Imagine that there’s a Homeowner who believes his roof is leaking.
He becomes so preoccupied with this concern (despite a rational lack of evidence for it) that he calls a roofing Repairman.
After the Repairman finishes inspecting every shingle of the roof, he tells the irrational Homeowner:
“I’ve inspected every shingle and there is no leak in your roof”.
The Homeowner finally calms down — thanks to the Repairman’s reassurance.
That night, as the Homeowner lays in bed feeling relieved, a new thought pops into his head:
“Yeah — he looked at the shingles, but he didn’t look under the shingles!”
The Homeowner immediately begins to panic again.
The next day, the Homeowner requests that the Repairman comes back and inspects the underbelly of each single.
The Repairman subsequently returns.
After his inspection, he reports back to the Homeowner:
“Sir, I’ve now looked at the surface of each shingle and the underbelly of each shingle. There is absolutely no leak in your roof!”
The Homeowner takes a deep breath and finally calms down.
That night in bed, just before the Homeowner falls asleep, another thought pops into his renewed consciousness:
“Yeah, he checked the shingles, but he didn’t check the insulation under the shingles!”
The Repairman is summoned back for another inspection, in order to check the insulation underneath the shingles.
The Repairman (who is now growing irritated) reports:
“Sir, I’ve checked the shingles, I’ve checked under the shingles, I’ve checked the insulation — You don’t have a leak!”
The man exhales with a deep breath and finally seems at peace.
That night, while feeling totally serene in his bed:
“Yeah, he checked the shingles and the insulation, but he didn’t check the foundation the roof is built on! — Oh my God!”
In an effort to prove a point, I’ve just demonstrated the insidious treachery of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Although OCD takes many forms and has many different presentations — true, clinical OCD is a demon that constantly instills fear, doubt, worry, and insecurity in the mind of the sufferer.
As a Clinical Psychotherapist specializing in OCD, I can tell you that the “roofing story” is fairly mild, when compared to some of the cases I’ve seen in my office.
One client would leave for work three hours ahead of time, as she would be convinced that she had hit and killed someone every-time she stepped foot in her car.
The woman was so distraught every day after work, that she would immediately call her local Police Station upon coming home and ask if anyone had been found in the streets of her neighborhood.
Another client convinced himself he was Gay (something he had no bias or discriminatory feelings toward in any way) — simply because his Brother came out as Gay and suspicion developed that it was a shared genealogical trait.
He began fearing that he would soon have to leave his wife and his family, leaving them abandoned as he pursued a new life.
The man subsequently starting looking at Gay Pornography to see if he had a reaction to it, which, although he did not, his wife later discovered in his Google searches.
Needless to say, a marital counseling session occurred thereafter, where I had to explain the nature of OCD to the client’s wife.
Another client — a very loving and socially concerned Nun, began worrying that she was possessed by the Devil because she was having blasphemous thoughts about God (a phenomenon known as Scrupulosity).
The Nun reported no supernatural activity of any kind at play in her life — but remained convinced that she was under a demonic influence, to the point of seeking out an Exorcism, of which she was denied.
OCD has an offensive and pervasive objective:
- Convince the person that “something bad has or is going to happen” (ie: the dreaded event).
- Constantly bombard the person with fear and worry relating to the dreaded event.
- Agitate them enough that they start acting out to find a remedy or solution for the dreaded event (ie: “checking” or “researching”).
- Once a remedy or solution is found, start introducing new, paranoid fears related to the dreaded event again.
OCD is a devious liar and a brilliant story-teller whose only goal is to, quite literally, take your life away.
OCD sufferers spend their lives worrying about things that have little to no relevance to their actual day to day reality.
Almost always, even if there is some rational basis for a fearful concern, the OCD sufferer often blows it so incredibly out of proportion, that they begin to worry about that concern from a place of imminent disaster — when such is extraordinarily unlikely to ever occur.
But the only way to treat OCD is to first, understand how it works.
Once we do this, we can finally begin to formulate Cognitive Behavioral realizations and strategies to regain our lives.
Although these strategies could fill the pages of a book within themselves, I will offer ten powerful realizations and strategies, for anyone actively dealing with this diagnosis:
- Remember that you and OCD are two separate entities. You are a person, NOT a diagnosis.
- Learn to differentiate between OCD’s voice and YOUR own voice. Use your voice to challenge OCD’s deceptive rhetoric.
- OCD is a proven liar and storyteller. Remember that the next time it begins telling you a horrifying fable.
- OCD isn’t going away, but you can totally neutralize its presence by not caring about the invalid nonsense that it whispers to you.
- OCD (believe it or not) has ties to the addiction model. We actually become addicted to listening to OCD and its deceitful narratives. Just remember — addictions don’t have to be enjoyable! OCD is seductive and hard to resist!
- Use your OCD instead of letting your OCD use you, by formulating a list of “why everything is OK” instead of “why something bad is going to happen.”
- OCD drags you into a scary world that you aren’t actually a part of. Remember that during your next episode!
- OCD wants to hijack your mind and control your entire operating system. View it as a virus trying to override a computer — and start developing your own “Virus Protection software” by considering medication and searching for the right Mental Health Professional.
- The more you feed OCD by doing what it says, the stronger is grows. Starve your OCD (as hard as that might be) and it will become significantly quieter.
- OCD can contribute to your brilliance. You can easily become a master researcher and/or an intellectual prodigy (overtime) since your mind never stops! Use that brilliance to your advantage!
Although living with OCD can be extremely upsetting, scary, and life-altering, it is by no means a death sentence.
I was diagnosed with it at age 12 — and through studying it, learning about it, and working with clients who have it, I have become a strong and fortified opponent to OCD through using Cognitive Behavioral techniques to treat my symptoms.
Instead of me fearing it, I firmly believe that my OCD now fears me.
As I close out this article, I’ll leave you with the analogy I give to parents whose children are dealing with OCD:
“Explain to your child that the OCD Monster is just like a villain they might encounter in a video game.”
“If a villain attacked you while you were playing a video game, wouldn’t you use your shield, sword, and any other weapon you had to protect yourself and win the game?”
Dealing with OCD is no different.
Hampton Psychotherapy is a Clinical Psychotherapy practice located in New York.