Almost half of the adult population believe themselves to be suffering from mild to severe traits of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) according to a new study released October 14th 2013 to mark the start of OCD Awareness Week by Benenden Health in partnership with OCD UK.

While official estimates are that just 1.2% of the population is affected by the mental illness, the survey released by the mutual healthcare provider saw large numbers admit to behaviours that are associated with OCD.

Behaviours include everything from obsessive checking of locks and appliances, to intrusive-obsessive thoughts, compulsive hand washing, preoccupation with symmetry and order and hoarding.

Paul Keenan, Head of Communications at Benenden Health said, "At the start of OCD Awareness Week we've launched this research in partnership with OCD UK with the aim of helping raise awareness and understanding about this condition.

"OCD can have a huge impact on the daily life of so many people across the UK - at all ends of the spectrum. In our survey over 40% of people said they believe they suffer from some traits of the condition - but it's important that where this starts to have a serious impact on their life people seek help and go to their doctor to get a diagnosis.

"OCD is a serious mental health issue and one which people shouldn't be afraid to talk about or get help for. Timely access to effective treatment is crucial and there are various organisations out there such as OCD UK who can give individuals the support they need."

The research showed that almost one in 20 people will repeatedly check that their doors are locked with some admitting they have to go home to make sure, with the same number while one in eight say they are obsessed with order and symmetry and have to have everything a certain way otherwise it makes them uncomfortable.

More than one in 20 also say they are afraid that if everything isn't perfect or done just right, then something terrible will happen or they will be punished.

Ashley Fulwood, CEO of OCD UK said, "The term 'I'm a little bit OCD' is frequently used in everyday language, but what people don't realise is that the illness actually can have a devastating impact on those that suffer, sometimes with sad and tragic consequences.

"What this study shows is that more work needs to be done to help people understand the difference between the occasional additional compulsive check, and the horrible anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts, leading to hours of repetitive, mundane, life-impacting compulsive behaviours that occur in OCD'."

Over a fifth of those surveyed (22%) have taken some sort of measure to try and cure their OCD, however, more than 1 in 10 people (11%) have avoided discussing their condition because they are embarrassed by their behaviour.

The study by Benenden Health which is backed by OCD UK, also showed a general lack of awareness about the seriousness of the condition with over a quarter of those surveyed unaware that OCD is a real mental health issue that impacts people's lives, while 43% of people believe OCD traits in their friends are just 'quirks'.

And although 36% of people do believe people they know who have OCD are suffering from a real mental health issue, 1 in 20 have admitted to making fun of someone with OCD or an OCD trait.