Sunday, June 26, 2011

OCD A to Z: Q is for Questions

Question Marks

Questions are a defining aspect of OCD for me. Something about an unanswered question creates more anxiety than many statements of scary facts. "What if that bump on my ear is skin cancer?" kept me suffering more than when the doctor told me it was skin cancer, especially since I obsessed about the bump for 5 years. But then OCD in its opportunistic way turned its attention on "How could I have obsessed about this for 5 years? Why didn't I go to the doctor? What if this means I am a negligent irresponsible person?"

As a girl it was, "What if I am drafted into the army?" or "What if I can't fall asleep because I feel like I need to go to the bathroom?" In highschool I had "What if those earrings I bought my mom for her birthday look like sperm and she hates me for that?(that particular obsession seriously sucked)" and "What is that red dot on my lip?" "In college it was, "What if I am meant to be with a woman rather than a man?" or "What if it too dangerous to be with a man, and I should break up with my boyfriend?"

As an adult it was "What if my beliefs are wrong? What if it really is a sin to be gay or have sex before marriage?" About this time, the internet was freely accessible, and I searched for answers to these questions, like turbo charged trips to the library reference section, searching without boundaries. I rarely asked my questions of other people. I focused on finding the answer myself, but whatever answer I found was not sufficient to stop the questions. Many questions in life have no answer, or inadequate answers, or painful answers. OCD gave me the illusion that I could find a good answer to every question I had if I just looked diligently enough. At one point I decided it would be easier to say God didn't exist than to keep trying to find answers to my theological questions, and my therapist said that she believed God would understand how much pain I was in that I would be pushed to this point.

What kind of effect do questions have on you?


  1. Karin said:

    Wow! Now i understand why you wrote that the computer is not an OCD 'safe zone' for you.

    My ocd thots were mostly 'what if's, that are personal: what if i talked too much tonight at the get-together, what if i gossiped, what if i didn't say it right. So these questions can't be answeredd by computer!

    But with this handwashing/ contamination ocd i did look up a question - about mouse contamination- that confirmed my worst fears and then gave me some more things to avoid and be afraid of. I had to realize (Probably by talking to my counsellor )that not everything on the internet is gospel truth and people can lie on purpose to 'be funny' etc. And so maybe what they are saying isn't true, just a bad joke. It took a long time for the information in my head to quiet down and let me touch/ buy canned food again. Even now, i look hard not to get too dusty ones. Maybe i should be looking for the DUSTIEST one, to get over this.

    So i learned not to ask all my qu. on the internet, unless the answer would come from a reputable website (medical info ) as opposed to someone's personal opinion.

    And yes, the answers i often gave myself were way worse than when i asked a trusted person for their opinion. (for example in the church i used to attend it was a really bad sin to drink alcohol. I used to worry if food i had at a restaurant had some alcohol in it and if i should confess. I finally had the nerve to ask my minister what he would do if i confessed i had had a drink. He said he'd ask me why i was doing it. I was amazed. I expected tyrades, black=balling, disgust etc. Concern was not what i expected!).

  2. I know exactly what you mean. I've had these types of questions all my life. It's the doubt of a sufficient answer to what is most pertinent to us. Right now, my questions are like: What if all this is for nothing, meaningless? Why should I care about anything then? Even though I have worked out my reasons for believing in meaning, the questions still nag at me. I'm on disability right now, and I ask myself constantly if I'll be on it the rest of my life. Will I ever be OK again? What if a single thing I've said irreversibly harms another individual. I obsess over all the other possible paths I could have taken in life, and why can't I participate in every one of them, even though I know it is impossible. I could go on and on.

  3. Your question about earrings for your mom reminds me of some of my own worries, ones that probably wouldn't make much sense to someone without OCD. Like, if I knock three times on a door, people will think it is an emergency (this was busted when I watched a movie in which the person knocked three times and I was the only one who noticed). Or, if I draw this on a card, will it be missinterpreted. Or, if I use a pink address label on such-and-such letter, will they think I'm a pink sort of girl. Questions are endless. Last counseling session, my counselor asked when I might be "unsure" (since I drew a picture of unsureness). The examples went on until I'd given enough, not until I ran out. :)

  4. Karin--My OCD is much more stringent than most ministers and mostly likely more than God. . .

    MDK--Intro to Philosophy class was very hard for me because all the existential questions struck my OCD and reverberated far longer than for the average student. Ironically, existentialism itself had the seeds of help for me--the idea of making our own meaning.

    Abigail--Oh, I resonate so much with all these permutations of uncertainty! I picture a Venn diagram, where the unsure circle is so big it dwarfs the whole page. It was hard for me to accept that there were probably even more things I could be unsure of, and that my goal of accounting for all of them was impossible, but it also was the beginning of being able to make decisions, and do things I wanted to do.