole. 

Gorgeous, gorgeous girls, guys and non-binary folk, we give you the best sex toys the year of the tiger has to offer. May genitals everywhere get the love and attention they deserve. 

1. Sqweel 2 Oral Sex Simultor 

Love Honey | £19.99 | Shop it here

A 10-tongue wheel? What a time to be alive. The Sqweel 2 Oral Sex Simulator might look a lot like a desk fan but that’s where the similarities end because keeping you cool is simply not in its wheelhouse (sorry). The flicker setting rocks the wheel back and forward, switching the direction of the tongues for maximum pleasure. Featuring three rotation speeds, you can tailor the intensity to suit your clit’s needs and likes. Dry January, who? 

2. Lennon Internal and External Vibrator

Knude Society Sex toy

Knude Society | £60 | Shop it here

Perfect for those who like to stimulate two areas at once this bend-in-half-able vibrator is slim with a bulbous head, making it wonderful for both clitoros and g-spot action. Featuring 10 speeds and vibration patterns the Lennon is also 100%

3. Womanizer Classic 2 Rechargeable Clitoral Suction Stimulator

Womanizer | £119.99 | Shop it here

One of the best clitoral stimulators on the market has to be from cult brand Womanizer, so if you’re looking to update yours check out the lastest release of their classic. Rechargeable so you never have that ‘out of batts’ moment again, 100% water proof and fully equipt with the patented pleasure air technology that uses contactless stimulation to wow the sensitive clitoral nerve endings

4. Jewelled Butt Plug 

Love Honey | £12.49 | Shop it here

Anal play just got a glow up. Check out this jewelled butt plug topped with a glittery crystal, ideal for anyone new to bum fun and looking to add some glitz and glamour to the bedroom, either for solo play or coupled sex. If anal fulfillment is high on your list of 2022 hopes and dreams, then this bedazzling butt plug will grant all your horny wishes. 

5. Iridescent Anal Beads

Love Honey | £32.99 | Shop it here

A thing of iridescent beaded beauty. The arc makes for easy insertion and the graduation from smaller to bigger bulbs makes it the perfect toy for an intro to anal play. You’ll have no issue finding your P-Spot with this piece of kit and if the reviews are anything to go by, it’s vagina-inclusive too. A double threat, we love to see it! Note the flared base with the loop handle for total control of your toy at the point of orgasm, so you can fully relax into your pleasure land, reassured that it won’t go missing at any point. Nobody wants to deal with an A&E rescue mission. 

6. Enby 2

Wild Flowers | $74.99 | Shop it here

Round of applause for this game-changing genderless entry. The Enby is designed for all forms of pleasure and all bodies, however you identify. Whether you want to straddle it, ride it, tuck it in a harness or curl and flex it into a penis stroker, this non-phallic, non-penetrative toy lets you explore pleasure on your terms, your way. 

7. Com Wand Vibrator

Dame | $125 | Shop it here

Featuring Dame’s most powerful motor yet, exquisite broad rumbles for clit and vulva coverage (5 intensity levels, 5 pattern modes) and a flexible neck that contours to your body, the Com is a charming choice for newbies and experienced pleasure seekers alike. Easy to hold and whisper-quiet, external vibrations no longer have to cost you the use of your hand for the next 3-5 working days. Bye-bye, Repetitive Strain Injury. Bye-bye. 

8. Naked Grapefruit First Base

Naked Grapefruit | £25.99 | Shop it here

This female-run brand is a breath of fresh air in a male-dominated industry – any brand with the tagline, ‘We Cum In Peace, So Should You’ has our immediate backing. If you’re currently on a Google journey for a sex toy that’s right for you but feel slightly overwhelmed at the sheer volume of choice (and/or the shape of some of this innovative tech), First Base will make the experience infinitely less intimidating. Sometimes a simple 7 setting bullet vibrator is all you need to get to know yourself! We can’t wait to see what pleasure products they bless our anatomy with next. 

9. Satisfyer Top Secret Wearable Vibrator 

Satisfyer | £44.95 | Shop it here

The wearable bit piqued your interest, right? If sex toy trends exist, then let it be known that wearableZ are in this season. Thanks to the flat base and curved voluminous shaft on this one, it can be worn on the go for leg-buckling vibrations wherever you are. Have some fun with your lover by letting them take over the control systems via the Satisfyer app, or, if making a splash is more your vibe, take your pleasure power trip into the water. Waterproof and wearable? 2022 is already looking up. 

10. Duo Flicker Clit Stim

Ann Summers | £26.60 | Shop it here

The feminine urge to own 17 vibrators! The Duo Flicker Clit Stim bookends the head of your clitoris with the unique duo stimulating shape creating twice the pleasure. Whether you see a mermaid tale, a dolphin’s mouth or the leaves of a tulip is your call entirely. 

If you prefer, you can place it flat against the clitoris instead or either side, and reap the rewards of the flicking action. It’ll be the best £38 you’ll ever spend. 

11. Flip Rechargeable Wand Vibrator

Romp | £39.99 | Shop it here

If you prefer your pleasure to be wire-free and love how a wand feels this ROMP rechargeable vibrator is right up your erm, ally. Petite enough to go with you wherever and very reasonably priced this is the perfect toy for those looking to dip their toe into the waters of the wands.

12. The Ribbed One

Kandid | £59 | Shop it here

A ribbed G-Spot Vibrator? We’re all ears. Made with ribbed body-safe silicone for your pleasure and featuring a curved tip and ultra flexible external rabbit ears, the Wild One delivers 

seriously satisfying dual stimulation. G spot rumbles and clit stim, get you a toy that does both!

13. Hot Lover 

Satisfyer | £53.95 | Shop it here

They had us at ‘sensual warming function’. The Hot Lover combines clitoris and G spot stimulation with a heated shaft (up to 39 degrees) to emulate penetrative sex and a body-like expereince like no other. That’s one way to keep warm this winter. 

14. Date Night Set 

We Vibe | £179 | Shop it here

Because traipsing to a restaurant or ordering Deliveroo for date night gets boring real quick: consider this couple’s vibrator set from We Vibe, featuring their Pivot vibrating cock ring and Nova 2 rabbit vibrator. Orgasm for two, was it? 

*All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team however some are ad-affiliate links.

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 11, 2022

Dry January Mocktails – What Happens to Your Body When you Banish the Booze

Enter: Dry January. It might sound pretty unappealing when the thought of a 6pm glass of red can help manage the January scaries, but hear us out, the benefits of cutting the Chardonnay for just 31 days may be enough for you to reach for the mocktail menu for good.

Ahh January. The mulled wine bottles are piled high in the recycling bin, the tequila suddenly looks far less appealing, and your body is screaming for a green juice, stat! And whilst it can feel like a total new year cliche to add “my body is a temple” to your morning affirmations, sometimes as the calendar sheet is turned, practising healthier boundaries around alcohol consumption can feel somewhat intuitive.

Enter: Dry January. It might sound pretty unappealing when the thought of a 6pm glass of red can help manage the January scaries, but hear us out, the benefits of cutting the Chardonnay for just 31 days may be enough for you to reach for the mocktail menu for good.

How does alcohol impact the body?

An Aperol Spritz watching the sunset in the warmer months and a delicious glass of Baileys sat fireside with a book is the stuff dreams are made of, but did you know that whilst you don’t necessarily feel the impact of alcohol from one drink, the effects on your mind and body happen from the first sip. Positive sensations such as a sense of giddiness and relaxation happen first, lowering stress levels and even creating feelings of euphoria as our inhibitions are lowered. Sounds dreamy right?

Sadly the positives are somewhat outweighed by potential negatives here, as whilst an increase in confidence may seem fun when the warmth of Prosecco first hits, the dangers of a decreased perception of danger, increase in impulsive behaviour, and everything from loss of coordination, nausea, headaches, trouble focusing, gaps in memory, slurred speech and changes in perception too have the potential to be a recipe for disaster. Chuck in some dehydration and potential loss of consciousness if you really overdo it and suddenly that friendly 5pm tipple seems a little less appealing. 

But what’s the science behind such drastic changes occurring from substances we can buy so easily along with our avocados and Crunchy Nut in the local supermarket? Say hello to: Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, often known as GABA. An important neurotransmitter involved in inhibitory function, this integral part of brain processing is thrown out of whack with alcohol in tow and leads to reduced coordination, overall slower motor abilities, and all of the above short term but potentially dangerous side effects.

Drinking excessively over a longer period of time can actually change the structure of our brain – it shrinks. LiterallyDr Alisha Damani

Now of course the volume and regularity in which you drink will determine the extent and severity of these changes in mind and body, but even those of us who enjoy just a couple of glasses a week may not be aware of how this can alter our bodies in both the short and long term. “Drinking excessively over a longer period of time can actually change the structure of our brain – it shrinks. Literally” says NHS doctor Dr Alisha Damani. “Studies have demonstrated atrophy particularly in the areas responsible for memory, emotions, coordination and balance. Once the structure of the brain is impacted, this type of damage is usually permanent and irreversible.

There is ample evidence demonstrating that long-term high volume drinking reduces life expectancy, increases the risk of cancers, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, liver, heart and cognitive problems to name a few, and so permanently avoiding alcohol can bring a whole wealth of benefits.”

Currently struggling with dry January? Us too. Here’s what happens when you ditch the booze…

When detoxing from anything, be it fast food, alcohol or substance use in general, the first few days are usually the hardest as your body adapts to life without this addition to your system. Following this, and once the grogginess of any initial hangover has subsided, you should start to feel more refreshed in general, but know it can actually take up to 72 hours before you mentally and physically feel back to normal after drinking! Alcohol therapists Lisa and Alex from Bee Sober note that day 5-7 is when we can expect to wake up with more energy, as although alcohol can send us to sleep easier, we actually miss out on “the all-important Rapid Eye movement (aka REM) which should be around 6-7 cycles but the effects of alcohol mean this is limited to one or two. After two weeks you will notice a huge improvement in overall sleep pattern as your body becomes more regulated.”

“After two weeks you will also likely see a drop in body weight, eye bags reduced and far less overall bloating around the stomach area”- in part because alcohol can impact our appetite and increase the hormones that make us hungry, often leading to bingeing on foods that are typically unhealthier. 

Next up: blood pressure. “After 3 weeks blood pressure will reduce, as drinking every day or binge drinking can cause our blood pressure to rise and can be really dangerous, and lowering this can help with any long term health problems.” 

3 weeks in you will also notice a significant improvement in overall cognitive ability and increased energy levels.Dr Alisha Damani

“3 weeks in you will also notice a significant improvement in overall cognitive ability and increased energy levels. After 4 weeks of not drinking alcohol, skin and eyes will look brighter and clearer. Skin which is irritated and normally dry will feel better due to the added hydration to the body. After 4 weeks, liver fat reduces up to 15%, increasing its ability to flush out toxins. Mild liver disease, like fatty liver, can be reversed completely if a person stops drinking alcohol altogether. When there is no alcohol in your blood for several months, the liver cells can return to normal. Overall after 4 weeks of not drinking alcohol, sleep will be regulated and you will most certainly feel well-rested. More energy, clearer skin, less bloated and likely to have dropped a dress size. Brain function and productivity will have increased and you’ll generally feel better overall in yourself” say Lisa and Alex.

The benefits are endless, and it doesn’t just occur physically too, as we’re reminded by Dr Damani. With your newfound mental clarity, you may notice your relationships, productivity, and emotional wellbeing improve too, as life feels a little lighter and your motivation across all that you do increases. Because whilst hangovers and a little sluggish start to the morning don’t feel like the end of the world, there’s growing evidence that ditching alcohol can lead to some seriously dramatic long term positives too- “the science of sleep, our circadian rhythm and hydration is becoming more renowned in its impact on delaying dementia, reducing the risk of acute heart problems and diabetes.” Seriously life-changing stuff!

As wonderful as these health benefits sound both mentally and physically, dropping the booze- be it for Dry Jan or for good- after living a life with alcohol at the centre of your social life is no mean feat! Breaking habits takes work, and changing your routine, lifestyle and the way you relax and potentially connect with friends is never going to be a walk in the park. But if you fancy setting yourself a goal that challenges your norm and improves your health this January, perhaps ditching the daiquiris and Desperados is for you. 

I’ll get one of each please

Cutting back on alcohol doesn’t mean you’re restricted to the world of tap water alone, no no! Whether you’re hibernating at home this winter and fancy spicing up a Friday night, or instead are intrigued by the mocktails at your go-to weekend haunt, keep reading for the ultimate sober drink options that are anything but dry:  

Virgin mojito

SERVES 2
PREP: 10 MINS COOK:
EASY

  1. Muddle the sugar with leaves from the mint using a pestle and mortar (or use a small bowl and the end of a rolling pin).
  2. Put a handful of crushed ice into 2 tall glasses. Divide the lime juice between the glasses with the mint mix. Add a straw and top up with soda water.

Recipe Source: BBC Good Food

Passionfruit Martini Mocktail

SERVES 2
PREP: 10 MINS COOK:
EASY
  1. Slice open the passion fruit and scoop out all of the seeds into a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake well.
  2. Strain into a coupe or martini glass and garnish with the passion fruit half.

Recipe Source: Olive Magazine

Mango Mule

SERVES 2
PREP: 10 MINS COOK:
EASY

  1. Cut the mango into slices and pop it in a blender to create a mango puree.
  2. Put the mango puree into a cocktail shaker with the ginger beer and juice of half a lime and stir together.
  3. Pop some crushed ice into your glasses and top with the mango mocktail. Garnish with some slices of mango, lime and mint.

Recipe Source: Small City Big Personality

Virgin Mary

SERVES 2
PREP: 10 MINS COOK:
EASY

  1. In a tall glass, pour the tomato juice over the ice, add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, tobacco, salt and pepper and stir.
  2. Serve with a stick of celery and a wedge of lemon.

Recipe Source: Good to

Sweet Sunrise

SERVES 2
PREP: 10 MINS COOK:
EASY
  1. Add equal amounts of orange juice and non-alcoholic sparkling wine (or alternative) to a champagne flute.
  2. Gently pour in the Grenadine.
  3. Garnish with your choice of fruit and serve.

Recipe Source: Mindful Mocktail

Cinderella 

SERVES 2
PREP: 10 MINS COOK:
EASY

  1. Place the orange, lemon and pineapple juice into a tall glass with some ice and stir
  2. Top up with sparkling water
  3. Garnish with a slice of orange

Recipe Source: Cocktail Mocktail

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