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.
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!
Yes, they do. The world is full of demons and they do not always look like the evil mythical creatures you see in Hollywood movies. Real demons are much scarier, because you can not just run away from them: they’re living in the darkest underworld of your own mind. In today’s post, I’ll write about the different faces of my personal demons:Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
If you’re suffering from OCD, GAD or Panic Disorder, it’s very likely that you have already met your demon: a cruel monster who has millions of faces and who whispers terrifying things into your ears. And this demon has a much less dramatic name: Negative Self Talk.
It’s a perfectly natural and healthy thing to have an inner dialogue with yourself: and let’s be honest, self talk can not always be positive.
But if your inner voice is often (or always) negative, it will make your life a living hell. I’ve been suffering from OCD for a long time and one of the biggest challenges that I always face is fighting my negative inner voice.
What do you see when you’re in the dark and the demons come?
4 faces of our Personal Demons
Your inner demon has four different faces. Or maybe even more? Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section! 🙂
One of the faces of your inner demon is the critic – and this monster loves telling you things like: – you are a loser! – you’re not good enough for your partner! – and you’re worth nothing!
I guess the majority of people have similar thoughts from time to time, but if you’re suffering from nay kind of anxiety disorder, it’s much more likely that your negative self talk will get out of control. I’ve been single for a very long time and one of the reasons why I’ve not been able to find the love of my life is definitely “the critic”: how can you even go on a date if your inner demon keeps telling you that you’re nothing more than a loser and that nobody would ever fall in love with you?
How to fight the critic? I will be honest with you: winning the war against the critic is not an easy thing to do. And it definitely takes a lot of time. One of my biggest mistakes of my OCD journey was that I used to believe I could cure my OCD overnight. Fighting your demons can take a long time, but believe me: it’s worth it!
I think the first step is to learn how to recognize the critic (I’ve already given a few examples above) and then, you can fight this demon by replacing your negative thoughts by positive ones. One of the things that actually works for me is asking the “so what?“question. So if the critic tells me that I’m a loser, I’ll just ask myself: So what? So what If I am a loser? I can be a happy loser, can I not? And also, when I was a kid I used to think I was a prince, have these thoughts turned me into a prince? Unfortunately an answer is no. So if my critic tells me I’m a loser, It will not mean that I am one!
The “Anxious” demon
The Critic is an evil and cruel monster: it wants you to feel that you’re worth nothing. Now, the anxious demon is a little bit different from that: it’s not necessarily evil, it’s just annoying and it can turn your life into a living hell by asking you things like: – what if I get a heart attack? – what if I accidentally harm someone? – what if I can never sleep again? – what if people notice that I have a panic attack? They’ll think I’m totally crazy!
The anxious demon does not want to hurt your feelings. It just can not stop worrying over any single event in your life. This demon is as dangerous as the critic, and in my case, this is the one that is the most difficult to fight. For me, it’s always been easier to tell myself that I’m not a loser than convincing myself that the disaster I’m so scared of will not happen!
What can you do to get rid of the “anxious” demon? I think the first step is learning how to make a difference between your rational and irrational thoughts. If you have way too many “what if” questions that’s very likely that your fears are not the most rational ones. Another thing that worked for me is trying to agree with my thoughts: okay, I know it sounds pretty crazy but believe me, your anxious demon will always be able to come up with a new “what if” question and it’ll be a never ending story.
I’m giving up! I can’t take this anymore! I’ll never be able to overcome my fears and I’ll never be able to change my life for the better. The Critic has already told me that I am worth nothing and I think it was right.
Sounds familiar? Guess many of us have similar thoughts, the problem is when these kind of thoughts take over your life.
I used to think I wasn’t strong enough to overcome my OCD but learning more about the behavior of the Victim demon helped me a lot.
What helped me: Everyone’s different. Some people feel much better after reading inspirational quotes, others will find it helpful to think about all the amazing things they have achieved in their life. As for me, what truly helped me was being angry at my “victim” demon: so it tells me I’ll never get better, let me show this monster that I will!
I have to admit that I’ve always been a perfectionist. And this is one of the reasons why it’s been pretty challenging for me to recognize the little perfectionist demon that sits on my shoulder.
The critic wants to hurt your feelings and it wants you to believe that you’re pathetic. But then, apparently your perfectionist inner voice does not want to be mean to you. It just wants to remind you that you and your life must be a hundred percent perfect. You should do whatever it takes to look like a cover girl, you should be the most professional person on the planet and obviously you should achieve all of this on your own.
Being perfectionist is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can definitely make your anxiety worse. I’m sure you have already heard this a few times but: nobody is perfect and we should accept ourselves the way we are!
I do not want to lie to you: I have not been able to get rid of my “perfectionist demon” but one thing that helps me a lot is telling myself that there are a lot of people who love me: even though, I’m far from being perfect! 🙂
Fight your demons!
Negative Self Talk is a pretty complex topic and you can find a huge numbers of amazing articles about it on the internet – I’ll soon publish a post with the list of articles I’ve found particularly useful. So even though, I haven’t been able to include every single piece of information about negative inner voice, I really hope this post will help some of you 🙂
And as you know there’s one thing that I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours. So please, share your story in the comment section!
Have you ever been afraid of accidentally putting someone in danger?
Well, worrying about others is absolutely normal. But people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder take these worries to a new level.
Lately, I’ve been spending some time on Reddit and reading other people’s stories about “Responsibility OCD” reminded me to an obsession that used to give me a lot of sleepless nights. This is what I’ll write about in today’s post. And why do I think that having OCD is like being in the prison of your own mind? Read my story, and you’ll understand!
OCD, the bottle of champagne and Reese’s
The obsession that I’m going to talk about started on a beautiful Friday night. I’ve always been a very social and out-going person, so my Friday nights are usually about going out with friends and having a couple of drinks. So on the night when my obsession started, my friends and me went to my city’s “party district” – it’s a place full of so-called “ruin bars” (bars that are built in the ruins of abandoned buildings in the old Jewish Quarter). We wanted to make sure that we’d have enough drinks so we decided to buy a huge bottle of champagne at a supermarket and we were drinking it while walking to our final destination.
Now, buying a bottle of champagne is not something unusual – but getting that particular bottle of champagne was a decision that I’d regret for a long long time.
The first mistake we did made was overestimating the distance between the supermarket and the bar where we were going to. Unfortunately, we had not had enough time to finish off a whole bottle of champagne and as it was very cold outside we really did not want to stand at the corner and drink. So we decided to leave our half full bottle of champagne on a bench. Here, I’d like to ask everyone not to judge me for doing that: the nightlife in my city often gets very crazy which means that there’s always someone who’ll want to finish off a bottle of drink they find on a random bench. So at the end of the day, we just wanted to be nice.
But things do not always work out the way you thought they would. Especially if you have OCD. The beginning of the night was pretty nice: chatting, drinking and having fun – exactly what you’d want your Friday night to look like. However, OCD is a kind of monster that one can never escape from.
I normally imagine my OCD as a kind of ugly monster who whispers irrational things (intrusive thoughts) into my ears and that’s exactly what that terrible beast did on that night. It wanted to remind me of the bottle of champagne we’d left on the bench.
Wait a sec….what does it have to do with OCD? At the first glance, nothing at all: but believe me, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is very creative and it’s capable of creating new, shocking obsessions out of insignificant things. And I ate Reese’s (love them) right before drinking from that bottle of champagne.
Okay, Mark went nuts. At this point, I guess many of my readers are like: now, what is this weirdo guy talking about? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder….a bottle of champagne left on a bench and Reese’s?
But let me tell you what my inner OCD voice was telling me: so you ate Reese’s – which are full of peanut butter – and then, you were drinking from that bottle of champagne and finally you decided to leave it on a bench so that someone would take it and finish it off.
But what if the person who finds it is allergic to peanuts?
What if that poor person is allergic to peanuts?
And you will be the one to blame for that! If someone dies, that will be your fault! Totally your fault!
So what do you think I did? Obviously, I ran out of the bar to check if the bottle of champagne was still on the bench. And of course it was not. Are you kidding? Friday night in the party district? Guess it disappeared a few seconds after we left.
And the disappearance of this bottle of champagne meant the start of a new obsession. Someone having an anaphylactic shock because of me was not the only thing I was afraid of, but my OCD came up with an endless list of disturbing possibilities:
Let’s say, the person who finds it is not allergic to peanuts. (I checked a few statistics to see how many people have peanut allergy and I tried to convince myself that it’s extremely unlikely that the person who picked up our drink was suffering from peanut allergy)
But another what if question soon appeared:
What if someone put laxatives into the bottle? (You know, there’s always that person who thinks such things are funny.) And then, the person who took the bottle of champagne could be allergic to laxatives! Or both to laxatives and to peanuts!
Or even worse: what if someone put poison into it? It’s EXTREMELY unlikely but it can happen, can it not? And if it happens, I will not only be responsible for someone’s death but I will be in a big trouble.
A storm of “what if” questions, doubt, guilt, fear of uncertainty.
By the end of the night, I checked all allergy statistics available on the internet, all Budapest news and I guess my friends would have preferred running away from me because I’d ask them at least 10 times an hour what they thought about this whole situation: you know, the typical reassurance seeking – guess most of OCD sufferers are way too familiar with it.
And this obsession went on for a couple of weeks. Feeling of guilt, constant doubt, thousands of Google searches and hundreds of phone calls with friends.
You may not be able to stop having intrusive thoughts but the harder you fight against having them, the more likely they come back.
OCD has a lot of different faces and compulsions are not always easy to recognize.
Try not to rely on others: it’s very tempting to seek reassurance from your loved ones but it’s something that you can not do 24/7. It’s very difficult to stop doing it but if you get used to it, it’ll be even more difficult for you to cope with your anxiety when they’re not around.
Never ever leave a bottle of champagne on a bench: okay, avoiding certain situations will not help your OCD, but at the end of the day, leaving a half full bottle of alcoholic drink on a bench is not an okay thing to do.
Share your story!
As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours! 🙂
Please share your OCD stories in the comment section!
Is OCD a cleaning disorder? Is everyone a little bit OCD?
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and in this post, I’ll try to answer some of the most common questions and bust 5 myths about OCD.
OCD is about cleaning
When I told one of my friends I had OCD, he’d reply to me: I can totally relate, me too I am pretty much addicted to cleaning. And let’s be honest: my friend was not the only one who thought OCD was a kind of cleaning addiction.
But OCD is not just about hand washing, cleaning and being neat. It’s much more complicated than that and while there are a lot of OCD sufferers who spend a crazy amount of time on keeping things neat and organized, people with OCD can have obsessions related to a much wider variety of things including:
Now, speaking about myself, I can tell you that I’ve never had any cleaning obsessions even though I was diagnosed with OCD a decade ago. My flat is definitely not too clean and it’s definitely one of the most disorganized ones I have ever seen. So when you see me sharing stories about contamination OCD or cleaning obsessions, those are usually the stories of my friends. (Obviously, with their permission!)
Oh, and yes: friends. Another reason why OCD is far from being a simple cleaning addiction is that people with OCD do not actually enjoy cleaning. They do it because they just have to do it – one of my friends is suffering from contamination OCD and he just has to clean his kitchen couple times a day, because he’s afraid that if he does not do that, something terrible will happen.
All the stereotypes made me wonder whether contamination OCD is more common than the other types, so I spent some time googling it and I’ve found some nice statistics:
Now according to this, obsessions regarding dirt and infections are far more common than the other ones. One thing that I am wondering about:
Is it really more common or is it just more well-known, so people feel more comfortable talking about it? Is it easier to talk about yourfear of contamination than telling others that you’re afraid ofpushing someone off a building?
To be honest, I do not have an answer to this question. Please share your thoughts in the comment section! Looking forward to reading your opinion!
Everyone’s a little OCD
1 in 40 people suffer from OCD. That’s a lot, but it’sdefinitely not “everyone”. A lot of people have intrusive thoughts or even obsessions but that does not necessarily mean that they have OCD. As I have mentioned above, OCD is so much more than a cleaning addiction or the love of symmetry: it’s a terrifying mental disorder that can easily turn your life into a living hell.
Now, you can not be a “little OCD” : you either have it or you don’t but Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has different levels of severity – called the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale. https://www.ocdtypes.com/ybocs_ocd_scale.php
OCD is a rare condition
One common misconception is that everyone is a little OCD – and another one is exactly the opposite: OCD is a rare condition. Now, if 1 in 40 people has it, then we can say it’s pretty common.
You can see when someone has OCD
If you just look at a person, you won’t be able to tell whether they have OCD. It’s not always obvious – or I can even say, it’s never obvious. Simply because you do not know what’s going on in the other person’s mind. It can be very difficult to differentiate an addiction from a compulsion. I’ve found a pretty nice article that describes the differences between the two: https://www.verywellmind.com/the-difference-between-an-addiction-and-a-compulsion-22240
And secondly, obsessions and rituals are not always visible to others. OCD sufferers often have mental rituals, such as counting or repeating words in their head.
People with OCD do not know that what they are doing is irrational
Olala, how many times I heard that my thoughts and compulsions were totally irrational. And how many times I had to tell people that I knew it was. But to be honest, I really do not mind when people tell me that the things I am doing and the thoughts I am having are irrational: for some reason, it calms me down and it gives me reassurance. However, on the other hand, I do have to tell you that most people with OCD are perfectly aware of the fact that their obsessions and compulsions are not rational. But it doesn’t mean they can stop having them. Sounds pretty paradoxical, doesn’t it? I know, but that’s OCD!
To be continued
As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing about my experiences and sharing my stories with you: reading yours!
Have you ever heard any misconception about OCD that you think is worth sharing? If yes, please leave a comment!
Getting diagnosed with a mental disorder is definitely not a good thing. But learning that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder made my life much easier: it helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After years of suffering, getting diagnosed with OCD gave me hope and it showed me that there’s a way out of the labyrinth of my intrusive thoughts.
How did my OCD start?
In some cases, OCD may start suddenly, but the onset of the symptoms is generally gradual: and to be honest I can not tell you when exactly my OCD started. I guess it’s been with me ever since I was a small child but it got out of control when I was a senior in high school. I was going through a pretty difficult period: I broke up with my partner and together with my relationship, my high school years were also gone. I did not know what to do with my life and I was worried about my future. So, it was a perfect time for my OCD to kick in.
And to make things worse: I was suffering from harm OCD – I was terribly scared of harming someone I love and before getting my OCD diagnosis, I used to think that I was going insane and I was terribly scared that if I told others about the intrusive thoughts that I had, I’d end up at a mental hospital.
It used to be extremely difficult for me to speak about my OCD – because I did not use to know that the condition I had was called OCD. But as I started looking worse and worse every single day and I was running away from my loved ones (I was afraid of staying at home because I was constantly worried about doing something terrible), one day, my Mum asked me what was wrong. That was the first time when I told someone about my feelings.
And telling my Mum about my feelings helped me a lot: it was the first time when I realized that I might not actually be a psychopath but there might be something else in the background. And that is when I decided that I should go to a therapist.
The First Counseling Session
Obviously, my therapist was not able to come up with a complete diagnosis by the end of our first meeting, but she helped me a lot: she told me that even though my thoughts were very disturbing, they were not as dangerous as I imagined them to be and that there were a lot of people out there who were suffering from similar intrusive thoughts and many of them were living a full life. So I can tell you that life looked so much more beautiful after my first ever counseling session and I am still very grateful to my therapist who helped me a lot at the beginning of my OCD journey.
Why is it so hard to diagnose OCD?
I think OCD is a very difficult mental disorder to diagnose: and not because it is worse or more complicated than other conditions people are suffering from, but because there are so many misconceptions about it.
Lately, there’s been an increasing awareness of OCD, however, mainstream media still portrays it as a kind of cleaning obsession or as an obsession over symmetry and order. But it is not only about that: OCD is a very creative mental disorder and it has a lot of different types and faces.
So it’s almost impossible for OCD sufferers to realize that they have OCD: Hercule Poirot has OCD and there’s Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners on TV, but then I am afraid of jumping off a bridge, hitting someone with a car or harming someone I love – that sounds very different, doesn’t it? Note: click here to read more about the different types of OCD.
And this is exactly one of the reasons why I started this blog: I really want to raise OCD awareness. It’s a personal matter for me. I do not want more teenage Marks to go through the terror I was going through.
I think it’s extremely important to tell your family and your close friends about your OCD. I know it can be very difficult, but having someone to help you is an amazing thing and it will help you a lot! I used to be so afraid of telling others about the way I felt, because I thought they’d judge me or they’d think I was a lunatic, but believe me: most of the people I have talked to reacted very positively and they’ve been supporting me ever since the day they learnt about my OCD.
A lot of people feel guilty for suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They feel that they have wasted too much time on their intrusive thoughts – which is probably true – but the feeling of guilt will worsen your OCD. Forget about the past and focus on the future!
Share your OCD stories!
As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my experiences: reading about yours. So please feel free to share your personal OCD stories in the comment section!
I have always thought that the 1920s was one of the coolest decades – and I really hope that the 2020s will be even cooler! I wish all my readers a Happy New Year and an amazing new decade!
And because it’s January 1st, 2020, I really do not want to start this year by writing another post about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – I think that would be way too depressing on the first day of the year. So, instead of that I’ll just talk about how I spent my New Year’s Eve – it’s probably a less exciting topic, but then I do not want to be a hypocrite – I just love sharing my experiences with other people.
Escape from the city
I was born and raised in the heart of Budapest – it’s a city with a population of 2 million people, so to be honest it’s not that huge but believe me: New Year’s Eve in the city center is pretty crazy. It’s something that I would recommend to everyone who has not seen it yet and who loves partying but to me, it is not that exciting anymore – I do not say this because I want to be original or something but after spending 27 years in the city center and having been to hundreds of parties, a huge social gathering is definitely not the thing that I wanted to do this year.
So instead of that my best friend and me decided to “escape from the city” and go to a castle in the hills. Now that sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Sounds like 2 spoiled kiddos who really do not know what to do with themselves, but as our country is full of castles and palaces, it’s pretty easy to find accommodation in one of them. (And staying at a castle hotel in Central Hungary is cheaper than at an average 3 star hotel in Outer London)
And at the end of the day, New Year’s Eve is only once per year. So we should enjoy ourselves, shouldn’t we?
Food & Drink
New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without great food and drinks.
Wait, is it a good idea to drink if you have OCD?
It is probably not the best idea to drink alcohol if you are suffering from OCD – but everyone has to know their own limits. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is cutting down on drinking. But on the other hand, yesterday was New Year’s Eve so I wouldn’t say “no” when the Green Fairy approached me. Obviously, one has to be pretty careful with absinthe as it’s much stronger than it tastes like.
And obviously, alcohol will effect you less if your tummy is full with some venison stew. (Also promised myself I’ll eat less meat in 2020.)
So what did we do apart from going to a castle, eating and drinking?
The answer is: absolutely nothing 🙂 And doing nothing feels great. Just chatting, eating, drinking – and watching stupid videos. Preparing for a busy New Year.
I’d like to thank all of my readers for following my blog and I wish you all an amazing New Year.
And one more thing: you know there’s only one thing I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours. So please tell me what you did on New Year’s Even and what your New Year’s Resolutions are in the comment section.
Are you planning to make any New Year’s Resolutions?
You are not alone: most of us make New Year’s Resolutions, but unfortunately, only a few people can actually achieve their goals. Every single year, we promise ourselves that we would lose weight, eat more healthy, quit smoking but for some reason, we are not always able to keep our resolutions. (According to Google, 80 percent of people fail to keep their New Year’s Resolutions.)
Why is that?
Because our goals are not always SMART enough. A lot of businesses use SMART goal setting to define their objectives – and if it works for them, why would it not work for us?
Setting goals brings a lot of benefits. Whether for life or work, goals can take you much further than you’d ever imagine and defining your objectives is among the first steps you can take in order to fight Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!
There are a lot of articles on the internet about how to write SMART goals, but in this post, I’ll talk about goal setting from an OCD point of view.
What is a SMART goal and how can it help your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
SMART is an acronym that stands for: – Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Relevant – Timely
How can we set a SMART goal to achieve our New Year’s Resolution?
Making your goals specific is the first step. Having a clear target is very important and this target can be something very simple (now, simple does not mean that it’s necessarily easy). For example, if you avoid going over bridges, you can set a goal for yourself that next year, you will cross a bridge at least once a week. Or in my case, one thing that I want to work on is my uncontrollable door checking habit: every morning, I have to check at least 15 times that I have really locked the door. It may sound funny to people who do not suffer from OCD, but believe me, it is not a fun thing: especially when I am in a rush.
Now, how can you make your goals as specific as possible? By making them measurable! And why is it important to make them measurable? Because what can not be measured, can not be managed. And also, because it’s an amazing feeling to see your progress and to be able to compare yourself to who you were last year. For example, if you’re obsessed with cleaning, a perfect goal that you can define for next year would be doing less cleaning. However, what do we exactly mean by “less cleaning”? This is where the personal factor comes into the picture. If you clean your kitchen 3 times a day, your new year’s resolution could be to clean it only once a day. Or once a week: but you’ll always need to make sure that your goal is realistic!
This has always been the most difficult part for me. I’ve always been a perfectionist and to be honest I am not the most patient person that I know. So back in the past, I always used to come up with goals that had simply been impossible to accomplish. Such as: I will overcome OCD in 2 weeks or I will quit smoking in 4 days, and so on. It’s a good thing to push yourself, but you should always know your limits. If you’re not sure whether you’d be able to stop doing a certain compulsion in 4 months, give yourself a year. And if you’re not sure what is or is not realistic, consult your therapist.
This particular step is for making sure that your goal is actually important for you. If you achieve your goal, will it make you feel better? Is it worth the effort? If the answer is no, look for something else. If the answer is yes, go for it! 🙂
How much time do you want to give yourself for achieving your goal? It’s extremely important to give yourself a specific deadline – it will keep you motivated and it will make you more focused towards achieving your goals. And obviously, another thing that you’ll need to consider before setting deadlines for yourself is whether those deadlines are realistic. It would be simply amazing if we could stop doing our OCD rituals by tomorrow end of day, but unfortunately, I do not think this could be possible.
My SMART goals
So what are my New Year’s Resolutions?
To be honest, I do not have too many, because I do not want to promise myself something that I know I would not be able to do.
I have 2 compulsions that seriously interfere in my life: one of them is checking locks and the other one is Googling. I usually need to check 15 times if my door is locked, so by the end of 2020, I would like to break free from that habit: so I will check it only once, after locking the door! As for the Google part, it’s much more difficult for me to come up with a SMART objective, but on an average day, I spend about 2 hours on Google (for seeking reassurance and for calming myself down) – so by the end of 2020, I’d love to reduce that to 30 minutes a day.
Another New Year’s Resolution that I have is cutting down on alcohol. I do not think that I am an alcoholic, but I drink 2-3 times a week (obviously,this may be shocking to many of my readers, but in our country, this is pretty normal). So my New Year’s Resolution is that by the end of 2020, I will cut back on my drinking and I will only drink once a week.
What is your New Year’s Resolution?
As you know there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my thoughts and ideas: reading yours! 🙂 So please share your New Year’s Resolution in the comment section!
I have always imagined Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a big, cruel monster that does not want to stop torturing me. So would anyone like to feed such a beast?
Of course not!
So, in today’s post, I will talk about 5 things that are just like a delicious meal for our OCD monster and that we should stop doing: unless we want to keep our little monster alive, but if you’re reading this post, I do not think that would be your intention.
Negative Internal Monologue
Has your inner voice ever told you that the things that you’re planning would not work out? Or if you are not perfect enough, people won’t love you?
This is exactly what a negative inner monologue would look like, and it has a lot of different types. Your inner voice may be: – very critical: telling you that you’re not good enough – anxious: convincing you that a disaster is about the happen – perfectionist: you have to be perfect, otherwise, people will not love you – victim: you will never be able to get rid of your problems
Now as you can see none of these thoughts sound too reassuring and having them will definitely make your anxiety (and your OCD) much worse.
So what can you do tostop your negative internal monologue?
Challenge your negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones! Now, it takes time to learn how to do it, it’s not something you can do overnight. However, there are a lot of useful techniques that will help you turn your negative self-talk into something much more positive – But this is a topic for another post 🙂
So why is it difficult to stop having our negative monologue? Because of our False Beliefs.
It would be impossible to list all the false beliefs that OCD sufferers might have in one single article. Especially because everyone has different beliefs and opinions – that’s what makes us individuals.
But I think one of the most common ones would be the way we perceive uncertainty: One thing that’s always been extremely difficult for me was accepting uncertainty and understanding that if there’s a possibility that something terrible might happen it does not necessarily mean that it will happen.
How did I combat my false beliefs? It’s been a very long journey. And to be honest with you, I am not sure if it’s something that you can do without a therapist. Simply because there has to be a person in your life who tells you that your beliefs are false – otherwise, you would not be able to decide as one of the main things about OCD is the constant feeling of doubt.: how can you know that it is true or false, what if you think it is true but actually it’s not? Or the other way around. Once you’re able to recognize your false beliefs, it will be much easier: they may still be there in the background, but you’ll be able to control them to a much greater extent.
Have you ever struggled with expressing your feelings? Well, you are not alone. Sometimes it’s difficult to speak about the way we feel. Showing your emotions to others will significantly improve your life: First of all, it just feels good: if I’m angry, I will usually call one of my friends and tell them about the way I feel, and it just helps a lot. And then the other reason why it is important to tell others about your feelings is to fight the feeling of loneliness. A few years back, I used to think that I was the only one who’s suffering from different mental disorders and if I told others about the way I felt, they would think I am absolutely lunatic. But sharing my thoughts and feelings with others made me realize that I am not alone: it’s impossible to find a person who’s absolutely perfect and who does not have any problems – it is sad, however, knowing this will give you more confidence and you will feel less lonely.
It’s likely that stress on it’s own does not cause OCD, however, it will definitely make it worse. The anxiety caused by your stress can get in the way of your OCD treatment: when you’re stressed, you’ll be doing worse at combating your false beliefs or at turning your negative internal monologue into something more positive.
How to deal with stress? There are a lot of useful techniques to manage stress. For the moment, I do not have too many posts on my blog about stress management techniques, but you can find more on this link:https://stressmanagement1.ga/
No purpose in life
Well, having a purpose in life is important for everyone. That is what keeps us alive and that’s why we wake up every morning. If you feel like you have no sense of direction and no purpose in your life that can make you sad, depressed, anxious and at the end of the day, that will worsen your OCD symptoms.
Define your short and long term goals – believe me, it will help you a lot! 🙂 New Year is coming soon, so I will talk more about the different goal setting techniques in my next post – let’s make a few effective New Year Resolutions!
Everything starts with obsessive thoughts. A lot of people have intrusive thoughts, but people who do not suffer from anxiety disorders (or in our case OCD), usually do not really get bothered by them. Now, to an OCD sufferer, an unpleasant idea or a distressing thought can easily be the beginning of a new obsession.
People say I am a very creative person, so I wouldn’t like to give you the list of all the obsessive thoughts I have ever had, but a very nice example that I can give you is a pretty recent one: my fear of melanoma.
How did it start? Simply enough, sometimes I use tanning beds and I obviously knew that it was a risk factor for melanoma. And then one of my friends was telling me off for doing it, so that ‘s all it takes.
Okay, let’s stop here for a sec: you may say that my fear was absolutely rational or that this sounds more like Hypochondria, but please keep reading. This is only the beginning, It will get worse!
Oh by the way,I have found a pretty interesting article about the differences between OCD and Hypochondria, click here to check.
(Note: I am aware of the risks of indoor tanning and I would not like to promote it! This is an unhealthy habit that I used to have and I am not proud of it: I am just being honest. It had nothing to do with my OCD, I was doing it because winters can be very dark and depressing in my country. )
I think this is the worst part. Anxiety is a horrible thing, it can totally ruin your mood. During my worst episodes of obsessive thinking and anxiety, I felt as if I were 2 different persons: the rational Mark who completely understand that he is very unlikely to have melanoma and the other, OCD Mark, who keeps asking the typical “what if?” type of questions. Because at the end of the day, you can never know, can you?
And all the other symptoms of anxiety that (unfortunately) I am pretty sure that some of you may have experienced: feeling on the edge, nervous, restless…and a lot more, but that’s a topic for another article.And this anxiety is the cause behind our next element in the cycle:
I think this is probably the most well-known part of OCD. When I tell people I have OCD, they’ll usually think that I am addicted to cleaning or washing my hands. But there’s so much more to OCD than this – I think the compulsive behavior is rather a symptom than the actual problem. Because at the end of the day, you do not keep cleaning your fridge because you like doing it: you do it because of your anxiety.
Now my obsessive melanoma fear made me do a few crazy stuff (and this is where you can easily see the difference between me and someone having hypochondria):
– I had to complete an online melanoma risk assessment 5 times a day – yes, you’ve read it correctly, 5 times a day! And…the same assessment. I managed to find one that I particularly liked because at the end of the assessment, it would tell me that my melanoma risk was very low. So I was seeking reassurance. – I checked melanoma statistics few times a day – do not ask me why I was doing it. I do not know. It was more like a superstition, like: if you do not do it, something terrible will happen. – And the craziest one was taking at least 20 pictures a day of my moles and comparing them to photos of melanoma moles. Also, sending it to other people to see what they think. Now, you can imagine how happy my friends were because of this….
Why was I doing all these? Now we arrive to the last element of the vicious cycle:
Acting on your compulsions will calm you down for a few minutes or even hours, but believe me: the intrusive thought will come back and the whole cycle will restart.
It is very hard to stop doing your OCD rituals, but as a first step, you need to acknowledge that they do not help. Even if you find the best possible ritual. Sad, but true.
How did I break out from this vicious cycle?
While in TV shows, they often tell you not to try certain things at home. And before sharing my personal solution to my melanoma scare, I would like to emphasize: I did not do the best possible thing and I wouldn’t suggest anyone to follow in my footsteps:
I ran away from it. Okay, not literary but I just got all my moles removed. I was told I wouldn’t need to do that and that they are extremely unlikely to be dangerous but then I really felt that it had been the only way out. After getting them removed, I would still call my dermatologist a few times a day just to make sure the results came back fine. But then my obsession was finally over.
So, why do I think that this was not the solution to the problem?
Because OCD is not about one obsession, OCD sufferers can have more than one obsession (we’re lucky people, are not we?) and your fears can change over the years. The obsessions and compulsions I used to have in my teens were different from the ones I had in my early 20s.
So you should fight your OCD instead of fighting your fears in multiple different ways!
What works on the long term?
Be more conscious of yourself – and of the OCD cycle:
An obsession is just like an illness: the earlier you recognize it, the better chances you have to fight it. This is something that one can totally learn: now, OCD usually gets worse with age (according to most of the psychologists I have talked to), but if you learn how to control it, believe me, it will get better and better. And being able to differentiate an obsessive thought from a rational one is the first step.
Mark’s tip: be aware of “what if” questions. Another characteristic of OCD is the constant feeling of doubt, so even if you’re able to convince yourself that your the intrusive thought you’ve just had, is simply impossible, OCD will always be there for you to whisper the terrible “what if’ question to your ears – and if this question comes into your mind, you should start working ASAP on breaking the cycle before it even starts!
Stop doing your OCD rituals!
This is one of the hardest ones. Especially that apart from the rituals that others can see OCD sufferers doing, there are a lot of invisible, mental rituals. So sometimes it’s even hard to recognize that you’re actually doing one!
What I did was: forcing myself into situations that make it impossible for me to act on my compulsions: such as leaving my phone at home so that I’d not be able to google melanoma symptoms or telling my family and friends not to “assist” my rituals (like for example, if you have harm OCD, do NOT tell your loved ones to hide the knives from you!).
Expose yourself to your deepest fears!
So as you have seen, anxiety is one of the elements of this vicious cycle. But avoiding situations that make you anxious will eventually make your OCD even worse: remember, OCD is an extremely creative disorder, so it will always be able to come up with a new intrusive thought, a new obsession and we can not spend our whole life on the run!
And soon I’ll also share a list of useful websites and blogs about OCD – but that’s still in progress 🙂
Do not hesitate to share your own OCD stories, ideas, thoughts and helpful techniques in the comment section, because as you know there’s one thing I enjoy more than writing my posts: reading yours!
Post Scriptum – An OCD side effect!
OCD is not always bad – it is a terrifying illness and it’s not fun to live with, but sometimes it can help you becoming a better person. Ever since the OCD episode I shared with you in this post, I’ve been working on raising awareness of melanoma and on helping people who’re suffering from it. We are so busy with our problems that we often forget that there are a lot of other people out there who need help (in many cases, even more than we need). So I just do not think it’d be appropriate if I published this post without sharing a link to the Melanoma Research Foundation (Click here).
Do you think Harry Potter books and movies are just perfect for Christmas? Well you are not alone!
I do not only suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but there’s one more condition that I have: I am a hundred percent addicted to Harry Potter. I simply adore the magical atmosphere of JK Rowling’s books and it reminds me to my childhood: I grew up alongside the amazing world of Harry Potter and I was extremely disappointed when I had not received a letter from Hogwarts on my 11th birthday. Actually, I do not think that I will ever forgive that school: they totally forgot about me and that is simply unacceptable. I have always wanted to be a Slytherin. Anyways, I’m 27 years old and life should go on. 🙂 (What is your favorite Hogwarts house and why? Please share in the comment section)
Even though I am totally offended, there is no Christmas without Harry Potter. I do not know why but Harry Potter books and movies always remind me to Christmas. And one of the characters from the Harry Potter books that I find extremely important is the boggart.
Now first of all, what is a boggart?
A boggart is a shapelifter that has no definite form, but takes the shape of the thing that is most feared by the person who encounters it. Sounds pretty much like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, does not it?
Why do I think that the boggart is an iconic character?
Because it reminds me to my OCD. Now you may say that I see OCD everywhere – and I think you would be right if you said that. But the boggart from Harry Potter is something that one can absolutely relate to OCD. It is a monster that always represents your biggest fears.
Ronald Weasley’s boggart was a spider. To Neville Longbottom this monster appeared in the form of Severus Snape and Harry’s boggart took on the form of a dementor,
It is pretty much like OCD: some of us are scared of germs, some of us are having intrusive thoughts about harming our loved ones and some of us are afraid of harming ourselves. But all of us have one thing in common: we are haunted by a boggart called OCD, and this monster is responsible for a lot of things that can easily ruin a person’s life: obsessions, intrusive thoughts and compulsions. (Note: click here to learn more about the different types of OCD)
Riddikulus! – Defense against the Dark Arts!
Riddikulus – this is a spell that could protect you from the boggart. Unfortunately, it does not work against OCD and one of the reasons behind that is that OCD is not ridiculous at all. But one thing we can learn from the Harry Potter series is that we should not be scared of our little boggart, because at the end of the day it’s nothing more than a pathetic monster. Is it difficult to think of it in that way? It certainly is. But by acknowledging that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is just like the boggart, you have better chances to fight against it.
So I can not give you one single spell that helps you fight your boggart, but what I can give you is a list of things that actually worked for me: click here to see them and a piece of advice: learn more about OCD so that you’d be better at recognizing this monster. It has a thousand faces and it is scary, but if Harry could defeat his own boggart, why wouldn’t you be able to get rid of yours?
And finally, please feel free to share your ideas and stories in the comment section. Because as you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my own posts: reading yours.