Saturday, June 4, 2011

OCD A to Z: N is Need to Know

Searching for answers.

"Need to Know" OCD has been a giant time-suck in my life. My mind generates a lot of questions, and for many years I assumed I must therefore find the answer to these questions, even if it's totally irrelevant to what's important in my life. The compulsion is the search for the answer, because of the threat of feeling gnawing anxiety at not having found the answer, and fear that it will take up all available space in my head and that I'm missing something important.

Some people might blame this on the internet and smartphones, but all I needed was my mind. I'd forget someone's name, and wrack my brain trying to remember it, or dig through all my journals to find it. I'd go to the library and look at reference books. It didn't help that for 15 years I actually was a librarian, and I was trained to find things out! I was good at my job because of my honed skills of tracking information down, but got bogged down with finding too much information at times, because of not wanting to miss anything.

Yes, many folks have difficulty with getting sidetracked on the internet looking up random stuff, even without OCD, but OCD makes it feel dire if you don't hunt for an answer or find a missing link or recover a fragment of memory. I am learning to accept that my mind will be generating questions. That's what it does. Part of what makes me a writer is that I have a lot of questions and observations about the world. But if I follow every question down the path of finding an answer there isn't time for much else. It's hard to let some things go. I had the illusion that I really could find the answer to any question I had, but some can't be answered. But it is an illusion, and if I can remember that, and practicing letting some things go unaswered, it gets easier to let them pass.

10 comments:

  1. Interesting what you said about the internet. I thought when I first read this that yes, the internet is the problem. But then I had a flashback to spending (an extended) lunch break in the library about 12 years ago, looking in reference books for some information I just HAD to have. And then there were all the journals in the med school library. So, yeah...

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  2. The internet is just another means of compulsory behavior for a lot of people with "pure-O" form of OCD
    It's that tenacious "need-to-know", that forever reverberation in our heads, that drives us on in an attempt to satisfy the anxiety we feel because we don't know, or are uncertain. I do believe, however, that information can be our salvation, if we rephrase some of the questions and uncertainties in our minds.

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  3. I could almost cry, while reading this. I feel understood. Like someone else out there understands me. This is definitely my main problem. I need to know EVERYTHING. I ask questions, check for reassurance and most importantly spend hours and hours researching my obsessions. I have spent 8+ hours some days researching. It's debilitating and I wish I could stop "Needing to know".

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  4. Ann--Yes! Lunch hour trips to the library--I remember them well. Then I started working in a library--eek!

    MDK--"that forever reverberation in our heads"--what an accurate phrase! I too believe there is good information, like when I found out about Exposure Therapy. The key for me is to take the risk to act on that good info rather than continuing to search.

    charming--I'm so sorry you are dealing with this energy draining disorder. The first time I really knew I had OCD was reading an article by Renae Reinardy about Information Hoarding--finally someone expressed what sucked up so much of my time. I encourage you to find an Exposure therapist through the IOCDF website or to read Jon Grayson's Freedom from OCD--it is possible to get better from this!

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  5. It's so much easier knowing there are people struggling with the same burden. Joey.

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  6. I have the same exact problem with internet. Even tho I am now pretty sure I have OCD, I am still currently getting treatement/diagnosis. Sometimes I feel that it might not be OCD but ADHD. But the thing to note is ADHD and OCD are completely opposite spectrum of brain chemistry. OCD treatment/meds are working for you?

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  7. Joey--yes, knowing that I am not alone makes a tremendous difference!

    Anon--yes, OCD treatment and meds are working for me. I can see how symptoms of ADHD could resemble some of OCD--hopefully your clinician is working out what your diagnosis is.

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  8. Very well-written and spot-on, at least in my experience. "Need to Know" is always at the top of my symptom checklist when my psychiatrist does my OCD assessments. It's one of the reasons I don't have a smartphone and will hold off as long as possible before getting one

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  9. I have this same problem. I forgot the name of 1 song one day and tried to searched it for 3 days. After I found it, after that, I obsess with everything. Images, Sounds, Songs, Memories, even dreams! What meds are you taking? How you doing today? This is a living hell! :/

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  10. I somehow missed your comment. Exposure and response prevention therapy made a huge difference in my life. It is possible to get better. Check out the International OCD Foundation. They have a list of therapists, support groups, and articles.

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