Friday, September 3, 2010

Delaying Compulsive Internet Searching: Hard and Yet Rewarding

Turn off the computer first and think!

Thursday I didn't get on the computer until 10:30 am. It was one of my goals from my OCD support group to pick a day this week to delay sitting down in front of the computer. It was definitely an Exposure. When I start websearching, I am in a kind of groggy trance. Searching the internet distracts me from anxiety and fear and is a compulsion. Spending 3 hours on my own time was a challenge.

In the past, I've regarded any improvement in my OCD or a "good day" as a fluke, and have a desperate sense of wanting it to last, and fearing that it won't. It's as if I see OCD as the weather, a climate that can change capriciously. But if I turn on the computer, I am stepping into the storm. It feels like I'm in a calm place at first, but it's actually the eye of the hurricane, and deceptive in its stillness. I go into a zone of deeply ingrained habit and muscle memory, into stiffness in my back, shoulders, neck and hands, and by the time I get off the computer, I am sapped of energy and my anxiety level rebounds back up, as I see how much time I lost. Then it starts all over, getting back on the computer to numb myself again.

So Thursday it was me alone in the house, wanting to flee this Exposure, wanting to turn on the computer, and at the same time marveling at how much I can get done when I don't turn the computer on. The OCD wants to seize hold of this and berate me for not doing the Exposure sooner, or more often. It's amazing how contradictory my OCD is--advocating for both complete compulsive immersion online, and for perfectly doing my Exposures. If the OCD wasn't intertwined with the whole apparatus of my anxiety, I'd call it out right away, but it has a secret weapon, my nervous system, my feelings of dread, nausea, and panic, but I'm learning to question the OCD's credibility.


  1. So what did you get done in your newfound free time? Congrats, by the way. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing. I'm really addicted to my computer and doing searches etc. I log into Facebook every hour when I'm home, and I drive myself nuts!! Yet, it seems to relieve anxiety or creates numbness as you call it. Is this a typical ocd pattern? I'm still putting the pieces together here. I've been wondering how I should approach this issue. It wastes soo much of my time, but it feels good to read about things. I'm not yet totally getting how exposing oneself to it is helpful though. Can you explain more?

  3. Hey Shana--thanks for the congrats! I made art--that is my passion, and I spent time in my studio.

    hotwater--Very good questions! It helps to think of what you fear would happen if you didn't check Facebook every hour or do searches. If it was easy to stop, you probably would have already. To construct an exposure is to do whatever the OCD doesn't want you to do--until you adapt to the anxiety and it starts to dissipate. It will ease up if you practice. Jonathan Grayson's book on Freedom from OCD has lots of good practical info on contstructing exposures.

  4. I, too, am amazed how much I can get done when I deliberately choose not to get on the computer and to devote my time to other things!

    I like your description of how you often feel when there is improvement in your OCD - like it is a fluke and desperately wanting it to last and wondering if it will. When I was younger and I awoke some days feeling free from the OCD fear and depression, it was always nice but at the same time slightly terrifying. I was left feeling like I had to constantly play defense against any potential OCD attack and a sense of dread that it might come back. Now I know that, like you said, those deceptive times of peace are really just the "eye of the hurricane." As long as I was still worrying about the feeling coming back, I was playing into OCD's relentless hands. Now I know what was bothering me was OCD and that the best way to fight it is not to fight - at least not compulsively.

    Finally, I always love your description of the fickle nature of OCD. One minute it is berating you for not doing compulsions perfectly and the next moment, it is scolding you for not doing your exposures sooner or better. I can certainly relate to this aspect of OCD.

    Congrats on doing your exposure and getting a lot done in the meantime! Sounds like, as much as OCD wants you to doubt whether you did the exposure "right," you did exactly what you said you would despite the fact that OCD was trying to pull you to extremes, one way or another.

  5. This is such a great blog. I understand exactly what you mean. I lost the whole of Sunday to Google and i got no closer to a resolution, just more scared