OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder destroys the lives of millions of people in our world. Although it may go unnoticed by many people due to society’s odd behavior in whole or part, many OCD sufferers know there is something wrong, they just aren’t sure what it is.
I suffer with a form of OCD and have most of my life. I haven’t been treated for it, but I know it’s there, lurking in the back of my mind like a residual haunting.
When I was young I found myself not able to eat food on a plate if anything touched. The meat couldn’t touch the potatoes, the potatoes couldn’t touch the peas and so on. Even though it looked odd as I picked at my plate meticulously keeping it all away from each other, nobody ever said anything about it. It was considered normal for me.
As time went on, I found myself counting when I would drink. The amount of times I swallowed had to be an even number for fear of choking. Now when I say even, I don’t mean even in normal terms or mathematical terms, I mean even in that 2 is okay as well as 4, 8 and 10. But there were other numbers that were considered “evens” that I used like 5 being half of 10 which to me made sense. Or 25 which was half of 50, but I could never use 6 even though it is taught in elementary school as being an “even” number.
As crazy as it sounds, this is the mind of someone with OCD. It sits in the background waiting for any little thing to set it off and when it does, it won’t go away until the person does something in order to make the feeling go away.
There are many ways that OCD can show up within a person and I’ll go over a few of them, but first you need to understand the difference between the “obsessive” and the “compulsive”.
The obsessive part of OCD is what actually triggers the compulsive part, whereas the obsessive is the fears or doubts that cause the compulsions to occur. Like with me for instance. Due to the fact that I grew up in a sterile type home atmosphere, I have a fear of my children being taken away from me if my home is dirty, so my compulsion is to sterilize my home. The obsession is the fear of losing my family, the compulsion of cleaning makes that obsession go away for the time being. It calms my mind so I can feel normal for a short period of time.
Some people have an obsession with germs, so their compulsion is to wash their hands until they feel all the germs are gone, sometimes until they bleed. This is one of the OCD problems that is very common and can completely take over your life. But there are many others that are less intrusive, but still need attention.
Through the years many of my obsessions have come and gone, depending on how my life is going at the time. In stressful times, some of the old ones come back to play tricks on me, sometimes new ones show up and make my life a living hell. Sometimes my obsessions are set off by what most people would except as a “good event” such as a party or a raise in pay. It’s not always the bad that sets them off. It seems to be a change that does it more than anything. Mine can be set off by financial stress, Christmas, birthdays, arguing with anyone, family or otherwise, gaining weight, income increases, anything that makes me think a change is going to come due to the event. This happens with many OCD sufferers and it can really make your life seem incredibly intolerable.
These are just a few of the odd behaviors and thoughts that have run my life since I was very young. If you find yourself feeling or doing these things, you might have a problem with OCD.
1. I have to count everything, over and over and over again.
2. When tearing toilet paper off, it has to be an even amount of squares and it has to be a perfect rip at the bottom.
3. I have to align things. I can’t stand to see things spread out all over in odd angles. If I put something square on a table, it has to be in line with the very corner of the table. Round tables are not acceptable for this reason.
4. When I wash my hands, I have to rub the soap across my hands 8 times.
5. When a hear a knock at the door, I assume it’s the police and have a panic attack and start picking up the smallest of things laying around. I have always had a fear of police, principles at schools, anyone with authority over me that could change my life in a drastic way.
6. I have a fear of meeting new people that might be bad or ruin my life in some way. The internet allows me to talk with strangers because I don’t have to meet them face to face.
7. Until about 5 years ago, whenever I felt I did something wrong or hurt someone’s feelings in some way, I had to carve a cross on one of my arms. I have stopped myself from this compulsion since then, but I still occasionally feel the need to do it.
8. When I watch TV, the volume has to be set to an even number or I can’t watch it at all.
9. When I am on the computer, I have a system of places I visit and things I do in a certain order. Everything is saved to favorites because otherwise I feel lost and out of control.
10. When I am in public, I cannot face anyone I don’t know because of the germ factor. I feel as if they may sneeze or breathe some sort of germs on me and I’ll get sick.
11. If something is in the refrigerator for 2 days, I cannot consume it. It can only be in there 1 day.
12. As much as it is a trend online to type words without caps where they should ordinarily apply, I cannot do it. OCD kicks in and makes me fix it even if nobody cares.
13. When my hair is long, I constantly make sure none of it is between my neck and shirt. It’s almost like a twitch that I cannot control. The feel of the hair stuck inside my shirt makes my skin crawl.
14. When I buy things, I have to buy even amounts of each item, or a total even amount of all of it. Like I cannot buy 3 things period. I could buy 2 or 4, but not 3 or 7.
15. When I listen to music, I assign colors to different tones. When I listen to it, I can see colors changing in my mind as the music changes, almost like you see on the Windows Media Player Visualizations.
16. Whenever I sit down anywhere, anything I might have with me like a drink or cigarettes has to be to my left, even though I am right handed.
17. Before my dog died at age 15, I could not give her uneven numbers of treats like biscuits, which in time was passed on to her so that if anyone in the family gave her an uneven number, she would actually sit and wait until they were even before she would take them.
18. When I go out in public and have to enter a building with several automatic doors, I cannot pass through the right side.
19. If the phone rings, first I panic thinking it’s something bad, then if I have to answer it I wait for an even amount of rings.
20. I am very light sensitive. If our curtains are closed and even so much as a smidge of light gets in, I have to hot glue the curtain to the wall so that the light cannot seep through that area.
Now although I have OCD, I also have a Cavernous Angioma of the Temporal Lobe which can add to the OCD making it much worse than it might have been without the CA. So take this in mind when you read my list. Not everyone with OCD will have the same symptoms and problems. Cavernous Angiomas of the Temporal Lobe can cause a person to hear voices and sounds that aren’t there and they can cause you to have visual disturbances making you think you see something that isn’t really there. and smell something burning when nothing is. CA’s can also cause inappropriate behavior vocally, so this really doesn’t help the OCD at all.
Most of mine seem to be number, germ and alignment issues with a few oddballs mixed in. I am very aware of them and I live each day hoping that at least one will fade away so that I feel more at ease, but in most cases it is only replaced by another.
I would love to see more study done on OCD and ways of dealing with it other than medicating people. I understand that medications can help ease the intrusive thoughts and feelings, but I also feel that medication only masks the true problem behind the OCD.
Even though I have not been seen by any counselors regarding my OCD tendencies, I am pretty sure that I know where most of them come from and have been trying through the years to eradicate the root of them. Many things went on in my life that could have triggered them, some not so grand, others were horribly traumatic, but everyone in this world has their fair share of these events in their lives. Not all will end up with OCD due to these events, which leads me to the question of why some people are more susceptible to it than others? Is it something chemically unstable in some people and not others? Or is it more about the way they were raised? Could it be a combination of the afore mentioned? I have no clue, but I do know this for sure. OCD will run your life like a monkey inside your brain with a cattle prod. It takes a normal person and makes them appear insane, irrational, quirky or whatever you might call it. It can be very embarrassing in public and it can make you the brunt of many jokes. In short, OCD hurts and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.