Monday, September 13, 2010

Speaking To Myself Through OCD

I have found that sometimes my OCD is actually trying to get my attention. It is an unhealthy response to me ignoring my better self. It is complicated to sort out and I can only do it when my OCD is at a low level. Otherwise there is too much OCD noise and not all of it has meaning behind it. Here are 2 examples.

I adopted a cat that was put out on the street by her owner. It happened gradually. First just feeding her outside, then letting her sleep in the house when it was cold. Eventually I got a litter box. I knew who her owner was, but I had never talked with him. I was afraid to go over to his home and discuss adopting the cat. I guess I felt guilty for how far things had gone, and I was also afraid he'd say no. Then I started to obsess that the cat had rabies. I really thought I had contracted rabies. It was my OCD telling me to "take care of business". Talk to the owner, then take the cat to the vet. As soon as I spoke to the owner, who was happy to see her go to a good home, my obsession went away.

Another example is this nose piercing. I am supposed to use cotton balls to soak it in salt water 10 minutes everyday. That is not happening. I even skipped a few days. Then I developed an obsession that I had a life threatening facial infection. It is NOT infected at all. I committed to myself to do the salt water for a few minutes everyday, no matter what. As soon as I did that, the obsession went away.

It is tricky, because I don't want to give the OCD a foothold by giving credence to the obsessions. But, what I find is that while the obsession itself is irrational, there may be something real fueling it. Sometimes my better brain is trying to get my attention. While I need to extinguish the obsession through ERP, I need to try to understand why it popped up in the first place.


  1. I totally get this! That happens to me too. Way to put it in writing better than I ever could. :)

  2. An interesting post and idea, indeed! I was just having a similar discussion with my therapist recently. He was telling me about someone he had met with OCD who had developed obsessions and compulsions that she feared would prevent her from being able to go back to school. As she began to recover through treatment, she realized that she actually DIDN'T want to go to back to school after all. Perhaps "her better half" was trying to indicate that it was time to re-evaluate.

    I had a similar experience with my own job and career path, and am now looking at new directions to take. In a way it makes sense - when there are underlying concerns, we become stressed because something just doesn't seem right. That stress leads us to tackle our anxiety in compulsive ways that may or may not be related our original problem. Perhaps this is not always true, but stress certainly does seem to contribute to OCD symptoms so any sort of stressful life events could understandably cause a spike in OCD.

  3. One of the things that sets me obsessing is any kind of strong feeling or preference--the OCD will jump into the fray and I think it's because when I was little, having feelings was a scary thing, and OCD got entwined with how I coped--because OCD can be major distraction and when you are little and powerless, and in pain, sometimes you need a distraction to survive.