AUTHOR Helen Barbour was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder around the same time that she began creative writing.

Almost ten years after her diagnosis in 1996, Helen has penned her debut novel - The A to Z of Normal - exploring the anxiety disorder, which can leave those affected unable to work, maintain relationships or even leave the house.

"I really wanted to deal with mental health but in an accessible way," she explains the writer from North Finchley who published her book earlier this summer. "It was important to me. We have all got our experiences with life and this is my experience."

The A to Z of Normal is about a woman struggling to overcome her obsessive-compulsive behaviour, so she can marry the man she loves, while also dealing with some difficult family relationships.

People living with OCD feel compelled to perform routines obsessively, to the point at which they can interfere with their ability to live their life properly.

The cause of the disorder is unknown, however it is possible to go some way in treating OCD with psychotherapy or medication.

Helen, who has a moderate form of the condition, remembers: “I didn’t realise it until about 20 years ago when I had a really traumatic year. My job, my home and my relationship had all fallen apart in the space of one year.

"So ordering my world by ordering my possessions actually makes complete sense. I just have this anxiety that if things are out of control and out of order then I just get anxious. I feel unsettled and it is like something gnawing away at your brain and I just can’t leave it."

After wanting to write a novel for a long time, former journalist Helen was finally driven to put pen to paper when a close friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"In my sadness about that I thought what would I like to achieve? That was the impetus to start to write a novel," remembers the 51-year-old, who also writes a popular blog about her OCD titled The Reluctant Perfectionist.

And through her writing she is keen to dispel the myths surrounding the disorder, taking particular umbrage with programmes about obsessive cleaners.

“I think the media have a certain responsibility to inform themselves properly. It is not subject for amusement.

"There is still such a big mental health stigma.

"People can say: ‘I’m a bit OCD’ and that can rile up people who have really got a condition. I think it is unfair to get annoyed with them, there’s an opportunity to explain the difference."

However, she confesses the idea of beginning a sequel - her debut took around ten years to complete - is a daunting prospect.

The Staffordshire-born author says: "People are like: ‘Are you going to write another one?' I say I think I would just like to lie down in a dark room with a cold flannel on my head."

The A to Z of Normal is available from and