When Dan was struggling with severe OCD, his compulsions and rituals were all done “to keep something bad from happening.” In his mind, if he moved from his chair, neglected to engage in all sorts of mental compulsions, or even ate, something terrible might happen to those he cared about. While the rational part of him knew there was no connection between him eating and a catastrophe occurring, it didn’t matter. There was always that doubt. Rightfully so, OCD is often called The Doubting Disease.
It’s so ironic when you think of it. The very behaviors those with OCD indulge in often produce results that are the exact opposite of what they intend. Dan didn’t eat for over a week because he thought something bad would happen if he did. Well, plenty “bad” did happen as a direct result of his not eating: He became physically ill. He had to be taken to the hospital. His family was distraught. He could barely function.
Another good example of “the opposite happening” can be found on this post of The OCD Chronicles. For years, Elly always wore socks for fear of contamination. Somehow she ended up getting a fungal infection on her toes, and wearing socks all of the time only aggravated and prolonged the infection. The result was the exact opposite of what was intended.
If there are any Seinfeld fans out there, this post may remind you of the episode where George, the ultimate “loser”, decides to do the “exact opposite” of what he usually does, with the hope of turning his life around. And it works!
Wouldn’t it be nice if OCD could be scripted as easily as a television show? It’s not that easy, but with the right therapy OCD sufferers can resist their compulsions instead of giving in to them, live their day-to-day lives instead of avoiding certain situations and isolating themselves, and accept whatever thoughts they have as just thoughts instead of fearing them. In short, they can learn to “just do the opposite.”