Can OCD be beneficial?: How OCD frightened me into learning 7 foreign languages

Can Obsessive Compulsive Disorder be beneficial?

Okay, I know this is a pretty surprising question. How could a mental illness be beneficial and how could it have any positive side effects? But a lot of people have asked me this question so in today’s post I’ll try to give an answer to it by sharing one of my personal stories.

OCD frightened me into learning languages

You may ask yourself: did this guy go totally crazy? Did he run out of ideas to write about? Learning languages has nothing to do with OCD. But let me tell you my story and I promise you it will make sense.

My parents are from Romania but I was born in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. So I can say that I come from a pretty multicultural background and speaking other languages has always been an important part of my life. But it turned into an obsession during my mid-teens. And by obsession, I do not mean that I was addicted to studying languages or that I was actually enjoying it. Not at all. It was something much darker: full blown OCD.

Ever since my high school days, I’ve had severe financial anxiety: I’ve always been afraid of not finding a job or not having enough money to live on. And in my city, it’s much easier to find a job and to earn a decent amount of money if you speak foreign languages. So as a result of these two factors, a surprising thing was born: obsessive compulsive studying.

It all started by the usual intrusive thoughts:
what if I will not be able to find a job?
what if I will never have money?
what if I will end up on the street?

And I guess most OCD sufferers have already experience the vicious cycle:
The intrusive thoughts that will turn into terrifying anxiety. An anxiety that will soon start ruining your life so you just have to do something to get rid of it: and that is how compulsions start.
(Read more: Set yourself free: How to break the vicious cycle?)

So I arrived to the conclusion that speaking a lot of languages would save me from a horrible financial disaster so I decided to register on a couple of language learning websites and I spent a lot of money on language books. Studying languages is a very fun thing to do but as I have mentioned earlier, I did not do it because I was enjoying it! I spent most of my days reading course books and chatting with foreigners on the internet because it would give me a temporary relief from anxiety. And I’d have never skipped one single day: it would give me an anxiety attack if I could not spend at least a few hours a day on improving my language skills.

A gift from OCD

I can say that my efforts paid off: ever since I graduated from high school it’s been relatively easy for me to find jobs. But has this solved my anxiety issues? Of course not! My language learning obsession is over but we all know how creative the little OCD monster is: it’s always able to come up with something new. And I wouldn’t like to bombard you with stories about my other obsessions (but if you’re interested, you can check them on my blog feed: https://over-coming-ocd.com/blog-feed/)

Answering the question: Can OCD be beneficial?

There are OCD sufferers who are obsessed with cleaning: so obviously their homes will always be very neat. Others are obsessed with symmetry, so they might be able to design extremely beautiful things. And OCD forced me to learn foreign languages. So it does have positive side effects.

But is OCD beneficial?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one of the most terrifying mental illnesses in the world and I would never call it beneficial. And I do not say this because I am a negative person. I always try to look on the bright side of things and I am proud of having OCD: it’s a part of me and it helped me a lot to become the person who I am today. But the benefits are dwarfed by other things OCD sufferers have to live with: intrusive thoughts, obsessions, compulsions, anxiety – and a lot more.

Your story

As you know there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my stories: reading yours. So please do not hesitate to share your OCD experiences in the comment section!

Mark Wester

16 thoughts on “Can OCD be beneficial?: How OCD frightened me into learning 7 foreign languages

      1. Non, je peux imaginaire que c’été horrible. J’apprends le francais dans mes temps libre :). Aussi, je lire poésie en francais en aide.

        I’m having to check verb conjugations quite a lot though – that’s the last big bit I need to get the hang of, which is improving.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah c’est super ca 🙂 et pourquoi as-tu décidé d’apprendre le francais? Moi aussi , j’aime bien la poésie francaise 🙂

        ah yeah the conjugation can be pretty challenging but the good thing is that there are a lot of words between English and French – so at least that makes it easier 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Haha, wow you Are good at French. I was surprised at the standard of your English initially, considering it’s your second language right? Was that down to OCD too? Like, did you absolutely master all the grammar etc?

        That’s awesome you also like French poetry! Do you read any on here? If so, you might have to recommend some others :).

        Liked by 1 person

      4. thank you 🙂 you’re good at French too!
        and You’ll make me blush. haha Yes, it is my second language but that was not down to OCD actually. I learned English when I was like 7-8 years old :))) (we have a few international schools in the city)

        Hmm, to be honest I haven’t started exploring French language blogs yet but I’ll take a look at them and let you know if I find something interesting 🙂
        I think you would like “Les Fleurs du mal” from Baudelaire.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thanks man, I’ve been improving quite a bit lately, so that’s great to hear!

        Cool thanks, yeah i’d be interested to know of good well-written, emotional ones :D. I’ll check out that blog, thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. ah c’est super 🙂 et tu parles tres bien francais! 🙂
        moi aussi, j’ai plusieurs applications sur mon téléphone haha 🙂 J’adore “Drops”, c’est plutot pour le vocabulaire mais c’est super sympa!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Obsessive compulsive cleaning can be a positive thing but when you have 3 kids, all I see is sticky, disgusting fingers touching the white walls and the furniture and leaving tiny germs everywhere. The toilet training is horrendous because you can’t keep the toilet clean enough to ever be ok with kids having their faces and fingers anywhere near it. The amount of times a toothbrush hits the floor and goes right to their mouth gives me constant nightmares. The crumbs, the hidden bananas, the stolen crackers in the beds, even the fact that the toys are out of the toy again is too much. And the runny noses during cold season, the coughs that aren’t fully covered spreading germs all over and knowing you can’t see them so you have to disinfect the entire room to feel better… So, yes, it’s nice to have a clean house but when you can’t function unless your house is spotless all the time, it makes a pretty miserable place for the kids 😦
    I have found a way to deal with this so it can keep us all happy (ish) but it’s definitely hard fighting these urges constantly from the moment I wake until I can have just enough done at night so I can sleep.
    Lol, I hope I didn’t cause anyone else besides myself anxiety there! Sorry if I did! I was just trying to describe what it feels like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can totally relate! I do not have cleaning OCD but I am very concerned about my family’s and my health – so a toothbrush hitting the floor sounds like a complete nightmare to me.
      And I agree with you: having a clean home is an amazing thing but the all the suffering and anxiety outweigh this minor benefit.

      I am very glad to read that you have found a way to deal with this! Is there any particular technique that worked for you or how did you learn to keep it under control?

      I believe reading other people’s stories helps a lot so I do not think you caused anxiety to anyone by sharing this 🙂

      Blessings

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The anxiety I get from clutter or a mess is horrible but I find that if I make a list of a few things that are a must for me to get done throughout the day and check those off, I’m generally ok. By ok, I mean, I still have those compulsive thoughts and I still have certain things that I just will not/can not leave undone but by making myself clear about my priorities (wanting my kids to be able to embrace messes and love them under the right circumstances, for example), it’s easier for me stay on track.
        But when I’m alone in the house and no one is watching…I let all that out and clean obsessively with a smile on face and contentment in my soul LOL. It’s a part of us, this OCD, and if we can find a way to accept that about ourselves and embrace it, we can live without the shame and embarrassment it can cause. I love this trait and as many problems as it can cause, I wouldn’t change it for the wold. It makes me who I am.
        I don’t know if that’s fully answered your question, but I hope so 🙂

        Like

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