Wednesday, June 8, 2011

OCD A to Z: O is For Only Obsessions


When you don't appear to have any physical rituals, it seems very logical to assume that you only have obsessions, and no compulsions. This is where the "Pure-O" label originates, in the idea of being purely obsessional. What I have discovered in treatment is that compulsions or rituals that take place in my mind are every bit as real as those that are visible to the rest of the world.

Compulsing is the glue that makes an obsessive thought stick(after the initial hit of relief). It reminds of times I have tried to fix something I perceive as a flaw, and ending up making it worse, because the thought of walking away without trying to get rid of it seems too anxiety provoking. There are some thoughts that if I imagine letting them pass, I get very anxious, because I must make sure they aren't true, or I believe they say something about me as a person.

If I get involved in the battle against them, I lose every time. Going over conversations in my mind, reconstructing what I said, analyzing, ruminating, mental acrobatics. I left a comment on a friend's facebook wall today and suddenly thought "What if this is rude?" and my urge was to try and establish if it was indeed rude, over and over, and in the past I would've gotten stuck on this and lost a chunk of my day, or tried to find a way to see if the other person thought it was rude and on and on.

Other of my rituals actually are physical, but I never thought of them that way. Looking things up on the internet is an actual activity, as is avoiding certain things(for years I didn't watch the news or listen to the radio), or long sessions of writing in my journal analyzing everything.

Once I learned to identify my compulsions, it was easier to figure out what an exposure was, and what "response prevention" means in Exposure and Response Prevention therapy. So today, I accepted that my facebook comment may have been rude, felt some anxiety, and moved on instead of analyzing every angle, and the anxiety moved on as well.


  1. Oh believe me - I've been in that situation before!!! Many, many times. The thing that I am finding hard at the moment is the mental compulsions are sometimes so hard to recognize and then stop. And I have sooo many compulsions!!! Avoidance, reassurance, neutralizing, checking, etc etc!!! Any tips?

  2. I used to ruminate endlessly after visiting friends: did i talk too much? did i say something inappropriate (rude, stupidly funny etc). I didn't know that was ocd, nor that the ruminating was a ritual, i finally came to your conclusion just to keep my sanity i guess. Now visiting friends is much more fun!

    I also did that when writing thank you notes (is it good enuf, long enuf, will they believe that i am really thankful,bla bla etc.) One day i had a thot: i bet noone analyzes thank-you notes quite like i do, don't worry so much about it'. That helped me a lot, again i didn't know it was ocd, i just knew i really analyzed everything a lot. I can't imagine how writing comments on blogs would be, if i still had those thots!!

    good for you! Keep up the good work!- karin

  3. I spend a lot of my time obsessing over conversations and situations where I wish I'd said or done something different, or whether my online comment was received as it was intended. I worry about the wording of comments, emails, what I'm going to say if I have to phone someone.

    It stops me sleeping at night, it stops me concentrating during the day. It's fruitless and pointless, it doesn't make me feel any the less anxious, and yet I still do it.

  4. Caity--I'm sorry you are struggling with this too! I was very sceptical when my therapist said that my going over what I've said is a compulsion, and a way to relieve anxiety, because IT SUCKED SO MUCH! But what convinced me was the fact that walking away from an obsession sucked even more in terms of my anxiety. To set a timer and send a comment, imperfect, unfinished, or to make a call without planning what to say--that seemed infinitely worse than all the worrying and retracing.

  5. I have the devastating need to "confess" my obsessional thoughts on certain ego-dystonic subject matters to my significant other. It's almost as if I'm 'testing' him and 'testing' myself. I know what I'm thinking/saying is irrational and so does he but I can't move on unless I say it out loud to him and he reassures me that this is OCD and not something inherent in my personality. When these themes are of a sexual nature or revolve around other things that I find morally repulsive, it's the most humiliating thing to have to verbalise them in front of him. Generally he just shrugs it off and doesn't feed into it (as I've asked him to do) but other times he gets annoyed and asks that I rather try and deal with it internally, as he doesn't have the energy to listen to me babble on for ages about stuff we both know is a product of the OCD. I know that the confessing is a compulsion and I get immediate relief when I do it, but when I don't, I feel like I'm lying to both him and myself. Argh it's so frustrating and strains my relationship to no end.