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.”
It is indeed ironic how the rituals of OCD often, in a different way, cause what they are designed to prevent. When I was at my worst, I couldn’t stand showering because it could last for hours and was a struggle from the moment I stepped in. As a result, I would avoid showering to an extent that even “normal” people would probably find disturbing. I would go several days up to a week without showering because just thinking about it gave me an incredible sense of dread. I also had an incredibly difficult time cleaning – the trash was overflowing, the dirty dishes filled the sink and kitchen counters, I had a mountain of laundry in my room, and to top it off, we had roaches that thrived in that environment! It was gross by even OCD therapist standards (I had home sessions), and those guys can tolerate a lot of disgusting-ness!
I am still learning and working on “doing the opposite” of what I feel the need to do. I hope that in time I can more aggressively take this approach to addressing my OCD.
Wow! What great examples of the irony of OCD. Thanks for sharing; I really appreciate your comments.
Many years ago a doctor suggested I had OCD.. I confess to having given it no thought whatever. Now, many years later I’ve been reading about OCD and do not think I ever had it BUT that I was raised in Christian Science and therefore used the language of OCD. I am very interested to know if others have seen a connection between OCD and Christian Science language/thinking.
Thanks for sharing, Francis. How interesting! I’ve never heard of a connection but maybe others will comment. Thanks again for commenting.