OCD About OCD

Sometimes OCD makes you worry about the most ironic things.  I remember when I first started with an Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) group I was worried that I wasn’t OCD-enough.  I had already had a consultation session with the therapist running the group but yet I still worried that I wasn’t supposed to be there.  Not in an I-Don’t-Want-To-Be-Crazy-Enough-To-Be-In-This-Group sort of way, but in a What-If-I’m-Fooling-Everyone-And-I-Don’t-Actually-Have-OCD way.  Which makes no sense. My OCD was essentially making me worry that I wouldn’t be “cool” enough to fit in at OCD group therapy.

oh honey

Another odd one I encountered was toward the end of my time attending the group.  I started to notice improvements, and notice that I was able to catch myself early if I started new obsessions.  You would think I would be elated and feel so free.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for that group, it changed my life!  But for some reason I kept noticing an odd desire to hold on to a little bit of my OCD.  It was almost like I didn’t know who I was without it.  I worried that my OCD would completely go away (HAH!) and I would be a totally different person.  And even though OCD can be very difficult and very isolating, here I was bonding with people over it and feeling like I fit in somewhere (and who doesn’t like to fit in?).

friends gif

Point being: OCD makes you worry about OCD *le sigh*

What are some ironic worries that OCD has caused you to have?

Relationship OCD (rOCD)

Relationship OCD. Have you heard of it? Most people haven’t (including my first three therapists). I first noticed the symptoms when I was in high school but it would take another 8-9 years before I would be properly diagnosed.

Relationship OCD (rOCD) follows the typical pattern of OCD: Intrusive thought -> Anxiety -> compulsion to counteract the anxiety. With rOCD though, the theme of the intrusive thoughts center around one’s relationship.

Most people experience it as Type I, in the form of intrusive thoughts regarding their own feelings toward their partner. But occasionally someone may experience it as Type II, intrusive thoughts about their partner’s feelings toward them.

The first type would have you obsessing about your significant other’s flaws (partner focused) or fearing that you have fallen out of love (relationship focused). For example you might become obsessed with a particular flaw that you view it completely out of proportion to reality, convincing yourself that your partner is not attractive enough, or smart enough etc. Or you may be so hyper-aware of your feelings toward your partner that you become alarmed any time you feel annoyed or angry with them, convincing yourself that because you don’t feel completely 100% in love at all times that you are not with the right person. This can put a heavy strain on a relationship if the other person senses a distance, or starts to feel as if they are constantly under a microscope.

The second type typically involves the need to repeatedly check that your partner still loves you. For example you may be obsessed with the idea that your partner is attracted to someone else or that they are just pretending to be in love with you. The idea that you cannot guarantee your partner’s feelings causes a constant level of uncertainty and fear. This can also put a strain on the relationships as the other person begins to feel that no amount of reassurance will be enough. Or as John Mayer puts it “I adore you, but there’s a hole in the cup that should hold my love”.

With rOCD some of the common compulsions can be:

  • Seeking reassurance (either from friends and family or from your partner directly)
  • Avoiding movies, songs, or other couples who trigger intrusive thoughts
  • Spending a lot of time on the internet researching relationships
  • Mentally reviewing past relationships to compare them
  • Mentally comparing the relationship to those of friends, family, or even characters in a story
  • Checking to see if you still “feel” in love
  • Checking to see if you feel more attracted to someone else
  • Checking to see how often you think of your partner

The thoughts are always intrusive and unwanted, going against what the person truly feels and believes.  The desire to be “sure”, especially in an area of life where most people are taught to believe there is one true soul-mate, takes over.

But just like other forms of OCD, allowing the thoughts to be there without needing to do anything about them is the best treatment for rOCD.

rOCD is heartbreaking because it attacks one of the very things that is supposed to be a source of comfort.. Sometimes you just have to take it one day at a time and say to yourself “OCD will not control this. I make my own decisions and right now at this point in my life I am choosing this relationship and this person and this love”.

10 OCD Sub-Types You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

OCD is a very complicated disorder.  There are many sub-types that even some psychological professionals aren’t aware of.  It breaks my heart to think of the people suffering who aren’t receiving proper treatment simply because there isn’t enough awareness of these sub-types.  Please check out this article (or “listicle” as they are sometimes called…???) that I put together on Buzzfeed:

10 OCD Sub-Types You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Memory Hoarding

I am constantly discovering how different habits or aspect of my personality are related to my OCD.  It is both fascinating and unnerving.

For example, as a little girl I used to keep a journal.  When I would write in it I felt a lot of pressure to make sure I recorded every minute detail (after seeing the film I once wrote out the ENTIRE plot to The Princess Diaries…).  I couldn’t really pin down the source of the anxiety but I knew that I wasn’t writing in such excruciating detail because I wanted to, but more because I felt anxiety if I didn’t.

princess diaries

I recently learned about Memory Hoarding, a sub-type of OCD where the sufferer over-attends to memories.  They view memories almost like objects that need to be gathered or collected.  One might spend time replaying a memory, over and over, in order to ensure that it is able to be recalled accurately, and the thought of not being able to revisit that memory at a later time causes a lot of anxiety.  Or one may focus too much on “appreciating the moment” which in and of itself causes someone to not fully appreciate that moment.

For me it works like this; I will be having a good time or sharing a special day, and feeling particularly happy.  Then I have the intrusive thought that it could all be snatched away from me and this time next year I will be aching for this exact moment, unable to accurately recall it.  The compulsion is to look around and take mental pictures, to pay extra close attention to my emotions and my surroundings, and to truly appreciate and savor everything – or else something terrible will happen. For most people taking time to savor the moment is a good thing, a healthy thing. But for someone with OCD this over attention to detail is fueled by anxiety and can have the opposite effect, pulling them out of the moment completely.

It makes sense why this is one of the ways in which my OCD manifests.  My core fear has always been losing someone I love and as a kid I remember hearing people talk about how someone didn’t appreciate something until they lost it, or how you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone.  My OCD brain then decided that if I could just make sure to appreciate things while I have them then I won’t lose them.

As I got older I grew out of the need to write every trivial detail in my journal but it manifested itself in other ways.  For example, if I know it is the last time I am going to be somewhere (such as an apartment I’m moving out of, or a job I’m leaving) I will take an excessive amount of photos with my iphone.  I feel that I must capture everything, from every angle, so that I can later recall exactly what it felt like to be in that room, or sit in that chair, or walk on that floor.  The idea that I will look back and have forgotten details (which I am aware is an inevitable part of life) gives me a lot of anxiety.

If something, maybe a song or a scent for example, triggers a memory from my past I will have to sit and really delve into that memory recalling as much detail as possible.  I can’t stop thinking about it until I really feel like I am back in that moment and can be sure that the memory is still safely stored in my mind.

Another way I experience memory hoarding is when I am walking away from a good moment or a person that I love.  For example if I am standing and happily watching the sunset and it is time to go back to the car I will continue looking over my shoulder, again and again, trying to get the last “perfect” image to tie to those happy emotions.  Once the image feels right, I can’t look at the sunset again or else I’ll have to start over.  I experience this most intensely when saying goodbye to my family at the airport.  I feel like I have to have a perfect mental image of them or something bad will happen, so I look back over my shoulder dozens of times as my family is waving to me.

sunset

But now that I am aware that this is part of my OCD I can work to combat it.  I can purposely looking away from the sunset when it doesn’t feel “right” and just allow the anxiety to be with me.  I can wait as the anxiety slowly dissipates and remind myself that this fear is just a construct of the faulty wiring in my brain and that, as hard as it is, it doesn’t need to control me.

Half The Battle

Gun control is only half the battle in this type of shooting. Acknowledging the mental health aspect of these tragedies isn’t meant to take the blame away or lessen the horror, it is to prevent it from happening again! If someone shows warning signs of a physical illness we encourage them to go to the doctor but mental health is viewed as a luxury instead of a necessity. In addition to passing gun control laws let’s please also advocate for better, and more easily accessible mental health care. Let’s educate people (especially parents and school professionals) on ALL the warning signs of mental illness and make it more acceptable to talk to someone about seeking treatment.