Paul Gascoigne health: Football star on the ‘nightmare’ condition he shares with son

Paul Gascoigne in tears as son makes Dancing on Ice debut

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The 54-year-old shot to sporting fame, winning the FA Cup with Tottenham Hotspur in 1991 and representing the England national team for 10 years between 1988 and 1998, where he scored numerous goals. Yet behind the scenes, Gascoigne was beginning to crumble as he struggled majorly to control his alcoholism and subsequent mental health disorders. Along with his struggle with alcohol, in 2001 Gascogine was diagnosed with bipolar disorder – a mental health condition that affects your moods. And since then, both Gazza and son Reagan have been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Sitting down for an interview with The Sun on Sunday, Gazza spoke about rearranging cutlery, moving water bottles and lining up various condiments.

He said: “I’ve got OCD and he’s got it too. When I used to go and see him, if he wound us up I’d open all the cupboard doors to annoy him, because I knew he’d have to go round shutting them.

“With OCD, if we do something once we have to do it again. I remember England manager Terry Venables going mad because when I’d go on to the pitch I’d be ready, and once we had kicked off I had to tie my laces again, just the right foot.

“The game could have been going on but I’m just tying my shoelace. He’d be like, ‘What are you doing that for?’ I had to. And I didn’t wear pants on the pitch either.”

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that OCD is a common yet chronic condition in which a person has uncontrollable recurrent obsessions (thoughts) and compulsions (behaviours).

These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life including work, school, and personal relationships.

Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:

  • Fear of germs or contamination
  • Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or harm
  • Aggressive thoughts towards others or self
  • Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive cleaning and/or handwashing
  • Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way
  • Repeatedly checking on things, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or that the oven is off
  • Compulsive counting.

Gazza’s son, Regan interjected: “When Dad comes to mine he ruins my house. So when I go to his, I move everything too. We know it annoys each other. At work, as soon as I enter the theatre, I’ve got to do everything in an order, including touching door handles and stuff. It’s a nightmare.”

“It’s a nightmare,” Reagan added to his father’s previous comments.

In fact, OCD is not the only thing the pair have in common, with both of them preferring to go commando on a regular basis, even when professional dancer Regan appears on the ice.

Gazza continued to say: “I was always commando. Let it just do what it wants to down there, right?”

With Regan closely following his lead, adding: “And, yes, Gascoignes don’t wear pants!”

The NIMH adds that some individuals with OCD also have a tic disorder.

Motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements, such as eye blinking and other eye movements, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking, whereas common vocal tics include repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds.

Symptoms of OCD may ease and worsen over time for individuals. In order to try and manage their condition some people try to avoid “triggers” that may make them more likely to have obsessions, or they may use drugs or alcohol to calm themselves.

“Sometimes I’ve locked the door of the house, got 20 miles up the motorway, turned round, come back and checked the door again,” Gazza confessed in another interview.

Paul Salkovskis, clinical director of the Maudsley Hospital Centre for Anxiety Disorder and Trauma told Chronicle Live how severe the condition can be for some people, sometimes even preventing them from leaving the house.

Paul Salkovskis says: “We don’t know the cause of OCD but it’s almost certainly some sort of mix of vulnerability – which might or might not involve the way your brain thinks – and the stresses which happen to you in life.

“Evidence suggests that if you’ve a first degree relative with OCD the chance of you having it rises to eight percent from 1.5 percent.”

In order to help treat the condition, medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two are usually successful methods. However, every patient differs and treatments that might work for one may not work for another person.

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