Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The OCD In Me

It is there. It is always there. For the most part, it remains dormant and undetected. Only recently have I felt the familiar tug.

It was during college that I realized that I was mildly OCD. OCD is a type of anxiety disorder in which a person has unreasonable fears that lead to repetitive behaviors. I read that over three million Americans between the ages of 18 and 54 have had OCD at one time. Most people who have OCD know they have it, are ashamed by it and want it to go away. It can be severe and so time-consuming that it becomes disabling. Thankfully, that was not the case with me. My OCD was managed and not obvious.

My earliest memory of OCD is with my father. I was seven or eight years old. I recall sitting in the back seat of our green station wagon watching my father lock up his place of employment. He would lock the door and then take a few steps away. He would always go back and check the door to make sure it was locked. He would tug once...pause...two...three...four...pause...five. It was only after the final tug that he would walk to the car.

Is it genetic or a learned behavior?

I am sure many people hear the term OCD and think hand washing or excessive orderliness. OCD manifests itself in many ways. The focus of my OCD is electrical appliances that have the potential to cause fire. Years ago, I decided to combat the OCD using Behavioral Therapy. As a psychology major in college, the topic of our senior seminar was Behavioral Therapy. I used a few techniques I learned in class to reduce my anxiety. It worked. A few years later, after my daughter was born, I no longer had the time or energy to worry. As far as I was concerned, my OCD was defeated.

Until last week.

For the first time in years I found myself checking an electrical appliance. I am referring to something more that a quick double check. I was in my car and started to drive out of the parking lot. I had to stop and go back in the house. I needed to be sure. The appliance was off. I sat back in my car and realized what I had just done. I do not want to go down that path again. I hope that writing about OCD will help combat it.

This is a hard post to write and share. I have placed my anxiety on the Internet for anyone to read.


SueC said...

Michele, this post really struck a chord with me. I think you are being a bit hard on yourself labelling this perfectly rational behaviour as OCD. I routinely switch off all electrical appliances before I go to bed or go out(except those that need to stay on like the fridge/freezer). I switch off the kettle, toaster, all tvs, dvd player, all lamps etc. I switch them off at the socket and not just on the appliance. I then ensure that I locate all remote controls and put them on the coffee table. I do not consider this to be irrational or obsessive behaviour. Electrical appliances can and do cause house fires. It is sensible to make these checks, we are protecting our homes and our families. I do not consider myself to have OCD and I don't think I need therapy. I don't think you should label yourself with OCD either or beat yourself up over this. Our shared concern over the safety of electrical appliances is just part of the normal range of human behaviour - we don't need to stick labels on ourselves to try and explain it.

This doesn't mean I don't think OCD exists. It clearly does. I just think the behaviours shown have to be a lot more irrational than ours.

rabbitfoot said...


After I read your OCD post one phrase came to mind.


Each one of us is different in our own ways and has been given different gifts from God. Who are we to judge what is normal. Maybe what you call OCD is really part of God's plan. It may be what got you where you are in your Martial Arts career.

I sometimes 'over' analyze a situation to the point where I cannot make a decision. I have learned as I get older, to try to not sweat the small stuff and to go with my intuition since it usually turns out to be the best, most natural path in the end.

Let God, Let Go!

Michele said...

SueC: I appreciate your comments. You may be is not necessary to label myself. My feelings of OCD coincided with a very stressful week. It was not the checking that I was concerned about but rather that I felt compelled to check again.

Rabbitfoot: Good advice. I wish I could "not sweat the small stuff". Thanks for the comments.

Blogger with Ocd said...

I have posted mine on the interenet, too.

I'm wondering: How do you like the wellsphere community? I found you there. My blog is devoted strictly to my OCD, and I was recently invited to join the network. I'm debating.

I'd love it if you let me know what you think of it! Feel free to leave a comment on my blog if you'd like.