Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tricking OCD

Probably all of us with OCD have some tricks that we pull out and perform to deal with the obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions.
I thought I would share one of mine.
I’ve been doing this one for many years. When I can remember to use it in the midst of an OCD episode, and when I fully engage in it, it helps me a great deal.
First, let me tell you about a woman I work with.
Her position in the office requires her to answer the phone a lot. She has been with the paper for years, so I guess she has heard everything.
When she answers a call and she’s really busy, especially if it’s a layout day, she sometimes will tell the caller something along the lines of, everyone is busy today. Can you call back tomorrow?
When she hangs up, she’ll say, I don’t have time for this today.
All of us in the office know this isn’t the best customer service, but apparently she does it in such a way that most callers go along with her.
Her method of turning away a caller with a non-urgent request is similar to how I respond to certain OCD intrusions.
It helps when I’m facing uncertainty like the following:
  • Did I turn off the light in the closet?
  • Is the water faucet properly turned off?
  • Did I pick up every piece of lint I could find on the floor?
  • Did I wipe every bit of stickiness from the kitchen counter?
  • Did I rinse all the soap off the dish I just washed so the next person who eats from it won’t get diarrhea from the soap residue?
  • Variations on the above.
When I know in my non-OCD thoughts that I have done everything I can to make sure I’ve done what I needed to do, I tell myself, OK, I can see the light is off/I’ve rinsed the dish repeatedly/etc. I’ve done my best. I can’t know anything for certain.
Then I force myself to walk out of the room, or out of the house, whatever, to go on with my day.
It’s hard. I feel such anxiety that I believe I won’t be able to forget it, that I won’t be able to focus on anything else.
But I keep moving physically away from the scene of the OCD episode.
Many times I realize later that I’ve gotten busy with other thoughts and actions and moved past the obsession.
It probably helps that I’ve been hearing from OCD for most of my life and can recognize it pretty easily.
Please understand. I do this when I know I have done my absolute best to make sure things are safe. I realize that it is the OCD driving my uncertainty, and I basically tell the OCD, not now. I’ll deal with you later.
Or maybe, I don’t have time for you today, OCD. Can you call back tomorrow?


  1. That's a great suggestion. I've tried that with rumination and I'm trying it again this week. But WOW - does it make me anxious to tell myself "I'm not going to think about this now or try and figure out the answer".

  2. I know, it's scary, isn't it? And I can't say I'm always successful. Good luck to you!

  3. Totally borrowing this, as best I can. Sometimes I wish I could walk away from my brain.


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