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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Posted Jun 19 2009 12:00am

Parking my car is a long process. The wheels must be lined up parallel to the third pavement slab in. The back wheel must rest in the correct dent in the drive. Radio 1 must be tuned in. All personal belongings are to be removed– bar Dylan the Donkey who must lie in the correct position. The handbrake is checked. Twice. And a four door clockwise circle is completed each time the car is passed, ending with the driver door.

Welcome to the wonderful world of OCD.

Ironically, I didn’t notice just how much I inhabited it until I started trying to get rid of the eating disorder. I managed to ignore the impact it was having on my life – and on my feelings – until the other distractions were removed. And it became blatantly clear.

When I tried to shift the balance away from food, I needed something else to focus on. When I started to loosen the grip, I wanted something else to take control of. When the emotionally based fear really took hold, something tangible to worry about was far more appealing.

It’s easier to make something real safe; easier to worry about something that you can give a name to – and OCD is all about transference. It’s all about avoidance and reassurance and fear.

And it’s surprisingly common.

The difference is in the form – the lining up the car or the handwashing or the door checking – and the impact. That’s the scary thing about OCD: it can either be vaguely annoying and slightly comical – or totally crippling.

I don’t think my OCD ever entered the latter phase (thankfully) – but it certainly gave me a tough time. It certainly made me do things I didn’t want to do when I didn’t want to do them. It set a few rules that severely impinged on what I did do. Moved precariously close to seriously undermining the fragments of self esteem that I did actually have.

And that’s the sneaky thing about OCD. It’s okay, in moderation, but it can easily get out of control. It seems like you’re in the driving seat, but it quickly becomes a case of doing what you told. It looks like a way of making things safer – if I check that switch there won’t possibly be a fire and if I wash my hands I can’t possibly get ill – but it actually makes everything far more dangerous.

If you miss out a step in the ordained order then you’re responsible for everything going wrong. If you get things a bit out of sync – well, then you’ve got plenty to worry about. And if, god forbid, you’d like to stray from the prescribed routine…

OCD can end up feeling like a real nightmare. It can end up feeling like a prison sentence. It can end up making the whole world a far scarier place.

Luckily, it can also be ended. Even if the ending’s a lot of hard work.

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