Part II: “I’m so OCD”
Most of you are probably familiar with the OCD stereotypes; neat freak, clean freak, an inevitable discomfort felt in the presence of a crooked picture or a messy room. While these characteristics resonate with many individuals who are diagnosed with OCD (and most definitely for myself), I can tell you that the disorder is much more complex and debilitating than what the stereotypes surrounding it insinuate.
According to Mayo Clinic (because this was obviously the most reliable source I could find on the internet) Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) features a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress. According to Anxiety BC (probably more legit), obsessions are often related to contamination, accidental harm to self or others, symmetry and exactness, and forbidden thoughts. Compulsions include washing and cleaning, checking, counting and tapping, and ordering/arranging.
Over the years I have experienced every single item on this list. I can also tell you that someone with OCD is entirely aware that these obsessions and compulsions are absolutely ridiculous and illogical; but this realization certainly doesn’t stop the obsessing and ‘compulsioning’ anyway. I mean, realistically I’d rather not spend my day checking numerous times to confirm the oven, hair straightener, and lights are off (because if I don’t I might be responsible for burning down my entire apartment building); that yes, the door is most definitely locked, and it was the first 5 times I looked (but if it isn’t, then someone might break in… and that could be catastrophic); I’d rather not wash my hands excessively to the point that they are raw and cracked (but if I don’t then I might contract a deadly disease); I’d rather not feel the need to keep everything constantly clean/organized to perfection (but if I don’t, I know I’ll feel anxious until I do); and I’d definitely rather not waste time counting to 12 for no particular reason other than when I’m done I somehow feel better.
As someone with an extensive amount of education, I can rationally conclude that these associations are entirely irrational; I know the stove is off, I know the door is locked, I know I’m not going to contract a deadly disease if I don’t constantly wash my hands, and I know that counting to 12 accomplishes absolutely nothing. With OCD this is irrelevant, because the anxiety is real, and all that matters in the moment is finding a way to reduce it… even if that means feeling like a fool – a less anxious fool, at least.
When I was younger, the obsessions and compulsions were a very prominent part of my life, but with the combination of many visits to “Psychologist’s # 1, 2, 3, 4, 5”, a group exposure therapy class for kids with OCD (where they provoked our anxiety by having us stick our fingers in toilet water and refrain from washing our hands for as long as possible – although I’m pretty sure any person with some standard of personal hygiene would find this quite stressful…), and medication, things became much more manageable.
That’s not to say I don’t still have my ongoing challenges.
Part III coming soon. Part I here.
Also check out THEOBSESSIVEKAT in our Blog section.