When I was in graduate school, when my OCD was at is worst, I drove certain streets in my college town a lot.
If I hit a bump in the road, or if I even thought I might have hit a bump, I turned the car around and drove back to look for bodies. Or I stopped in the road to look behind me and try to see if I had hit anyone.
I drove up and down some streets enough that I started to get worried that someone was going to call the police and report someone casing the neighborhood.
My long trips on visits home could turn into nightmares. I remember on one trip, while traveling around Columbus, Ohio, I frantically tried to find a local radio station, listening for any reports of an accident on the freeway that I may have caused.
In reality, I knew I hadn’t caused an accident, but I felt like I may have.
Over the years, the obsession lessened, but I still go through time periods when I obsess over whether or not I’ve hit something or someone with my car.
On my checking hierarchy, hit-and run-OCD is a 70. It causes me some distress, but not as much as numerous other things on my hierarchy.
Here are some recent driving experiences I’ve had:
· I actually turned around my car to drive back over an area to make sure I hadn’t hit anyone or anything—even though I knew that I had hit rough spot in the road.
· On a positive note, I drove for about 192 miles round trip recently to attend a church meeting out of town. I didn’t turn around and drive back at all, and I looked in my rear view mirror only occasionally to check the cars behind me.
· I offered to drive a co-worker to a work related workshop in a nearby town.
· I drove along a street crowded with trick-or-treaters rather than drive the long way around to avoid them.
The difference between the “bad” driving experience and the successful ones? My willingness to put up with the anxiety until it subsided.
Something that has helped me tremendously is something that Dr. Jonathan Grayson said in his book Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty.
In laying out the rules for doing ERPs for hit-and-run OCD, he says the rules for not driving back and not looking stopping the car to check “may only be violated if you have no doubt that you hit someone—if you have the slightest doubt, continue driving” (p. 162).
This helped me tremendously. I have started applying it to other checking compulsions. I tell myself that if I’m not 100 percent sure that there’s a problem, if there’s any doubt of there being a problem, then I’m not checking.
Sometimes I’m more successful than others, but that mindset is helping me be successful more often. I feel the anxiety of not checking, but I have discovered that it dissipates fairly rapidly once a few minutes have passed and I become focused on something else.