Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Questioner Tendency and OCD

I just finished reading The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, and her telltale sign of being a "Questioner" is that you dispute the validity of taking the quiz to find out what your tendency is. . .Yes, that would be me. In fact, it was an exposure for me to take the quiz, and tolerate the anxiety that the framework might not be valid. To be able to still learn from Rubin's observations is part of the flexibility that has come through doing Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy.  Rubin's quest has been to find the motivations for habit change, whether you meet inner and outer expectations.

Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense--essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations.

The desire to research can cause decision paralysis in Questioners, and I believe that OCD can take this to an extreme in the theme of indecision and perfectionism. As I've written on this blog, indecision was a struggle because of the fear of making the wrong decision and being haunted by anxiety. My research consumed much of my time. My librarian training only added to this desire for more and more information.

Rubin notes some ways to help overcome analysis-paralysis.

  • Setting an action deadline
  • Following the advice of someone you respect
  • Limiting information sources
These ideas echo what Leonard, my ERP therapist advised. Because he was willing to answer my questions initially about OCD treatment, and point to the research on the success of ERP, I learned to respect him, and be willing to follow his advice. He knew I was a Questioner, and in addition to providing that initial information, explained that a pattern of continual questioning becomes reassurance and makes the anxiety worse by reinforcing it.

Flipping a coin was one strategy for setting a deadline, which I practiced at the grocery store.

Leonard would ask me to imagine what someone without OCD would do in a particular situation, and take my best guess as to the action to take. Yes, it is scary, but OCD promises perfect knowledge and perfect results and never delivers. 

Others with OCD might not be Questioners, but Upholders, Obligers or Rebels, and need different strategies to motivate themselves.

For an Obliger who meets others expectations but struggles meeting their own inner expectations, treatment for OCD could be more effective with accountability: exposure homework from a therapist, or attending a support group and having an accountability partner to call when a task is done. 

For a Rebel, who has struggles meeting both outer and inner expectations, accountability can aggravate the "you can't make me" response. Appealing to values and identity can help free up the oppositional pattern, as can framing exposures as a choice, not a demand. Jeff Bell has written about how focusing on what you value can give the impetus needed to face uncertainty and move ahead in spite of anxiety.

For an Upholder, who readily meets both outer and inner expectations, reading a book like Jonathan Grayson's Freedom from OCD and following his suggestions for Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy could make more sense to them than support groups or even therapy. 

Four Tendencies Quiz


I is for Indecision

N is for Need to Know

An Imaginal Exposure Script for Indecision OCD

Indecision at the Library

Just One More Search: Information Overload and OCD

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Compulsive Googling

In November, 2016, Amelia Tate interviewed me for an article on compulsively searching the web. It was moving to read the article, and feel like I had been heard and understood.

Here is a link to the article in theThe New Statesman, November 7th, 2016.
"It is like stepping into the storm: How OCD can affect your online life" by Amelia Tait