Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Breaking the O.C.D. Misconceptions

When most people think of O.C.D. (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), they usually just think: "clean freak." Truth is, a lot of people suffering from this disorder, don't care about how clean things are. O.C.D. is just a disorder where people take normal compulsions (things that everyone have), and obsess over them. An example would be checking all the doors before one leaves the house. Most people check the door once, see that it is locked, and leave without another thought. Someone with O.C.D. would check the doors at least three times before leaving the house. After that, he/she may leave the house and even get in the car, and then have to go back to check the door again. Then when he/she is at work a few hours later, once again he/she may go home just to make sure the doors are locked.
My compulsions are different. Many people with O.C.D. have little habits that they always do, and it can usually be done out of the anxiety from the disorder itself. When one of their "rituals" goes wrong, they may turn to these habits to help relieve their anxiety about the bad things that will happen to them because they didn't perform the "ritual" properly. Some people pick at their skin or pull out their hair; I've heard of both of those. I, myself, am a skin picker. I pick mainly at my cuticles, usually until they bleed. I also pick at any imperfections on my skin. This causes severe pain and discomfort, but no matter how hard I try, I can't quit this habit. This habit of mine is especially bad for me because I am a guitar player, and my fingers are the only source of the good sounds a guitar makes. If I have fingers lacking the skin, my sound won't be very good. And yes, I have peeled off the full skin on my fingers before. I do not recommend it.
Something else that I have trouble with, which actually does go along with the stereotype of a person with O.C.D., is showering and brushing my teeth. My showers are usually about an hour long. The only difference with my shower and someone with cleanliness compulsions, is that my showers aren't long because I feel dirty; they are long because I am slow and very particular in the way I wash myself and the order in which it happens. I absolutely despise showers and cannot take them very often because of the anxiety that they cause. Knowing how long they take, and how annoying that is, I try to avoid them as long as I can and at all costs. I also hate brushing my teeth, but no one needs to worry, I do that every day. A type of "ritual" that most people with the disorder do is counting. We count things, whether it be the tiles on the floor, the number of times we chew our food, or in my case, how many times I rub my toothbrush on certain teeth. If I didn't count, I'd be stuck brushing my teeth forever. I would never know when to stop. Sometimes, when I'm walking, I have to walk one time per tile on the floor, walk on the cracks of the tiles, or walk once per each locker, section, or piece of paper on the wall. 
I have trouble doing things until I am "ready." "Ready," as in my mindset is 100% set on it. Well, there are some things that I will never be in the right mindset for, but I need to do them. So, when I do them, it feels very strange. It is a bad feeling because it causes me even more anxiety than I started out with. Sometimes, I need to just sit and stare at whatever I need to get done until I am "ready" to do it. You can't even imagine how much time this takes away from me. This type of compulsion would be similar to counting, because it involves time; I need to wait enough time until my mind says that I can do my work.
Something that anyone who has ever worked with me would know, that I need perfect answers to questions, and I need my letters to be perfect; when they aren't, they irk me. I usually tend to work very slow because I will dwell and dwell on a question until I find an answer that in my mind, is good enough. I am obsessing over getting the right answer. I will erase my words over and over again, as many times as I need to, until I think that it is perfect with no extra lines or dots. I prefer pen over pencil, and that causes me so many problems, you wouldn't even believe. Just like with the letters, Scan trons are my worst nightmare because, you guessed it, those bubbles need to be filled out so perfectly, I sit at my desk erasing and refilling and erasing and refilling for more time than I'm actually thinking about the question. Standardized tests absolutely kill me because they are timed! I am in deep trouble when I have 5 minutes left and 50 more questions to go. So much of my time is wasted on redoing things are perfectly fine. My disorder takes more than an hour out of every single day of mine, therefore, I know that it is not just simple quarks or normal compulsions.
An abnormal compulsion I have is that if there is a mess, it is extremely difficult for me to clean it because I am used to the mess and I know how to live with the mess. If I cleaned it, it would be very difficult and hard for me to do, because I'd keep placing things into a new mess. My brain has already gotten used to a mess; the mess is now my organization. This is a compulsion because I am obsessing over my organization because I cannot change my method. Even when my mom asks me too, I can't. I get very anxious when someone just asks me to change them. This compulsion is showing that my way is the only way that can work for me and these "rituals" are very hard to break, as any person with this disorder can understand. I believe the only way to get better from this disorder is to see a professional who specializes in breaking down cases of O.C.D.(a cognitive behavioral therapist).
Most people think that someone with O.C.D. just likes to be clean; thinks he/she is just cleaning all the time, and that is it his/her choice. The truth is that people with this disorder are suffering. And telling them to "just stop" their compulsions, at least in my case, will make them more severe. The more anxious I get, the more I become controlled by this mental disorder. This is a completely vicious circle because to calm down my anxiety, I have to perform my "rituals" and do whatever my O.C.D. tells me to do. It's something I break down crying over for hours on end. It is a disorder that is always ignored and given too little attention. People don't understand the severity of this disorder and how it completely takes over one's life. They may find people with this disorder to be completely annoying, but the victim of the disorder, no matter how hard they want to fit in with the rest of society and be able to function properly, they cannot stop to please other people. If they could do that, there would be no O.C.D. sufferers. Because I can promise you right now, no one with O.C.D. likes having O.C.D. We are suffering. There can be cases of O.C.D. so mild, one couldn't even tell a person has it, and some can be so severe, that they cannot even leave their house anymore. Other types of habits that people have, such as hoarding, eating disorders, or list making (if it is controlling your life) are also obsessive compulsions, which may surprise some people because those things have always been seen as something separate. It is very interesting to learn about how O.C.D. occurs and what it is like for the person having it because this disorder is misconceived on many occasions. If you would like to learn more about this disorder, here is a good website I found.



  1. This post has given me so much insight about your compulsions. This whole year, I never had the slightest idea that you had OCD. I don't know if it was just my ignorance or that you don't show that you have OCD. Also, I knew that OCD wasn’t only being completely clean, but there were other compulsions, too. Though after reading this, I discovered that there were many other compulsions that I had never even thought of. I never knew that picking scabs was related to OCD. Thinking about having this condition, I couldn't imagine how difficult it is to deal with it every single day. Is there any way you can just stop this compulsions though? Like for instance, if you don't fill in the bubbles perfectly on a Scantron, then what happens? Or as you were talking about in the post about seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist, is that the only way to get rid of OCD? This was really interesting to read and thank you for sharing your story.

  2. I'm really sorry to hear that you have to go through this. I never knew how much O.C.D. could affect a person. It was interesting to learn about the different habits that people with O.C.D. can have and the severity of this problem. I can relate to being a perfectionist, but luckily for me, it does not seriously alter my everyday life. I wish you the best. Good luck!

  3. Picking scabs isn't necessarily OCD, but some people obsess over it. They can't stop picking scabs, and if they don't pick scabs, they feel as though something is wrong. When I don't complete rituals as I need them to be done, my whole day becomes out of balance. So if someone with a "scab picking" obsessive compulsion doesn't pick their scabs, they won't function properly for the rest of that day. And about the OBSESSING part, they might even MAKE scabs for them to pick-- that kind of stuff is how scab picking can be an over obsessive compulsion. I believe that medication PLUS a CBT is the only way to cure this disease. It's a disease that exposures cure by EXPOSING the patient to the things that they avoid because of their compulsions. But that's the problem. One CAN'T just stop them... it takes a lot of time, a lot of help, a lot of support, and lot of exposures. For example, when I don't fill in a Scantron perfectly, I will get an anxiety attack and I'll become scared that answers will be marked wrong, and therefore, I won't get a good grade. And I obsess over my grades, so that can cause sever anxiety. Thanks you guys for your concern. It's just the support, help, and understanding that will get me over this obnoxious disorder!