I want to tell you how obsessive-compulsive disorder has manifested in my life.
I go through periods when certain symptoms rear their ugly heads and I have to deal with them again. Then they change. But vestiges of all of them remain even as I grow older.
You may see yourself in this list. It still blows my mind that other people have had the same obsessions and compulsions that I have had. I used to think I was uniquely weird and wrong.
You will also see that the underlying anxiety in a lot of these symptoms is a need to get things right. Not perfect, but right. And only a feeling of rightness will alleviate the anxiety and the compulsive actions.
Here are some of the symptoms I have experienced at some point in my life since I was a little girl. There are more, but this is an overview to give you a picture of what my OCD looks like.
- Obsessed with sins I committed and the need for forgiveness from God. Along with that, obsessed about being “saved” in the fundamentalist Christian way. Compulsively prayed over and over to be forgiven and saved, then doubted that I got the prayer right.
- Obsessed with germs that might be on me and with the chance that I could spread them to others and hurt them. Compulsively washed my hands until they were red and raw, not wanting to touch doorknobs, not wanting my lips to touch a fork or spoon that someone else had washed.
- Obsessed with counting. Compulsively counted the letters on signs, the steps on staircases, other objects, trying to make the count come out in threes.
- Obsessed with the cleanliness of bathrooms. Compulsively cleaned, taking hours sometimes to clean a small bathroom. I didn’t want anyone else to use my bathroom.
- Obsessed that I hadn’t read, with attention, the whole page in a book. Compulsively read and reread the page before I could turn to another page.
- Obsessed that I had hit someone with my car. Compulsively drove back and forth on the street, looking for a possible body.
- Obsessed that the stove was still on after cooking something. Compulsively turned the knobs on and off and stared at them, for hours, until I felt right about them being off.
- Obsessed with objects I saw lying on the ground that might harm someone else walking by. Compulsively picked up bent wires, sticks, paper clips, rocks, etc. as I walked along.
- Obsessed with responsibilities I had and the fear that I could cause harm if I didn’t do things right. Compulsively steered clear of responsibilities to others.
- Obsessed that I left the lights on in the closet or bathroom, that they might get too hot and cause a fire. Compulsively checked, staring at light bulbs and lampshades until I knew they were dark, not lit.
Does any of this sound familiar?