The picture above is a nice easy way to show what O.C.D. does, but if you don’t suffer with it, you won’t really understand. I am a sufferer and it is at times of insecurity and when I am tired that it slinks from it’s cave. As an intelligent person it can be triggered by the smallest thing that I consider abnormal in day to day life. I offer this example.
I was just going through my new phone’s capabilities and had the earphones plugged in. Then the onscreen headset indicator, showing that it was plugged in, disappeared. Straight away I thought something was wrong. Now you dear reader would probably think that it was a software glitch and shrug it off. My somewhat twisted mind thought it was a sign that the phone was possibly broken. I unplugged the headset and plugged it in again. The indicator appeared and stayed there so I listened to a song or two and unplugged it. Then I thought maybe I had damaged the socket removing it and plugged it in again. This happened 15 to twenty times. A classic example of the cycle in the picture. Anxiety about my phone, compulsive action removing and replacing the headphones, very temporary relief from anxiety and renewing the anxiety by wondering if I had damaged it by my actions.
My conscious mind knows there is unlikely to be a problem with a brand new phone, and the irony is that you are likely to cause more damage with this obsessive action of constant plugging in/Unplugging.
But we are not finished yet, once I eventually convinced myself that it was OK I began wondering about the earphone socket on my tablet, I hadn’t used it for ages. sure enough I went through the same ritual with my tablet. Another 15 or 20 plug/unplug cycles later and I managed to stop myself. Great, except that I tried both again first thing this morning and nearly slipped into the cycle again. Luckily, being more awake, I managed to stop it more quickly.after maybe one or two attempts.
I won’t even tell you about how much of this behaviour I went through setting the phone up. Every time I had a moment of anxiety about it’s operation would lead to constantly using that particular function again and again till I was sure all was well.
At one time I had the keys to my workplace and was entrusted to lock up. At the time I was in a fairly bad place with my 1st marriage and my job. It wasn’t unusual for me to stand there locking and unlocking the door on the premise that the last cycle would finally convince me that I had locked the door properly. Then I started again, worrying that I had somehow not done it properly last time. Once the lock was dealt with there was the shutter. Once it was down I would lift it to check that the door was really secure and shut it again. I once stood there for an hour doing these robotic and unnecessary tasks. it took a major intercession from my conscious mind to stop it. Basically I had to tell myself I was being stupid again and again and eventually the mind won.
I cannot tell you how tiring and soul destroying it is to try and convince yourself that your actions are futile while your unconscious is hinting about the disasters that will befall if you don’t get it right.
I don’t suffer permanently from this but when it happens I am drained and irritable afterwards. Many see OCD as a comical disorder but, to sufferers there is nothing funny about it. Next time you watch a documentary and feel like laughing about the antics of the sufferer, bear in mind they are stuck in an infinite loop and getting out of it is so hard. Some live like this every day.