Coping with OCD at work

Has it ever happened to you that you just had to check your sent emails to make sure you had not written anything stupid to anyone?

Well, I guess many of us might have had similar worries but it does not mean that all of us are a “little bit OCD“. Simply because Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – as you can see it in its name – is a mental disorder. So, it is something that you either have or you do not.

But what does having OCD feel like? Well, it’s pretty complicated to explain and I have been sharing my personal experiences ever since I started this blog. And in today’s article, I will talk about how OCD can impact your life at work.

First of all, I have to admit that I am in a pretty lucky position because many of my co-workers know that I have OCD and I can tell you that all of them have been extremely understanding. So, I have not really faced any kind of discrimination. Like, there are people who tell me things such as:

“Oh, I would have never thought you had OCD..you just look perfectly normal”

And I know this could be pretty offensive, but I think the reason why people say such things is that they do not exactly know what OCD is and not because they want to hurt you. So, I really do not blame them for that. Like…before my OCD diagnosis, I did not use to know what OCD was either.

Anyways…back to the topic.

What does it feel like to “work with OCD”?

I would like to share my own experiences with you – as someone who has been suffering from OCD for the last decade. Now, obviously we are all different so I really do not want to give you the impression that everyone who has OCD faces the same problems as I do but I have done a little bit of research on the internet and I’ve seen that there are quite a few people out there whose thoughts, feelings, worries and compulsions are pretty similar to mine.

Compulsive checking – better feel safe than sorry

Well, I guess it’s perfectly normal to double-check your PowerPoint presentation before sending it over to your manager. But OCD sufferers can take this “checking habit” to a whole new level. Like, when I send an email, I will just need to check it a few times to make sure that there are not grammar mistakes in it. And not only because I am a perfectionist but simply because my OCD forces me to do that.

Like, what if there’s a horrible grammar mistake in my mail and the people receiving it will think that I am not professional enough? Or that I am uneducated and that I am not good enough for this job?

And it’s not only about the grammar in my emails or presentations but also about many other mistakes I could have possible made.

For example, when I was working for an airline I was terribly afraid of booking the wrong flight for our customers. Like what if they wanted to travel to London, UK and I booked it for London, Canada instead? So, I would obviously need to check the booking a few times just to make sure I haven’t done anything stupid.

In the most extreme cases, I could even end up listening to my own call recordings. Just to make sure I haven’t said anything incorrect or stupid. Now, I know it’s pretty crazy..and may even be a little bit hilarious. And don’t get me wrong. I know that the things I do are not rational but that’s what OCD is like.

Reassurance seeking – am I good enough?

OCD is like a little monster that sites on your shoulder and whispers terrifying things into your ears. Like a negative inner voice that never wants to leave you alone. And one of the worrying things that this voice loves telling you is that you are not good enough. Now, of course you could tell yourself that it’s not true: you have a lot of experience, you are doing a great job and so on.

But one of the main features of OCD is doubt. So, even if you know that you are doing a perfect job. How could you be so sure? What if your OCD voice is right and you are a complete failure?

Now, this is when you just need to start seeking reassurance. In my case, this reassurance seeking means constantly asking for feedback. At the moment, I am in a pretty luck position – I do not want to go into details about my current job but I get a lot of feedback from the people I work together with (It’s part of the process). And receiving feedback is the favorite part of my job because it just helps me calm down and helps me convince myself that I am doing a good job. But sometimes, I have the feeling that the feedback I receive is not enough (believe me, rationally thinking, it is perfectly sufficient but try to explain this to my OCD). So, I will just start chasing people for even more.

Do they think I am a complete lunatic? Well, maybe..yes. I am that workoholic guy who is constantly worried about his performance. But do people judge me for doing this? Honestly, I do not think so.

Catastrophic Predictions – what if the world falls apart?

The reason why OCD people repeatedly check things or act on their compulsions is not because they like doing it but because they are worried a potential disaster.

In my case, this potential disaster is losing my job. Like what if I make a mistake and I will get fired? And what if I will never be able to find another job? What if I will be unemployed forever? What if I will end up in the streets?

And it goes on. If you have OCD, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is starting an conversation with your “inner OCD voice”. My piece of advice to all of my readers is trying not to answer your “what if” questions because it is like a loop. A never-ending story. Even if you give a perfect answer to one of those “what if” questions, another one will soon appear.

Intrusive thoughts – what If I go crazy and do something insane?

A lot of people think that OCD is a kind of cleaning disorder. Or that it’s only about repeated checking. But Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is much more complicated than that.

OCD sufferers have intrusive thoughts: unwanted thoughts, impulses or mental images that cause significant anxiety and stress. And these intrusive thoughts include a lot of things – honestly, I think it would be impossible to give you a full list of what these thoughts could possibly be but let me give you a few examples:

  • what if I push someone off the stairs?
  • what if I start shouting obscenities in the middle of a meeting?
  • what if I throw my computer out of the window?

As you see, some of these thoughts look pretty crazy. And that’s the reason why they are so distressing. In most of the cases, you know your thoughts are irrational and you know you do not want to act on them. But do not forget: OCD used to be called the “doubting disease” and for a good reason. Because there’s always that “what if”.

Difficulty Concentrating – Mental Exhaustion

After reading all this, are you even surprised mental exhaustion is on my list?

People with OCD spend a lot of time worrying about their thoughts or performing their compulsions and this can lead to mental exhaustion. Sometimes, it’s just difficult for you to concentrate on your tasks because you’re just worried about not having locked the door or about any other terrifying thought (see above.)

Now, the severity of OCD varies from person to person. It can be mild, moderate and severe. But as we talk about a disorder, it’s having a huge impact on the sufferers life regardless its severity.

Procrastination – Lazy or anxious?

For many people, procrastination is perceived as pure laziness but I do not agree with that. Procrastination does not mean that you do not want to do anything – you just avoid a certain task.

And the reason why you avoid that particular task may be that you’re anxious about it and you just feel that you wouldn’t be able to complete it the way it’s supposed to be completed. So basically, you’re afraid of failure. Now I think a lot of people have this feeling and it’s not something specific to OCD but I still wanted to include it in my list.

Saying “Yes” – to Everything

I think assertive communication is one of the most important skills to learn for those who are suffering from anxiety disorders. Why? Because many of us are afraid of “saying no”. And do not get me wrong – honestly, I do not think it’s something specific to those who have OCD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder but it’s a pretty common thing.

I have always found it extremely difficult to say “no”. So I tend to say “yes” to every single request I receive even if I know I do not necessarily have the time for it. What’s the reason behind this habit? I guess I am afraid of hurting others or I’m concerned that other people will think I am not helpful or friendly enough.

What helped me to manage my anxiety at work?

Your OCD experiences

As you know there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories. Please share your OCD stories/experiences and tips in the comment section!

Mark

Peace At The Bottom Of A Bottle – OCD & Alcohol

About 30% of people with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) have had a substance use disorder at some point of their lives. This is nearly double the rate of the general population. And I am pretty sure most of us can guess what the most commonly used addictive substance is: yes, it’s alcohol!

So, in today’s article I will try to explore why a lot of OCD sufferers turn to alcohol and I will share some of my personal experiences as I have had alcohol problems ever since my late teens.

Why Does OCD Increase The Risk Of Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol Abuse As A Response To OCD

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is “self-medicating”. And I can tell you this from my own experience. First of all, I need to tell you that I did not start to self-medicate with alcohol because I thought it would solve my issues or because I did not want to see a therapist. My OCD started in my teenage years and honestly, at that time I did not use to know what it was as I had not yet been diagnosed so I used to call it “my insanity”. Okay, I know – this doesn’t sound alright but I have been suffering from this disorder for over a decade so believe me, I would be the last person on earth to ever make fun of it or ever call someone with OCD “insane” but in my late teens I really believed that I was just going insane.

Anyways, going back to the alcohol topic. I will probably never forget the first time I got tipsy – and not because it was that horrible but on the contrary: it was an absolutely amazing feeling. It would just help me forget about my horrifying intrusive thoughts, about my crazy obsessions and about my anxiety. It just felt like…a way out if you see what I mean. Cause at the end of the day, what does OCD feel like? It’s like a maze..or like a vicious cycle that you just can not break. Never ending waves of terrifying thoughts that you just can not run away from. And many of these thoughts are so bizarre that you’re just afraid to talk about them and you may even be scared to seek professional help because “what if they think you’re insane and what if you’ll need to spend the rest of your life at a mental hospital?”

So there I was: a teenager who thought he was going crazy and who did not know that the best solution would be to see a therapist. But there was one thing I knew: that being tipsy was a great feeling. So what do you think I did?

Well, you guessed that right. I started drinking. At the beginning of my addiction, I did not drink everyday – I would only drink when I felt stressed or worried about something. But then it soon started to go out of control and I just descended into alcoholism. Soon, I ended up drinking every single day. And I am not talking about having a glass of wine in the evening. No, drinking everyday actually meant downing a bottle of wine every single day of the year.

At this point, you may ask if I am still having a bottle of wine a day and I am glad to tell you that the answer is no. But I would be lying if I told you that I managed to overcome my addiction. Sometimes it comes back. Not the way it used to, but I do not want to be hypocritical and say that it’s over. Especially nowadays because of this whole lockdown situation. But I am trying to keep it under control as much as I can and I am getting better and better at it – and I will share a few techniques that work for me at the end of this post! ๐Ÿ™‚

But first of all…let’s look at the second reason why alcohol abuse is more prevalent among OCD sufferers. And this reason is more like a theory that I’ve read about on the internet and in a few books so I’d rather…just present it as a question:

Does OCD And Alcohol Addiction Share A Common Cause?

Well yes, I am not sure whether there’s any actual proof that could support this theory but honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true as if you just think about OCD compulsions: people who’re suffering from this disorder usually have rituals (sometimes these are not even obvious as there are so-called “mental rituals”) that they just have to do.

Performing these rituals will just make them feel safe – and if you have OCD, you will probably know what I am talking about. It’s like when you just have to make sure that you’ve really locked the door or that you’ve really turned the gas stove off. Or sometimes the reason behind these rituals can be a kind of magical thinking. When you just need to blink exactly 3 times to protect your loved ones from a disaster.

So yes. I am really looking forward to finding more research data on this topic. But the logic behind this whole idea kind of made sense to me. Like I do not necessarily think that drinking is a compulsion – but having OCD can potentially make you more susceptible to addictions.

Does Drinking Alcohol Make OCD Worse?

Yes, it definitely does. Alcohol is a kind of sedative that affects the central nervous system. So drinking can actually reduce your stress and after a few glasses of wine, you will surely feel more relaxed and less worried but believe me, everything will get worse when you start sobering up. Not only because of having a hangover but because your fears will just seem to be more terrifying when you no longer feel the effects of alcohol.

How To Cut Down On Drinking?

Well, as you see I wrote “cut down” and not “stop drinking”. Why? Because I think it’s a better idea to do it “gradually”. I have already tried to suddenly stop drinking and in my case it was not really working as the withdrawal symptoms made my OCD much much worse. And when my OCD got worse, I would just start drinking again – and even more. Again, as I said earlier I am not an expert but what I worked for me was gradually cutting down on alcohol.

Things That Help Me (May Help You) Cut Down On Drinking

There are a lot of websites and book that share helpful tips to stop drinking. For instance, I have found this article pretty helpful 11 ways to curb your drinking (Harvard Medical School).

So I do not think that I could give you better pieces of advice than psychologists or university professors. That’s why instead of sharing general tips, I’d rather tell you about a few specific things that helped me cut down on drinking.

1. Tonic Water

Okay….I know…Do not freak out. I know it’s absolutely insane to tell people that tonic water can help them cut down on their alcohol consumption but for some reason, it did help me. I do not only like the way alcohol makes me feel but I also like the taste of it and enjoy the “process of drinking”. And maybe it’s just me, but I do think that tonic water tastes like alcohol. And you can drink it from a stylish glass with ice cubes. So it’s just a perfect alcohol replacement drink.

2. Keep yourself busy

Again, not sure if it’s just me but I do have the impression that when you’re bored, you’ll be much more likely to start drinking. So, why not going for a hike or visiting a museum (virtually, if your country is under lockdown – like mine)

3. Spending time on skincare

Reading this, you will think that I am crazy…or drunk (I am not). What does skincare have to do with alcohol addiction? In my case, spending time on skincare actually helps me forget about alcohol because I just feel much more relaxed after a peel. And also because I have always been a vain person (the dirty secrets of Mark…) and the idea of having beautiful skin keeps me motivated to cut down on alcohol.

4. Spending “alcohol money” on other things

Another thing that can keep me motivated to drink less is thinking about how much money I actually spend on alcohol and what other things I could spend that money on. Things such as traveling – which is my biggest addiction.

Your thoughts

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours. So please share your thoughts and your own tips to cut down on drinking in the comment section! ๐Ÿ™‚

Further Reading

How The Mainstream Media Sold Our Mental Health For Clicks

The world is on the verge of collapse. Thousands of deaths, collapsing economies and eternal lockdowns. Life will never be the same as it was before COVID19 and we will never go back to normal. Never ever.

Sounds like a paragraph from a dystopian novel. But it is not. These were just a few headlines from the mainstream media. And believe me, I really did not want to write about the media – I started my blog to help people who are suffering from anxiety disorders, especially from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – however, today I feel that I just can not keep silent any longer. Or I just do not want to keep silent any longer, I don’t know.

I really do not want to generalize and I do think that the majority of journalists are good people who just want to help us with the information they share, however, I think that what has been happening in the mainstream media for the last couple of weeks is simply disgusting. Yes, I know this might be a strong word but I do think it is disgusting. Or we could say it’s outrageous. Or irresponsible. Whichever you like more. Again, I would like to emphasize that I do appreciate the work most of the journalists are doing – but I would like to address this article to the ones who are spreading panic without even thinking about the effects it may have on other people.

So, as many of my readers know I have had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) for most of my life. And I perfectly know what it feels like to be paralyzed with fear and how dangerous it can be to spend your whole life worrying about literary everything. And this is exactly why I feel sad when I see that the mainstream media is fueling panic instead of providing helpful and reliable information to the people who would really need it.

And I know that the things I am going to say will not make me popular. I know that some people may call me totally irresponsible or they will say that blaming media is absolutely unfair. Or some will say that we should not bury our heads in the sand.

So where to start….At the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak, I thought that the mainstream media was spreading fear because they wanted to act responsibly and they just wanted to make sure people were aware of the risk and taking care of themselves. Was I right? Honestly, no idea. I might have been naive. But what I know for sure is that since then, the media’s fear-mongering has totally gone out of control.

We all know that the situation is dire but most of the news websites and TV channels just refuse to help us. Instead of giving helpful information from reliable sources and presenting facts, they have decided to sacrifice our mental health for more views. The scarier the title, the better. The more shocking news you share, the better. Again, a few weeks ago this behavior was kind of understandable: people had to be informed about the risks so that they would take this whole thing seriously. But then, the world went on lockdown, there’re millions of people all around the world who are not allowed to leave their homes and many others who self-isolate on a voluntary basis. I do not know what it is like in your cities, but I can tell you that most of the people I know are terribly afraid of the virus and they do behave responsibly.

So, at this point, one would really expect the media to be…let’s say a little bit more encouraging. Maybe they could share more positive news about the people who have recovered from the disease or facts about the slowing pandemic. They could help people see the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially that people have started spending much more time consuming media content since the lockdown began. Like if you have to stay at home for a long time, you will be much more likely to start watching TV or read the news.

But of course, positive news are not that valuable. Negative headlines do much better than positive ones. Guess that’s just human nature – most of us are more likely to check an article with a shocking headline. And views mean money. But how much money? Well, It really depends on platform I guess but one single click is definitely not worth a lot of money – it’s probably worth much less than a dollar.

Reading a fear-mongering article about a potential apocalypse may give you a sleepless night – and it will earn the media a few cents.

Now, let’s not live in denial. I do not want to say that they actually sell your mental health for a few cents because there’s truth in what they say. I do not believe in conspiracy theories especially that I do know people who have experienced the tragedy of this illness. But for some reason the mainstream media prefers fear-mongering over presenting facts or sharing a dialogue between experts. I am not a scientist so I really do not want to give examples, but what I have noticed is that if an expert from a prestigious university says that the death rate of COVID19 could be lower than we previously thought, the media will not spend too much time on reporting about it – they prefer sharing someone else’s shocking ideas: about scary symptoms, skyrocketing death rate and catastrophic predictions. Optimistic news soon disappear in your newsfeed and gloomy prophecies will start taking over.

And then, fear is not enough. There should be hate! We have to find a scapegoat – people we can blame for this whole crisis. And the mainstream media turns against its own creatures: people who do not panic enough. They are the new villains who’re depicted as monsters, enemies of our society who only care about themselves and who are a dangerous threat to all of us. They live in denial and they endanger other people with their irresponsible behavior. Now, I am not one of these people because believe me, I am in panic. But do I think we should be angry at those who are a little bit “more relaxed” or live in denial? I do not think they are the only ones to blame – they are this way because they do not trust the media anymore. Can we really say that they are bad people? At this point, I guess many of you want to stop reading this post but give me a few minutes to explain what I mean by giving an example.

As many of my readers may know, I am from a small Central European country: Hungary. And we have a folk tale that reminds me a lot to this situation.

The Story Of The Bunnies And The Wolf

Cute bunnies live in an idyllic village and one of them is a true pain in the neck. Let’s just call him Fearmongering Bunny. Why this name? Because he just loves telling other bunnies that the wolf was coming to eat them all. He enjoys this so much that he does it extremely often. Everyday. Fearmongering Bunny often goes to the nearby forest and runs back to the village, out of breath, telling the others that the evil wolf attacked him and that he (the wolf) is on his way to the village! At the beginning, his fellow bunnies used to believe him. They really did. But one day, they realized that Fearmongering Bunny was a liar and that the wolf had never actually reached the village. But soon, the wolf really comes to the village and Fearmongering Bunny wants to let everyone know about the danger. He starts running around shouting “the wolf is coming, the wolf is coming”. But nobody believes him anymore. Why would they? They can not trust a fearmongering liar. So they do not do anything, they do not try to run away. And the wolf kills them all.

Our world is just like the “bunny village”. A place where the mainstream media is Fearmongering Bunny and the real threat is that we do not know anymore what we can believe from all the things it is telling us. In 2009, they said that H1N1 would kill us all. Then the end of the world was scheduled for 2012. So are we really surprised that there are people who are skeptical? The wolf has arrived to our village, yet, we do not know how dangerous it is or what impact it will have. And you would expect the media to give up on fear-mongering and to present facts that are currently available. But do not expect too much from them, they haven’t given up on being Fearmongering Bunny. They keep shouting that wolf is here – and this wolf gets scarier and scarier every single day – but apart from that, do they have anything else to say?

Does The Mainstream Media Suffer From Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and one of the symptoms of it is “catastrophizing” – which means that I always imagine the worst case scenario. But I am aware of my condition, I always try to be optimistic and I try not to scare other people to death by sharing my catastrophic thoughts with them. Again, we should not bury our heads in the sand, but at the same time I think that spreading panic is simply irresponsible.

So, why do I say that media was suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Because they love writing about worst case scenarios! Countries that are having slowing infection rates or are easing restrictions are not interesting. Some say this whole thing will soon get better – that’s not interesting. What we need is a shocking deadline about having to spend the next decade on lockdown with millions dying of the virus. Do not get me wrong, we should not censor negative news but I do not think it’s the media’s responsibility to present conflicting opinions and facts. But what do they do instead? They just get the scariest possible outcome and write a terrifying article about it!

Taking absolutely no responsibility

And what I found the most outrageous is that the media takes absolutely no responsibility for the damage it’s done. There are more and more articles about people committing suicide over coronavirus worries. And what does the media say? That it was because of the lockdown or because of practicing self-isolation. Well, it surely played a role but they always miss to mention that one of the main reason people feel scared and hopeless is the way how the media is presenting the news. Did I sound like blaming them for other people’s death? I think I did. But I do think that we just can not ignore the role of the media when it comes to rising depression rates and suicides – their gloomy prophecies definitely make people feel hopeless. And it’s not only difficult for people with mental health issues – it’s difficult for all of us!

Making Money From Human Tragedies

Yes..another thing is making money from human tragedies. This is something that I find the most unforgivable. While it’s important to inform the world about the present situation, I do not think it’s an okay thing to earn money from clickbait articles about human tragedies.

All the people who died had their own dreams and had people who loved them. For the media they only mean an article that’s worth a few dollars but for someone they meant the whole world.

Will We Ever Go Back To Normal?

Many say that they do not even want the world to be the same as it was before COVID19. I am not one of those people. I want to go back to normal – and I hope everything will be the same. But one thing that I really hope is that the mainstream media will change. That they will learn from this experience and they will not go back to “normal”, but they will start being more responsible.

Further Reading

Am I a monster? – The Story Of My Harm OCD

Are you afraid of harming others?
Well, I guess most of us are and that’s absolutely normal. But if you’re suffering from Harm OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), this fear of harming others – especially your loved ones – means a totally different thing for you.

There are a lot of misconceptions about OCD – a lot of people still think that it is a kind of cleaning disorder or an extreme fear of germs. And while the fear of contamination can be one component of OCD, this is a much more complicated disorder. Or how I call it: much more creative.

In today’s post, I will talk about one of the darkest subsets of OCD: harm OCD. Honestly, it’s not the easiest topic to talk about. I have never really had any problems with expressing myself but when it comes to my harm OCD, it’s a different story. And this can be one of the reasons why many people think that harm OCD is far less common than other subsets of this disorder. Like it’s not easy to tell your friends that you just need to check if the door is locked 10 times before you leave your home, but imagine how difficult it is to tell them that you’re afraid of pushing them off a cliff.

So, first of all: What is Harm OCD?

Harm OCD is a subset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder characterized by having aggressive, intrusive thoughts of violence towards others or yourself.

Am I A Monster? – My Story

Now, the definition I gave is from a book. And I guess it pretty much describes what Harm OCD means, but it does not necessarily describe what it feels like. This is why I have decided to share my story.

Once upon a time, there was a prince…Well, I am not a prince and this is definitely not a fairy tale – even though fairy tales can be pretty scary. Just think about Snow White: your stepmother wants to kill you and when she actually succeeds to carry out her evil plan and to take your life, a handsome prince will come to save you and he will eventually end up kissing your dead body. Anyways, I do not want to over-analyse fairy tales so let’s talk about something far less exciting: my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

I do not actually remember when or how my OCD started – I guess it was always there and it just gradually got worse and worse. However, there’s one day that I will never forget: the day when my brain broke and my harm OCD went out of control.
It was a Friday evening. I was 17 years old – so more than 10 years ago when I was still young and innocent (I am not sure whether I was innocent though). So, my parents went to a party and I decided to stay at home and to watch a movie. And I obviously do not want to blame a movie for my harm OCD but I guess I made the worst possible choice: I started to watch Apocalypto. I guess it’s a pretty nice film but I just do not want to watch it ever again because it will always remind me to the terrifying thoughts it gave me that night. Why did it have such a terrible effect on me? Honestly, I do not know but seeing people being sacrificed for ancient Gods kind of fueled my OCD (at that time I did not use to know this thing was called OCD) and it would just give me a storm of intrusive thoughts. And one of them was particularly frightening:

What if one day, I will go crazy and I will kill someone?

Please, do not stop reading my blog after reading this. I will soon explain to you the way I felt. So, at that time, I did not know that this random thought would literary turn my life into a living nightmare. And I did not know that it had anything to do with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. To be honest, I did not even use to know what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was – you can imagine, I was a 17 years old teenager from a small, Central European country where OCD was not a well-known condition.

And as I did not know anything about intrusive thoughts or about OCD at that time, this terrifying thought was something very shocking to me. I just thought I was going crazy. Like honestly, what would you think? No sane person would ever be thinking about killing someone. And I did the worst possible thing that I could do: I just started a discussion with my inner OCD voice:

Me: I would never do such a thing. I am not a monster, am I?
My OCD: How do you know you are not a monster? What if you are evil? And if you’re not evil: what if you lose control for a few seconds and you act on these thoughts. You can never know, can you?

And this inner monologue would go on for a couple of hours. Yes, couple of hours: I am not exaggerating. One single intrusive thought was enough to make me suffer for hours and hours. When my parents got home, it would get even worse because I was terribly afraid of harming them. I just tried not to talk to them and not to be too close to them. And I was trying to fall asleep as soon as possible hoping that this whole thing would just go away in the morning. But unfortunately, it did not!

Monday morning, weekend over. Going to school helped but it did not solve the problem. I knew that being among a lot of other people could stop me from harming someone but again, my OCD wouldn’t leave me alone:

What if I push someone off the stairs or hit them with a chair? Or what if I start setting things on fire?

And these thoughts went on. For days. For weeks. For months. And I just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The only solution I could think of was going as far away from everyone as possible and drowning myself into alcohol. Alcohol would help me forget about my terrifying thoughts and it would cheer me up a little bit. Now, I know that alcohol is not a solution but at that time I saw no way out.

And obviously, my family noticed that I started drinking and my friends could see that I was avoiding them. And I really wanted to tell everyone about the way I felt but I was scared. And this is one of the most difficult things about harm OCD. You’re just too scared to talk about it.

If I told someone about the way I felt, they would think I am crazy. They would be afraid of me and they would inform the police or even worse: I would end up at a mental hospital for the rest of my life. And I would lose everyone and everything I love.

But I have always been an extrovert. This is something that I will never be able to change. And I couldn’t carry on for too long. One day my Mum would ask me what was wrong. She asked me why I was literary running away from home and why I was drinking. And then, I just couldn’t take it any longer. I broke..And I told her.

I told her that I was terribly scared of harming her and that I was afraid of knives (because if you have harm OCD, you see knives as some terribly dangerous objects, because you can use them for a lot of violent purposes, right?). And I told her that I thought I was a psychopath. An evil monster.

And her reaction surprised me. It was not what I expected like: she was not scared and she did not want to run away or something. She just told me that people with bad intentions wouldn’t be scared to death over their thoughts and that she had also had intrusive thoughts like this but she never worried to much about them. (Now, years later, I know that there are a lot of people who have intrusive violent thoughts but at that time this was a new piece of information to me)

If I said this conversation was the end of all my suffering, I would lie. It was the beginning of my journey to overcome OCD. And at the beginning of the journey my Mum and we got it terribly wrong. I told my whole family about the way I felt and they were very understanding: so they started to help me and this help meant hiding all objects I was afraid of. No more knives, no more heavy objects. Obviously, this would give me a temporary relief but one can not constantly run away from one’s fears. This is something that I learnt later during my journey.

Seeing my family not thinking that I was a psychopath, I decided to talk to my best friends. And their reaction was also very positive and supportive. They do not have OCD, but they do suffer from other mental illnesses so they did not judge me for who I was. And we have been supporting each other ever since. Even after 10 years. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, they really wanted to help me and we went for a shopping weekend in Vienna – now, please do not say that I was a spoiled kid – and this little trip made me realize that there is a way out. It’s difficult not to think about your scary thoughts, but you can do it! And I think this is when my travel addiction started. Again, I know that running away from yourself is not the solution but keeping yourself busy and having fun does help a lot!

And when I came back, my aunt convinced me to see a therapist. Now that was terrifying. I was very scared to seek professional help because I thought that a therapist would think I was totally crazy and they would instantly send me to a mental hospital. Anyways, I finally decided to go.

And to my biggest surprise, my therapist did not think I was crazy. Obviously, she was not able to come up with a proper diagnosis right after our first consultation. But I could feel that she was not scared of me and she did not think I was totally insane. So after our first meeting, I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And as we went on with my therapy, she recommended me a lot of useful techniques to manage my anxiety and to keep my intrusive thoughts under control. She also told me that finding a part-time job might help. So that’s what I did: I started my first job at a call center and I was enjoying it a lot. I have always loved talking to people so it was kind of..perfect for me.

And…hm..Happy Ending? That would be a strong world. I do not want to sound hopeless (because I am not), but I do not think that I will ever be able to get rid of my OCD. It’s kind of ..chronic. Like diabetes. You can keep it under control and you can manage it – you may not even notice that you have it – but it will probably always be in the background.

What did I learn from this experience?

First of all: having harm OCD does not mean that you are a monster!

Those who want to do cruel things are not afraid of their violent thoughts. The fact that you would give everything to get rid of your aggressive, intrusive thoughts mean that you do not want to have them so you do not want to act on them.

Seek professional help

Therapists are professional people who are there to help you. And not to judge you. I know it is scary to tell a stranger about the way you feel but it really helps a lot! ๐Ÿ™‚

Alcohol is not a solution, it’s an additional problem

Now, my harm OCD is pretty much under control. But I still find it pretty difficult to give up on alcohol. So I just created an additional problem for myself while trying to get rid of my OCD.

Do not ask your family and friends “cooperate”!

Having a loving family and supporting friends is a fantastic thing. And they may even help you with your obsessions – because they love you and they are not professional therapists. Do not ask your partner to hide all the “dangerous objects” because it will not help you fight your OCD: it will only give you a temporary relief, but one day you will have to face your terrifying thoughts and postponing this, will not help! You can not live your whole life running away from your problems.

Further Reading

Your Story

As you know, there’s one thing that I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours! Please share your experiences in the comment section! ๐Ÿ™‚

Love

Mark

Locked Down – Finding Yourself

The world we once knew is gone. Many things that we used to take for granted are no longer there. Let’s hope we will soon go back to normal but nobody knows when exactly that could happen. So at the moment, the best we can do is enjoying our lives as much as we can.

It’s a perfect time for self reflection. Self reflection – and not overthinking. It is a difficult time for all of us and I really want to keep my blog a “safe place” for the next few weeks. It does not mean that we should bury our heads in the sand but there’s enough negativity everywhere else on the internet. So, instead of telling you about the bad things that happen all over the world, I would prefer telling you what I have learnt from this crisis and how it gave me more strength to fight my own demons.

Since the beginning of March, there have been several restrictions in my country (Hungary) and since last Saturday, we have officially gone into lockdown. Now, lockdown is a pretty scary word, especially because our restrictions are pretty relaxed in comparison to other European countries – lot of stores are still open and you can go hiking if you want to. And honestly, I do think that spending time in the nature is extremely important in this period – it helps you keep your physical and mental health. So, this weekend I decided to go for a long walk and to enjoy spring!

Where did I go?

Now, lockdown is lockdown. So I obviously did not go to the other side of the country – I just went for a walk on the riverbank. And I took a couple of photos (see one of them below). In the photo, you can see a small town called Visegrad and its castle on the top of the hill.

Interesting fact: this is the place where Vlad the Impaler (or more commonly known as Dracula) was held in captivity from 1463 to 1475. Now, I am not held in captivity and I can not call him one of my “ancestors” – our families are related but it’s not a big deal because most of Eastern European noble families are – but I still found walking on the riverbank pretty ironic, remembering that centuries ago, he was probably doing the same thing when they let him leave his prison cell.

Living in the moment

One of the things that I learnt these days is how important it is to live in the moment. We spend too much time on worrying about the future or blaming ourselves for every mistake we committed in the past – and while torturing ourselves with thoughts about our past and our future, we just simply forget to enjoy the moment.

The two main features of OCD are doubt and guilt. Doubt, accompanied by “what if” questions and worries about the future. And guilt over things you feel or things you did in the past.

And if you spend too much time obsessing over your “what if” questions, you will end up feeling guilty about wasting so much of your precious time on your worries (that’s what actually happened to me…). So it is like a vicious cycle that you can only break if you start living in the moment. It’s not easy but it’s a perfect time to start practicing!

You are stronger than you think!

People suffering from anxiety disorders tend to underestimate themselves. You may think that you would not be able to manage a difficult situation because you’re not strong enough. But why do you think you are not? Do you have any evidence or is it just what your negative inner voice is telling you?

Having a mental disorder is not a sign of weakness – it is something that you can learn from. And nowadays, I started seeing how many things I have learnt from having OCD. I really do not mean that OCD is something useful to have because it is clearly not. But during these days, I noticed that many of the techniques that I have learnt for keeping my OCD under control are helpful for a lot of people who do not actually have OCD but are scared to death because of the recent news. Am I better at managing my anxiety than most of the people? I would not say that, OCD is still OCD – but on the other hand, spending most of your life with terrifying intrusive thoughts gives you some experience at fighting it.

OCD is a liar

This is something that I have already known. But I thought the list would be incomplete without mentioning that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is telling you lies.

And with constant exposure to mainstream media & coronavirus news, it’s becoming more and more difficult to ignore the lies your OCD is telling you. Do not get me wrong, I do not say the media is lying – they may or may not, it’s something that I do not know – but one thing is sure: your OCD is definitely a liar.

You remember when you were scared of jumping off a bridge, beating up one of your loved ones, dying because of one of your nonexistent allergies or not loving your partner enough? Now, those were lies your OCD told you. And I do not think your OCD has changed over the last couple of weeks, so you should still watch out for the lies it is telling you. The challenge is now bigger than it has ever been: because the media will make it worse. So what could you do to make a difference between rational and irrational thoughts?

Now, obviously, the best way is seeing a therapist. And if you want to read more about the topic, please check out some of my previous posts with links to external resources:

Spending time alone is not always a bad thing

I used to be terribly afraid of spending time alone. It was one of my biggest fears because in my case, spending time alone would usually mean that I started thinking about my intrusive thoughts. More and more. And I would end up overthinking everything and being scared to death by my own intrusive thoughts.

So yes I have learnt that spending time alone is not always “dangerous”. But it does not mean that my personality has changed. I think humans are social creatures and I have always been an extrovert. So I just can not wait going out with people! ๐Ÿ™‚

How to spend time while social distancing?

Everyone is different so the examples I give may not work for all of you but I hope you will find a few useful ideas ๐Ÿ™‚

Learn a foreign language

Learning a foreign language takes some time – and it’s extremely fun. There are a lot of teachers who offer online classes and a lot of online resources.

As some of you may already know (How OCD frightened me into learning 7 languages?), I am addicted to learning languages and one of my favorite platforms for it is Interpals. It is an amazing online community where you can meet people who speak the languages you would like to learn and you can do “language exchange” with them. I first registered on Interpals 11 years ago (time is flying, is it not?) and it actually helped me find a lot of new friends – with most of them, I also met in person and still keep in touch even after so many years! ๐Ÿ™‚

Or if you prefer to language on your own, I think Drops is a pretty nice application for you! It’s a really fun way to learn a new language ๐Ÿ™‚

Since the first day of the lockdown, I have started learning Turkish and improving my German skills (I do speak German, but my grammar is definitely not the best).

Read a book

Reading has always been one of my biggest hobbies. A few weeks ago, I published a post about my favorite books – and I guess some of them are not the “most cheerful” but I just like “darker” books.

Escaping Reality: My 10 Favorite Books

And what I could still recommend to most of my readers is:

Agatha Christie novels – there are a lot of them, most of them are pretty short – so perfect for one evening. And they have a pretty nice atmosphere – I know this did not sound right as people actually get murdered in her books but for some reason her stories are not at all discomforting.

Exercise

Exercise is important for everyone. I enjoy running and walking but I guess it’s different for everyone.

Watch a movie!

I am simply addicted to watching movies! And it would be next to impossible to give you a list of my favorite movies – and even if I gave you one, it would probably not be the best for relaxation ๐Ÿ™‚ Guess my number one favorite is “The Shining” but I do not think it’s the best movie to watch at times of social distancing. But I do have a couple of favorite movies that I would recommend to you because they are pretty “relaxing”. You know, the kind of movies that you can really watch before going to sleep:

Coloring books

I have always loved drawing and you really do not have to be an artist to enjoy doing it. Coloring books are just perfect for spending time while social distancing.

Call your loved ones

Social distancing does not need to mean complete isolation. If you are suffering from a mental disorder, social media is definitely not a place of comfort (if you are not scared of the current situation, just check your Facebook feed and you will be scared to death!) but you can still call your friends/ family. I guess my phone bill will be record high this month ๐Ÿ™‚

And a lot more

How did you spend your last few days? Share some ideas in the comment section! ๐Ÿ™‚

Further Reading

Keep Calm & Take Care!

It’s been a pretty difficult period for all of us. Some of us are worried our health or our loved ones. Some of us are worried about money or our jobs. Some of us feel isolated because of the lockdown. But there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Keep calm and take care!

Love,

Mark

Lessons From Lockdown – Facing Your Demons

We are slowly getting used to life under lockdown. How long will it last? Nobody knows – at least not in my country. And while social isolation is important, it is very challenging. I guess many of my readers have already experienced how difficult it can be to self-isolate, so I would not want to write about the challenges, but about the things that I have learnt while spending time with my own demons.

Now, who are my demons? Mostly, the different faces of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But in general, I think most of our negative thoughts are just like demons who are trying to ruin our lives.

So, what did I learn while spending time with my demons?

You cannot run away from yourself

Okay, this sounded pretty desperate but it is true. At the beginning of this whole crisis, I thought self-isolation would totally destroy my mental health and while it has been a pretty difficult time, I can tell you that so far I have been doing fine.

Why? Because I am forced to stop running away from myself. Now, those who have been following my blog for some time might have noticed that I am a very outgoing person. Which is not a bad thing, but going out used to be one of my strategies for managing my anxiety and my OCD. If I had a scary thought, I would just go to a party or to a nearby shopping mall to spend some time with my friends. If I obsessed over an intrusive thought, I would just travel somewhere during the weekend and try to forget about it.

But a few weeks ago, the world changed and I am no longer able to run away from my demons. Obviously, I can still call a friend or talk to my family but it is just not the same what it used to be.

So, at the end of the day, I am forced to face my own demons. And I do not want to be a hypocrite: I have to admit that at the beginning it was extremely difficult but the more time you spend with them, the less scary they become. And spending time with your inner monsters will also give you experience and handling them. I am pretty sure that when this crisis is over, many of us will be much better at managing our mental health issues.

Further Reading:

Social Media Can Be Toxic

Are you worried about the current situation? Not yet? Just check your Facebook newsfeed and you will surely be scared to death!

I am addicted to social media. I have always loved using it and I can say that I have “grown up online”. But in difficult times, social media is not a place of comfort. In the last few weeks, I spent more time checking Facebook than ever before and this made me realize how dangerous “social media overdose” can be.

Social media is just like alcohol. The world is much more beautiful after having one ore two glasses of wine, but drinking a few bottles will surely send you to hospital.

And well, it has been pretty difficult for most of us and you would think social media could help you feel less lonely and more connected, but my experience is that it just makes things a lot worse.

In difficult times, people should support each other. And that’s what most of us do. I am pretty much convinced that human beings are generally good. But for some reason, this is not reflected on social media. Instead of becoming a platform that supports people, social media has become a place full of fear-mongering, hate and hypocrisy.

If your friend was in a terrible situation, you would tell them to be careful, to take care of themselves but you would not want to scare them to death, would you? Why? Because you love your friend and because you know that fear never helped anybody – and believe me, I am an expert when it comes to fear, having lived most of my life with OCD.

But then, what happens on social media? First of all, it is next to impossible to find positive news in your newsfeed (the only headlines with the word “positive” are the ones about people testing positive for the virus) and even if there’s one, people will make sure they do not miss leaving a few hundred fear-mongering comments below the post. If there are good news, someone will surely post a comment saying that “the worst is yet to come” , “millions will die” or “the apocalypse on the way”.

And it is not only about fear-mongering but there are a lot of posts full of hate and hypocrisy. People who posted “it is just a flu” kind of comments a few weeks back, are now humiliating others for not being able to “stay the f**ck at home” (do not get me wrong, I do think that most of the people in the streets are there for a good reason, at least in my country people are pretty responsible at the moment.) And let’s not even mention all the racism against Asian people.


So what is my advice? At the moment, social media is a poisonous place and it will not help you feel less lonely. If you need someone, call your friends or send them a message – or just spend some time on WordPress which is far more comforting than Facebook ๐Ÿ™‚

Further Reading

Enjoying Life

The world is a beautiful place and slowing down made me realize how many amazing things we have in our lives. And we do not always value all of the amazing gifts God has given us.

Not sure how it is in your countries, but here we can still go out for a walk. And having an evening walk has become one of my new habits. And while walking alone, I notice a lot of beautiful things that I have never noticed before – because I basically spent most of my life running around.

Beautiful things such as the smell of flowers in the air, stars on the sky and extravagant buildings. Life is full of uncertainty but at the end of the day, there is one thing you can control: the way you are looking at things.

Now, if you have OCD, it is not easy to get rid of your obsessions and compulsions but I think this is a perfect time to learn how we can manage the way we see the world.

Further Reading

Embracing Uncertainty

I can tell you that many of the “what if” questions I was obsessing about came true in the last couple of days. Nothing seems to be certain anymore. Things that I used to take for granted are no longer there and we are in a situation that none of us can control. Now, this is what I call a real life exposure therapy!

And my reaction to this is pretty surprising. Like I do not want to be a hypocrite and tell you that I am not worried because I am. But I am a lot less worried than I expected. When this whole situation started, I really thought that I was going to have a nervous breakdown and I would not be able to control myself. And my obsessions would take over me. But then something else happened:

I have started to accept uncertainty and living in the moment. You never know what tomorrow brings and this is why you are somehow better at enjoying things that you have today. Has my OCD “miraculously” gone away? Of course, it has not – I probably worry more than many other people, but I am proud of myself for not losing control over my obsessions ๐Ÿ™‚

Further Reading:

Final Thoughts

Do not forget about taking care of your mental health in these difficult times. And take care of yourself and your loved ones. Everything will turn out fine! Sending my love to all of you, guys!

Mark

Fight Coronavirus Anxiety: Silence your negative inner voice

Another post about coronavirus. But please do not believe that my blog will turn into a “coronavirus blog”. The reason why I have decided to write about this topic is because I really believe that this has a huge impact on everyone’s mental health. So, in today’s post I will share a couple of techniques that can help you overcome your anxiety.

Life in Europe has changed tremendously since this outbreak began. A lot of things that we used to take for granted are no longer there. Many people have lost their loved ones and most of us are terribly afraid of losing people we love. And death is not the only thing to worry about at the moment but this whole crisis will have a huge impact on our economy, society and on many other aspects of our lives. On the top of everything, self isolation is not an easy thing to do either. Sometimes it is nice to stay at home and relax but being left alone with terrifying thoughts and access to the internet is definitely not the best thing if you’re suffering from anxiety.

So you may want to go out with your friends or to go on a trip, but it’s not recommended. Which means that you have no option to escape from yourself and your negative inner voice. The only option you have is fighting it. You are left alone with your own demons and these demons can be more terrifying than the worst horror movie that you have ever watched. But how could you fight your own demons?

Before I actually share my thoughts there’s one thing that I would like to tell you: I really do not want to downplay the severity of the situation and I really do not want to sound like a guy “with first world problems”. But telling anxious people that “someone has it worse” will not help them – on the contrary, thinking about other people who’re in a much worse situation will make you feel guilty and you will end up being even more anxious. And there are a lot of articles all around the internet that will trigger your anxiety so I really hope that at least this post will help some of you!

Negative Inner Monologue

One of the main reasons why you are anxious is because you have a negative inner monologue with yourself – even if you do not notice it. So let’s look at the different types of terrifying thoughts!

Overestimating Negative Outcomes

Please do not close the page saying that I am irresponsible saying such things! I really do not mean that we should just ignore all the dangers of this virus but what I am saying is that if you have anxiety, you’re very likely to overestimate the negative outcomes.

I can give you my own example: I am really not worried for myself but for my parents and grandparents. My parents are in their 50s and my gran is 80 years old. And if you have anxiety you are not always able to think in a rational way but your thoughts can easily get out of control because:

You constantly imagine the worst scenario

You may not know anyone who is infected and you know that most of the people who get the virus will recover. However, you manage to convince yourself that your situation will surely be the worst one. And this is one of the reasons why googling statistics (something that I love doing by the way) will not help: even if you found one that says that the situation is better than you would imagine, you would still think that you will be the unlucky one!

So how could you stop overestimating negative outcomes?

It is a very difficult thing to do. I think the first step is noticing when you start overestimating. And that’s the point where you just need to stop reading articles on the internet: because if you have an anxiety disorder you’re very likely to overestimate the risks but there are a lot of people out there who underestimate them, so most of the Google results are not “anxiety friendly” – including many posts that were actually written for people who’re suffering from anxiety disorders.

Now, can you just stop thinking about it?

Well, it is not that easy. So I do not think telling people to “stop thinking about it” is a useful advice. But writing about it helps a lot – so start writing a diary. Or watch a movie, call a friend, read a book – you may not be able to stop worrying right away but spending time on something else will help a lot!

Catastrophic Thinking

Overestimating negative outcomes can often lead to a kind of “Catastrophic Thinking”.

So you can easily end up imagining a kind of zombie apocalypse or losing everyone and everything you love. And even if you’re not particularly worried about the disease itself, you will find other things to worry about: such as a huge economic crisis. And the more you think about it, the scarier things you will imagine.

That is why it is important to recognize catastrophic thinking and to be more conscious about it. And that is why it is important not to spend too much time reading the news.

And talking about the news: mainstream media!

I really do not want to give the impression that I think the media is exaggerating but it is important to think about the way it works. The more readers you have, the more money you earn. And let’s be honest: most of the people are not particularly interested at good news. If your article has a shocking title, more people will click on it. You will find much more articles about how many people died than about successful recoveries.

And there’s even an example I can give you: a prestigious news site (I really do not want to name them) published an article saying that summer in Europe will not make the coronavirus outbreak better – and a few hours later, the very same website posted one more article that said that Australia would have a significant increase in coronavirus cases because of cooling temperatures in the southern hemisphere.

While I cannot predict the future, I can tell you that catastrophic thinking is definitely not a good thing – and it’s difficult to stop doing it but try to look at the facts. China has managed to contain the virus and the rest of the world will do too!

Underestimating yourself

All of us come from a long line of heroes! Our ancestors survived wars, terrifying diseases, natural disasters and a lot more.

And you are stronger than you think! By saying this, I do not mean that you shouldn’t take care of yourself but what I am saying is that you will be able to cope with difficult situations. And you are never alone, there will always be someone who can help you.

Are you worried to death? Let’s talk

Yes, I am posting things that could help people overcome their anxiety, but I do not want to be a hypocrite: me too I feel anxious sometimes. That’s the way I am. And I know it’s a difficult period for those who’re suffering from a mental illness. So if you feel that you need to talk to someone, please leave a comment )or send a mail to markwester92@gmail.com) – I am not a certified therapist or a doctor, so I will not be able to give you any “professional advice”, but sometimes it helps a lot to talk about our feelings.

Take care of yourself!

We should not only worry about our mental health but we should do everything to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the virus. Find more info about prevention on CDC:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

Further Reading

OCD & Coronavirus: Confessions Of An Anxious Mind

How worried should you be about the coronavirus?

This is a question that I can not answer – and to be honest, I was spending a lot of time googling but I have not been able to find any answer to it. But there is one thing I know: it has been a very difficult period for those who are suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or from any other anxiety disorder.

And I really do not want to downplay the risk or say that the mainstream media is creating needless panic because I am just a guy from Central Europe, who does not know too much about the current situation. All I want to do is to let people know what it feels like for an OCD sufferer to be exposed to the “coronavirus panic” 24/7 – in an era when shutting down social media and avoiding fake news is almost impossible.

Coronavirus and a day with OCD

Waking up in the morning. Feeling almost like P. Diddy. Spring is here and the sun shines brightly through the window pane. It’s an amazing feeling and you feel that your winter depression will soon be over.
But suddenly, a disturbing thought comes into your mind:

What if you will not be able to enjoy this beautiful spring because of this terrible coronavirus outbreak? You are not afraid of dying but what if one of your loved ones die from it?

So, you just need to check the news. You know that it is not the best thing to start your day with but you just need to know how many people are infected and how many of them have died. You just want to be sure that the risk of getting it is extremely low. But the numbers will scare you. There are more and more people who got the virus and a lot of them died overnight. It was not a good idea to check the statistics and you know that, but it does not mean that you can stop. You keep googling and the scary results will make you more and more anxious.

But soon, you need to leave for work. Did you lock the door? Now, that is something that you usually check a few times before leaving however this checking habit has gone ever since the outbreak began: because what if someone else touched the doorknob and it is contaminated? Let’s not touch it too many times because you can never know, can you? It’s always better to be safe than sorry. So you just lock the door and sanitize your hands and finally leave for work.


You are lucky enough – you do not have to take public transport to go to work. But walking to the office is not always a pleasant thing to do. Especially if you have unlimited mobile date. So you just need to check the news once more: in English and then in the other languages you speak. And the news are pretty scary – you knew they were going to be scary, but that does not mean you can just stop checking them.

And anyways, can you believe the news? What if the outbreak is much more serious than presented? What if they just downplay the risk? What if everyone you love will die? Or, what if the whole outbreak is just a lie? Who knows. You can never know, can you? So let’s keep checking the news – maybe you will get an answer to your questions.

And in the meantime, do no forget to touch your forehead every ten minutes to make sure that you do not have fever. Because what if your body temperature is too high? What if you have the coronavirus and you will infect everyone at he office? All of those innocent people will get sick because you were irresponsible. And if you think it over, you will see hat you had a lot of exposure: you are exremely likely to have the novel coronavirus. And this means that you are an evil person: you are ignoring the facts and you go to work and spend time with your friends while being infected. You are the one who will make them sick and you will be the one to blame for everything! Most of the people around you are not worried – they say that the risk is still pretty low. But what if your situation is exceptional?

You get o the office and your co-workers would want to shake hands with you. You really do not want to be rude so you shake hands with them but then you just have to run to the bathroom and wash your hands three times. Exactly three times because that is your lucky number and this lucky number.

Then you try to work on your new project, but you are just unable to. Not because you are lazy but because you just can not stop thinking about the virus. Again, you are not afraid of dying, but you are afraid of contaminating others and seeing your loved ones die.

You just want to run away. You do not want to talk about the virus or hear about it but you have no choice: it is all over the place. Everyone talks about it. If you open your Facebook, you will see all the terrifying news your friends posted. If you open your mails, you will find notifications about the potential risks. If you go on a coffee break, your co-workers will talk about the virus. At the beginning of the outbreak, you really wanted to avoid any situation that could potentially trigger your OCD, but at this point, it is no longer possible.

Finishing at work. And time to go out with your friends for a drink. You would normally enjoy going out but nowadays, it’s getting more and more difficult. First of all, you want to enjoy every moment of it, because you do not know what the future brings. What if there will be no more nights out?

They said social isolation would be a good practice. So you do not know what to do. You feel guilty to go out with your friends because you may be responsible for accelerating the spread of the virus but on the other hand you really do not want to be alone with your disturbing thoughts.

But then, going out will not solve your issues anyway. Because you have to check the news at least once in ten minutes. And you have to wash your hands every time you touch something. Which means once a minute. You try to control yourself. You try not to speak about the virus and try not to run to the bathroom to wash your hands. But you just give up.

And then, there’s one of your friends who always make fun of everything. Which is pretty okay in most of the situations but this time he starts coughing and says that he surely has the new coronavirus. You almost forgot about the whole thing but then he obviously needed to remind you!

You do not want to go home anymore because you’re afraid of infecting your loved ones, but you have to. But before going home, you just have to call your best friend to talk about the coronavirus while walking around your block. Seeking reassurance? Yes, maybe but both of you are terribly scared of it. At least you have someone who looks at the newest statistics together with you.

After looking at the coronavirus topic from every single point of view, you just feel more anxious. Because you realize that you do not know anything. That you do not know what is the truth. Overreacting media? Conspiracy? Real risk? The next Black Death? Is there anyone who knows? Google will not be able to give you an answer. You just go home and want to sleep but you can not.

And even if you fall asleep, will it solve your problems? Tomorrow will be a new day full of fears. Full of terrifying news and panic. And you just feel guilty – guilty for worrying about your OCD while there are a lot of people dying. And you feel uncertain because you do not know what is going on. Only one thing is certain: tomorrow will be another day full of uncertainty.


So the only thing we can do is to embrace uncertainty and to take all necessary precautions. May God protect us.

Final thoughts

Again, I do not want to downplay the risks and I know that this outbreak is very serious. And while it’s important to be cautious, there are a lot of people on the internet who enjoy creating needless panic, so I posted this article to let the world know what it feels like for an OCD sufferers to go through all this uncertainty and panic surrounding the novel coronavirus. So all I can say is: think before you share!

Further Reading

Your Story

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours! So please share your experiences in the comment section!

Blessings,

Mark

Obsessed With Your Own Body: The Dark Reality Of Body-Focused OCD

What if I stop breathing?

This is a pretty weird question to ask, is it not? First of all, why would you want to stop breathing? And secondly, would it actually be possible to intentionally stop breathing?

Well, at this point, you may say that these were absolutely crazy things to think about. However, if you are suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, such thoughts can easily turn your life into a living nightmare. And what does that nightmare feel like? That’s what I am trying to answer in today’s post about Body-Focused OCD.

What is Body-Focused OCD?

Body-Focused (or Somatic) OCD is a subest of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that causes intrusive thoughts which are focused on non-conscious body processes and functions, like breathing, blinking or physical sensations.

Common Obsessions & Compulsions

Now what does it actually feel like to have Body-Focused OCD? Let’s take a look at a couple of things that people with this subset with OCD may be worried about!

Breathing

Most people do not pay much attention to their breathing – it is just an automatic process that they do not really worry about, but for those who are suffering from this form of OCD, it is an entirely different story.
OCD is a very creative mental disorder and it can give you a huge variety of breathing-related intrusive thoughts. Such as:

What if you stop breathing? Not because you’re planning to die but what if you just forget to breathe? Or what if you’re breathing at the wrong rate and this will damage your lungs? And finally, what if you will never be able to stop thinking about your breathing and you’ll need to live your whole life obsessing about it?

Mouth/Tongue during speech

What if my tongue does not move properly? What if I am not able to pronounce the sounds the way I should? And again, what if I will never be able to stop thinking about my mouth/tongue?

Now, I would not disagree with you if you told me that these questions sounded pretty irrational. But OCD is not a rational disorder. When I was a kid, I did not use to be able to pronounce the sound “R” – and it took me a long time to learn how to do it. So I guess this is why I was obsessed about the “R” sound in my late teens: I was terribly afraid of “forgetting” how to pronounce it and I really wanted to make sure I would never forget it – and these thoughts lead to a very unusual obsession: my OCD forced me to spend hours a day on making the “R” sound.

Blinking

For most of us, blinking is something totally unconscious. But that’s not always the case for people with OCD, as blinking is another thing they can become obsessed about. And this obsession would include the fear of blinking too much or the fear of forgetting to blink and these thoughts can easily force OCD sufferers into time-consuming obsessions such as counting how many times they blinked.

Source: Visioneyeinstitute.com.au

Visual Distractions

Have you ever seen the floaters? The little harmless spots in your vision that are most visible when staring at the sky. Now, having floaters in your eyes is absolutely normal but if you are suffering from Body-Focused OCD, noticing them for the first time in your life can easily mean the start of a new obsession:
What I will never get rid of these floaters? And what if I will never be able to enjoy my life because of them?

Swallowing

Swallowing is another thing that most people do not pay much attention to. However, there are OCD sufferers who are obsessed with it: they spend exaggerated amount of time focusing on their swallowing. Why? I have not had this obsession myself but my friends who had it told me that he had started having this obsession because of the fear of choking.

Heartbeat/ Pulse

What if your heart stops beating? Or what if it is beating at the wrong rate?
These are two of the many intrusive thoughts that people with somatic OCD can have. And as it’s very difficult to control your heartbeat (I am not a doctor, so I am not sure whether it’s even possible), this obsession would normally force you to check your heart rate/ pulse multiple times a day, without no rational reason.

Body Temperature

I have not found too much information about this particular one on the internet, so I may be the only one who has it, but I am afraid of having fever – especially during the flu season, and let’s not even mention the novel coronavirus – and this fear forces me to take my temperature multiple times a day – again, without any rational reason: I do not take my temperature because I feel bad or feverish, I take it because I just feel that I have to.

A few other obsessions

I have read a very interesting article about Body-Focused Obsessions so I think it would be a shame if I did not share some of the things it had mentioned with you:

  • What If I can never sleep again?
  • What if toxic levels of carbon dioxide are accumulating in my lungs because Iโ€™m not exhaling enough CO2?
  • I wouldnโ€™t be paying attention to this if there wasnโ€™t something to worry about.
  • If other people find out Iโ€™m thinking about this, theyโ€™ll think Iโ€™m crazy.
    Source: Stephen J. Seay

How to get rid of your obsessions?

Having Body-Focused OCD can be very challenging because you can not just run away from your obsessions: simply because you can not get out of your own body. (And let’s be honest, avoiding the situations that you’re afraid of is not a good idea anyway).

Consult a therapist

I think this is the number one piece of advice I can give to you. Not too creative, because this is what you’ll find on most of the OCD-related websites, but yes, seeking professional help is definitely the first step to take!

Do not try to stop thinking about it!

Okay, I know this may sound crazy but OCD is like a vicious cycle. The harder you try to get rid of an unpleasant thought, the more you actually think about it. So if an intrusive thought comes into your mind, just accept it. I do not want to be a hypocrite and I know this may be very difficult at the beginning, but believe me, if you learn to accept your thoughts, it will get much better!

Learn more about OCD

You must know your enemy to defeat him! The more you know about OCD, the better chances you have to fight it. Especially because it’s important to make a difference between “your real thoughts” and “the lies OCD is telling you”.

Further reading

It would be next to impossible to give you every useful piece of information that comes into my mind in one single post, so please find a list of useful articles from different sources.

Escaping Reality: My 10 Favorite Books

Life is not only about OCD. This is one of the things that one has to learn to overcome this terrifying mental disorder. I have been suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for over a decade and this global panic over the novel coronavirus has made my everyday life significantly more difficult. And do not get me wrong, I’m not scared to death and I do not spend my days googling symptoms and reading the news, however let’s be honest: the mainstream media is not necessarily OCD friendly.

At the moment I really do not want to think too much about my OCD and that’s why I have decided to talk about something totally different in today’s post: my favorite books.

Broken April – Ismail Kadare

Country: Albania

Gjorgj’s brother is murdered by a neighbor and he has no choice: the code of Kanun requires him to kill his brother’s murderer but as a result of this killing, his own death is sealed. He is to be killed by a member of the opposing family but according to the law of the Albanian highlands, he is entitled to thirty days’ grace (besa) to prepare for his death. He could easily run away, but does he want to? Could he find a way out of the circle of vendetta or is the centuries-old code of blood feuds something that he is just unable to break?

Why do I love this book?

Honestly, this is pretty hard to explain without giving you a spoiler. But one of the things that I love about this novel is that it perfectly describes how hard it is for an individual to break the rules of their society. And another reason why this book is one of my favorites is because I have always been fascinated by Albanian language and culture – and I was actually studying it at university!

What is Kanun?

Revulsion – Lรกszlรณ Nรฉmeth

Country: Hungary

Would you marry someone that you are not in love with? Well, if you lived in the Hungarian countryside at the beginning of the 20th century, you would not really have a choice as arranged marriages were pretty common back then. This novel is about Nelli, an introvert woman who is forced to marry a man that she does not love. And she tries everything to make her marriage as endurable as possible, but her indifference towards her husband will soon turn into another feeling: disgust (and that would be the actual translation of the Hungarian title). And because of this terrible feeling of disgust, she will soon start looking for a way out from her failed marriage. But how could she get away?

Why do I love this book?

As many of my readers may know, I am from Hungary. Which means that I have obviously read a lot of Hungarian novels. And I can say that Revulsion has been my favorite ever since I read it. I do not have too many things in common with the novel’s heroine, Nelli, however, I can totally relate to her thanks to the way this amazing book describes her emotions. In our modern society, you’re not forced to live with someone that you do not love. But just imagine what it would feel like to share your whole life with a person you’re not in love with. Don’t you think your indifference would turn into disgust? And how far would you go to escape from this terrible situation?

The old and the new parvenus – Nicolae Filimon

Country: Romania

The story is set in Bucharest at the beginning of the 19th century. Wallachia, a province of the declining Ottoman Empire (now part of Romania) is ruled by phanariots – a ruling class that consists of prominent families from Istanbul – who throw all their money for lavish and expensive parties, while the rest of the country lives in unthinkable poverty. One day, Dinu Paturica – a wannabe phanariote – knocks on the door of a rich lord. And he has a hidden agenda: he wants to become a lord himself. But what does it take to achieve his dreams?

Why do I love this book?

One of the reasons why this novel has become one of my favorites is definitely its oriental atmosphere and the way it depicts the 19th century Bucharest and the life of its ruling class. And another reason why I just love it is that I come from a phanariote background. But do not think of anything fancy: my family’s far from being rich – probably because our ancestors were spending all their wealth on those lavish parties.

Who were the phanariots?

Sentimental Education – Gustave Flaubert

Country: France

A beautiful story about love at first sight. This novel describes the life of a young man, Frederic Moreau who falls in love with Mme Arnoux – a beautiful woman several years older than himself. He even befriends her husband, an influential businessman, and as their paths cross and re-cross over the years, Mme Arnoux remains the constant, unattainable love of Frederic’s life.

Why do I love this book?

I have always been a hopeless romantic person so it is not a surprise that this novel about platonic love has become one of my favorites.

Crooked House – Agatha Christie

Country: UK

The billionaire Aristide Leonides dies. He was murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection. But who was the murderer? And why was the rich man killed? Hm…And I guess it’s better if I do not give you any other details because it’s pretty difficult to write about an Agatha Christie novel without giving you any spoilers.

Why do I love this book?

I have always been a fan of Agatha Christie. So the list of my favorite books wouldn’t have been complete without mentioning at least one of her novels. Now, why exactly this one? Because it’s dark and shocking – exactly the way I like it. And because I would have never guessed who the murderer was.

Image result for it stephen king
Source: nofilmschool.com

IT – Stephen King

Country: US

Derry, Maine. A small town that is pretty similar to your own. But let’s hope that your town is not haunted by an evil entity that exploits the fears of its victims to disguise itself while hunting its prey. It’s been many years since seven teenagers managed to save their town from this evil monster, who’s so scary that it doesn’t even have a name. And they made a promise: if “IT” ever comes back, they will fight it again! But will all of them keep their promise?

Why do I love this book?

Okay, I said I didn’t want to think about my OCD. But the evil monster from Stephen King’s novel has always reminded me to my OCD. It has a lot of different faces, it’s very creative – and it impersonates your biggest fears. But at the end of the day, it’s just a stupid clown that you want to get rid of.

Crime and punishment – Fyodor Dostoievski

Country: Russia

Raskolnikov, a desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St. Petersburg and commits a random murder without any remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, who stands above the law. Someone who acts for a higher purpose that’s beyond conventional law. But can he get away with murder without any kind of punishment?

Why do I love this book?

Do I really have to give you a reason why this book is on my list? Crime and punishment is a classic, a pure masterpiece that talks about the darkest feelings of a deranged mind. And reading this amazing book will really make you think about many of the most interesting questions of life. How do you know what is right and what is wrong? Can you actually commit a crime without feeling any guilt or will your own mind punish you for the horrible things that you have done?

Eye in the Sky – Philip K. Dick

Country: US

Did you ever want to see the world through the eyes of someone else? Well, this exactly what happened to eight people who were forced into several different alternate universes following an accident. And it can be much scarier than you would imagine. During the course of this novel, a few of these eight people impose their reality on the others, creating a series of bizarre worlds that they need to escape. Just imagine what would it feel like to wake up in the morning in a brand new world where if you want to get something, all you will have to do is to pray for it? Or in a world where everything that you do not like will simply cease to exist!

Why do I love this book?

We all know that everyone sees the world differently. But how differently? I have always been wondering what it would feel like to get stuck in someone else’s mind. And Philip K Dick’s novel gives a perfect depiction

An American Tragedy – Theodore Dreiser

Country: US

Based on an actual crime case, An American Tragedy tells the story of the corruption and destruction of Clyde Griffiths, a man who forfeits his life in desperate pursuit of success. The novel also represents a massive portrayal of a capitalist society whose values shape Clyde’s ambitions and seal his fate.

Why do I love this book?

I guess this may sound pretty shocking to some of you, but I do think that there are a lot of criminals who are not evil: they became the way they are because of our society. And I really do not want to say that an individual is not responsible for their actions and we can blame everything on the society, however, I do think that in a lot of cases, the circumstances are responsible for turning good people into monsters. And the reason why I think Dreiser’s novel is a masterpiece is that it tells the whole story from Clyde’s point of view and

Beware of pity – Stefan Zweig

Country: Austria

Anton Hofmiller, an officer who is stationed in the Hungarian countryside – in the middle of actual nowhere – is invited to a party at the castle of a rich landowner. He asks his host’s daughter for a dance, only to discover that the girl is actually crippled. What follows is an attempt to set everything right again. Anton becomes a daily guest at the castle, befriending the moody, inexperienced girl who misunderstands his acts of pity as an expression of love. Thus the whole story takes a fatal turn.

Why do I love this book?

I will tell you a secret: Beware of pity is my favorite book. And one of the main reasons why I have fallen in love with it is that Stefan Zweig’s heroes are far from being perfect: they are just human beings with their own mistakes. Anton Hofmiller, the main character has a lot of conflicting emotions: he’s haunted by guilt, uncertainty and pity. And while I really do not agree with many of the things he did, Zweig’s ingenious writing allowed me to see the world through his eyes and understand the reasons behind his controversial actions.

Keep calm and read books

I was browsing my blog statistics and I noticed that most of the people who visited my blog in the last couple of days had been looking for articles about “coronavirus and ocd” or “coronavirus and anxiety”. So I guess it’s been a pretty difficult period for people who suffer from mental illnesses (especially anxiety disorders). And reading about coronavirus will definitely not be the solution for our problems – I’ll be honest with you, I’m full uncertainty and I really do not know what to believe . But there’s one thing that I know for sure: reading novels is something that has always helped me a lot. A good novel really helps you escape from the prison of your mind and it allows you to see the world through other people’s eyes. So, keep calm and read books!

What are your favorite novels?

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing about myself: reading your comments. So please share the titles of your favorite books in the comment section!

Blessings,

Mark