- Education and Science
What Is OCD Being OCD
You hear people say, “I’m just being OCD” or “I’m OCD” but are they really? Having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is no laughing matter. Unless you’ve had a diagnosis by a psychiatrist or psychologist you probably do not have OCD.
Being neat, tidy and wanting things in order is not OCD
Yes, being obsessive about order and symmetry is a symptom but only a small portion of the big picture. When I say order and symmetry that doesn’t necessarily mean cleanliness.
Not all OCD sufferers are clean freaks, nor do they all have the same quirks and rules. We all have different symptoms; I will list a sample to give you an idea of what “real” OCD is like.
I will share with you some symptoms of OCD, some are mine, and some are people I know who also suffer with this disorder. This article doesn’t cover every symptom; there are many obsessions, compulsions, rituals and rules OCD sufferers have. There are books on the subject if you would like to read further.
Cleaning too much
Unless you have suffered while cleaning you do not have OCD. I should clarify this and say those with a cleaning obsession. Not all OCD people have to clean.
We don’t just clean: we rub away the top layer of Formica. We dismantle the stovetop; take it down to the car wash and power scrub it until it doesn’t work anymore.
We scrape and scour the grout until it has to be regrouted.
Rubber gloves, cleaning products and scouring pads are bought in gross. We clean until our knuckles bleed.
Until you have stayed up all night cleaning the same thing over and over again because you didn’t wipe in the proper order, (you may have ran your cloth in a counter clockwise direction once instead of always going clock wise) you do not have OCD. We clean until it feels right, both physically and mentally.
Compared to OCD a drill sergeant seems like a doting grandmother.
We pick our cuticles until they bleed because we can’t stand to have something not smooth. It doesn’t feel right.
Lint pickers will clean the slubs from their clothing until they are threadbare.
A psychological red flag
One thing all OCD people say is, “It didn’t feel right.” We don’t mean a physical feeling; we are talking about a mental feeling.
Simply rechecking to see if you locked your door is not OCD.
The door wasn’t locked in the proper order so you have to redo it making sure to touch the doorframe the magic amount of times. Clicking the lock so it makes the right sound. Walking the correct amount of steps to the door prior to locking. Perhaps clicking your tongue to the roof of your mouth in rhythm with counting, turning the lock and tapping your toe on the floor all in perfect motion.
Are you getting the drift yet?
Unless your habits sound “crazy” you do not have it.
The thing is, we who really do have OCD know what we do is weird and not normal but we can’t stop. Many of the things that go on inside our heads will never be told to most people because you won’t understand and in many cases we’d be outcast.
Watch the television show Monk to get a good idea of what we go through. His quirks and rituals are public but in real life that stuff is kept very, very private.
Most of OCD is internal.
Counting, mantras and touching
We count. Most love even numbers but I’m strange and like odd numbers. There is symmetry in odds: three has a pillar on each side; five has two pillars on each side. We see this in our mind.
Phrases get stuck in my head, it helps keep out the bad thoughts. Those horrible negative, painful thoughts that kill us a little bit inside.
I tap out and count word syllables on my knee with my fingers or my tongue to the back of my teeth.
What could be that bad, you ask? Normal people worry about loved one’s safety. They might wring their hands and think about them from time to time. They could get in an accident or get sick.
OCD sufferers enact a disaster in our minds. We see the car crash, hear the two vehicles hit. We see the blood, paramedics and mangled metal. The policeman really comes to our door and tells us the inevitable. We mourn, grieve and cry… many, many tears and we call.
Anyone married to an OCD sufferer is a saint, by the way.
In the old days it was easier, we could call and after hearing their safe voice we could hang up. Now days with caller ID that’s not so easy so we have to calm our voice from all the crying before calling and pretend it’s for another reason because constantly calling to see if they are okay is crazy. Right? We know what crazy is; it lives with us.
When they notice the nasally voice we say, “Oh, my allergies are acting up.”
YES, we know it’s not normal, we know we should stop but it’s hard.
Yes they have drugs that help…sometimes. The problem is the side effects are often times worse then living with our weirdness, which is familiar to us. No drugs take away all the quirks anyway.
Here are a few of the side effects:
Loss of sex drive
Electric light show behind our eyelids
Nothing like a good support group to make you feel normal or at least closer to it than you were before the meeting. No matter how crazy our own symptoms seem when compared to others we seem to feel not so out of balance.
Also you feel relief, “I’m not the only one doing stupid crap.” Their stupid crap is different but just as weird and comforting to know you are not alone.
It’s not easy in the beginning and at first I mostly listened and didn’t “share.” Even among fellow crazies we aren’t so comfortable sharing all our quirks.
I have learned over the years to tell myself to, “Knock it off!”
Sure, I still have those negative thoughts and I even sometimes start to go into melt down mode but before I can take it too far I make myself stop.
One thing that helped me a great deal (I came up with this on my own) was to go further with my negative thoughts. In the past I was so exhausted after the episode I couldn’t do much else afterward.
I would get to the grieving part and would have a big cry but didn’t move past that. What I mean by that is this:
If you suffer from this same type of OCD it is a form of fear, fear of losing that person, your job, your child or whatever your negative thoughts are about.
Move to the next level. If you lost those people or your job what would happen next? What would you do? How do you resolve this situation and move on? In other words get past the grieving stage and move onto the resolution stage.
This helped me tremendously and perhaps it will help you to. When these thoughts come into my mind, I fast forward with my mental remote to the next frame and that’s how I get through it.
If I lose my husband I’ll do this, this and this. If I lose my child, this is how I’ll deal with it. If I lose my job these are my options. See how it works? It is still painful but I guarantee you it is easier.
This may even work for other obsessive thoughts and compulsions, give it a try and see if you can work out a solution in your mind.
Taking care of my own mental health
I haven’t seen a psychiatrist or psychologist in years nor have I been on medication. Support groups aren’t my thing although they did help at the time.
Research, education and figuring out my own psyche has helped. I still count, have obsessions, pick my cuticles (mostly not making them bleed) and fighting with negative thoughts is an ongoing battle but I take it one day at a time and most of the time---I win.
- Finding The Right Therapist For Your Child
As parents we sometimes look for a little extra help with raising our children especially if they have special needs; a therapist can help.