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Tackling OCD bit by bit

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

The problem that is obsessive compulsive disorder is close to home for me, but not directly. I refer to a close relative. Consequently, I’ve watched a long-term and severe problem emerge progressively, even insidiously.

It’s very common to be distracted, with almost anything on our minds from the trivial to the critical. Given that is so, if we ever ask ourselves whether moments ago, after we had just carried out a basic, daily, and automatic action, such as turning a key to lock the door we’d just closed, we may not remember doing so. But giving-in to that doubt can feed OCD.

There are some occupations that have perfectionist characteristics. Take these three examples: those who code navigation systems in cruise missiles, surgeons who carry out life or death operations, or else planners and civil engineering executors, of the more significant and highly expensive new buildings. And of course, there are countless other roles that need to be “just so”. But such a mode at work might spill in to domestic, recreational, and other everyday situations. I once had a sports car with no wing mirrors. When I changed it for a regular hatchback car with wing mirrors as standard, it took a significant amount of time for me to trust them. They were 100% unambiguous reflective surfaces, but when pulling out from a parking position, or changing lanes on the motorway, I effectively needed second and third opinions.

I think OCD will have a root cause that relates neither to a simplistic personality trait of obsessiveness, or one of compulsiveness. Whatever the root, and if it is indulged, genetic or otherwise it can worsen. I believe psychiatry recognises more than one variant of OCD. In terms of my initial allusion, there’s a type that stems from a deep fear of hurting people. A sufferer may drive their car passed a cyclist on their way home, then be plagued with worries that they might have knocked that person off their bike. To quell their anxiety, they go back and check the overtaking spot, at the same time, feeding a vicious circle and walking deeper into the quagmire of the illness.

Nipping this in the bud is a great defence, even if it is genetic. My blog post, "The witness", discussed how useful it might be to watch ourselves from outside. OCD, or other generally habit-forming behaviours, might be good additional subjects for scrutinisation.

Here's one of my pointless behaviours. It’s not pathological, but it’s unwanted. When I turn a knob on a modern digital radio; typically, the volume control, then rather than letting my physical senses, and those of others, be the single dictate in the action, I find it’s impossible not to let the final arbiter be the displayed numeric level. Typically, it must end in a ‘5’ or a ‘0’. It’s not unlike having an irrational avoidance of stepping on the gaps between paving stones!

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