People with OCD Explain What It Really Feels Like.
The following AskReddit users share what it's like to have OCD. From their obsessive thoughts to unusual rituals, it is truly a condition that affects day-to-day life.
Source available at the end.
I have general anxiety. Leaving the house in the morning takes like 20 minutes. I have to check that the doors and windows are locked, heat sources (toasters, etc.) are unplugged, and that my pets are where they need to be at least three times over. If my husband leaves with me, he goes through the process to help me feel less anxious.
If I touch something with my left hand- like a table, I HAVE to touch that exact same spot with my right hand. This extends to when I scratch one of my ears, I have to scratch the other one too (even if it's not itching) and for the same amount of time that I scratched the first one. Things don't bother me that much now, but as a child, whenever I put on a shirt and put my right hand in first, I'd remove it and then wear it again, this time putting my left hand into the sleeve first. For the coping part, I always seemed to distract myself from my weird habits earlier, but it just made things worse. So I sort of accepted it, and it gradually got better.
My OCD manifests itself in lots of different ways. Intrusive thoughts have always been the worst symptom. Among that, things always must be symmetrical, otherwise, I just don't feel okay. I've found myself rearranging shelves whilst shopping a lot of the time. I have to check that the bathroom door is locked at least three times or that the fridge is closed. I also compulsively check things like my work over and over again until I'm sure that it's okay. Food is eaten in color coordination, and I like things in even numbers like the volume on the TV or the volume bar on my iPod has to be dead center.
A big part of improving was controlling my anxiety. Once the intrusive thoughts started, my anxiety would kick in and it would just be a never ending cycle. I've definitely improved in the last six months. Most of my compulsions still remain, but a few have died down. I no longer make sure my sentences end at the same place on my written work. It came down to a lot of self-reassurance. It's still a struggle, but I'm glad to see the improvement that I've made.
Try having OCD when your symptom is a messy room. Not quite hoarding, but without treatment, I could easily see mine heading there. I avoid cleaning, opening mail, listening to voicemails, making important phone calls, responding to email, etc. I feel like if I do any of these things, I'll learn how messed up I truly am and how behind I am on everything (even when I'm not), and that my world will basically implode. But everyone laughs when I say I have OCD because my house isn't spotless (though it's gotten MUCH better since I started therapy).
"Chant" is a good way of putting it. I get fixated on how to say certain things and have to say it over and over again in my head until it's right. If it's just not happening, that's when I verbalize it. If I'm around others, and I say something out loud, I try to say it in a funny voice/way, just to make it more of a random outburst, but that just makes it worse.
I am a compulsive skin picker. It's awful. I will just look at my skin and see all of these flaws and impurities, and then I reach for my tweezers, and then it's 20 mins later, and I am all red and bloody. I fantasize about completely clean empty pure pores.
I hear a lot of the more ritual based OCDers. They feel like something bad will happen if they don't do it. I actually feel good when I successful get stuff out of my skin. Besides feeling like I have dirty skin, it is more just that I can't STOP thinking about it until I do it. I will also pull my hair if I am in public place because it's easier to do discreetly.
I have slight hoarding tendencies and attach emotion significance or personify objects. I bought a cute monster cake, and I felt too bad to eat it last week.
I do defy the stereotype of the tidy OCD sufferer. I am disorganized and really messy.
I have obsessive thinking. It makes it difficult to focus on other things or activities. I can be perceived as distracted, maybe self-absorbed and uninterested. I can't divide my interests. I get burnt out on things because I'll over do it. I've taught myself quite a bit. I've gotten suspended from my job multiple times because of having to check my phone. It's exhausting at times, but I know it could be much worse.
I am in the pure "O" category. I just have unwanted thoughts, no coping compulsions. Before treatment, I could not even look into a mirror. I thought I would surely see something like a demon, even though I am an avowed atheist. I could not go to bed with any knives or scissors out, in case I thought I would wake up and sleepwalk and stab everyone. I could not stand near an edge because, whoa, I could jump. I could not walk through a darkened room for fear of tripping over something horrible, even if I just shut the light out in that room. I could not ride in a car. I was sure that as a passenger I would fling myself out of the door in a panic. Unwanted thoughts like this. OCD is hard to talk about because people don't understand our extreme thoughts. But these are unwanted thoughts. You will never act on them, ever. But your handy dandy brain supplies them to the anxiety center. I suffer from profound panic attacks to the point of having several a day. I take medication (150mg sertraline and 80mg propanol), but they make me so unresponsive. It's the devil and the deep blue sea. Either live in anxiety, and I mean a terrible sense of panic or be so numb that you can't do anything. At this point, I would bargain for a heart, liver, or kidney problem. These people get help, a plan, a specialist, and a recovery period. At least in the UK.
My OCD stems from my anxiety over the safety of my younger brother. I check door locks and things like that, and I have to repeat in my head that he is safe. These mental compulsions are on repeat basically 24/7, which sometimes makes it hard to focus on one thing, like taking a test. I go to therapy and practice exposure therapy. This means that a couple of times a day, I have to tell myself that my brother is dead and not calm myself down with one of my mental rituals, thus desensitizing myself to the anxiety over my brother.
I used to wash my hands until they were raw. I had to wash my hands two times but in a perfect and precise way. I had to rinse them with hot water, scrub everything very well, rinse without touching anything besides the water, and then turn the water off with a towel or something. I mess up often by touching the sink somewhere. When this happens, I'd start the whole process all over again and don't stop until I do it perfectly. I would also go and lock doors multiple times and get up to make sure that they were, for sure, locked. Then, all of the cabinets and inside doors had to be closed at all times. Not closing them made me feel like something bad would happen.
Repeating words until they sound right. Rereading or rewatching entire parts of books/movies/TV shows. Forcing myself to watch things that disgusted and disturbed me. Avoiding the number 13 and knocking on wood in groups of three until my knuckles were bloody.
Obsessions range from family members dying, friends getting into hard drugs, to paranormal creatures, to suddenly waking up convinced I was "turning into" a lesbian.
How do I cope? Therapy, a handy OCD book, meditation, and Paxil. Haven't had bloody knuckles in years.
Even numbers are the biggest thing for me. I constantly have to turn things down to zero and recount to an even number. Grammar is also really important. I'm not organized, but if something goes in a place, IT GOES IN THAT PLACE. That's one of the things that is the worst for me. People rearrange my stuff, and I can't get over it until I fix it. When I shower, I have to wash at least two times. Then, at an even number, if I do more than that. I also keep readjusting things to be at 90-degree angles or aligned with something else. I also keep redoing things that I know are right.
Just recently, my OCD has hit its peak with it being at its worst that it has ever been in years. I typically take five to seven showers daily and wash my hands so often that they are always dry and chapped. Although I don't fit the "neat freak" stereotype, some select things need to be perfectly organized or I will go crazy. I have also broken numerous phones, including my iPhone, due to obsessive cleaning. Living like this is terrible. I have started taking Luvox, and I am looking into therapy.
Counting stairs when going up and down. I used to have to go back to the bottom or whatever and start over if I lost count. I work as a cashier, and I HATE not having my bills facing the same way. I hate not eating brand name foods (if that counts). Touching things a certain amount of times, doing things a certain way, and going places a certain way. I used to have a lot of bad ones, but I've gotten better.
I have a similar case where things need to be 'even', mostly when using a computer (and to a much lesser extent). For example, every once in a while, after using a computer with a mouse for an extended period of time, I have a need/urge to right-click the mouse. Naturally, the majority of mouse clicking is left-clicking, so I need a number of right-clicks to even things out.
As far as "coping" with it goes, it doesn't really ever distract me per say, just those who are watching over my shoulder. It probably also helps that often times when I'm right-clicking, I'm also reading an article or comments so I'm not really paying that much attention to it, and it would only look odd an observer.
Then again, as I mentioned before, it's quite mild. So even not doing it is only a minor annoyance. (And for those of you wondering, it doesn't seem to matter if I'm using a touchpad, only when using a mouse).
I cannot walk around the front of a car, ever. There are certain books in my bookcase that I must make "eye contact" with whenever I walk by. Any drinking receptacle I use must be placed right next to my fridge, no exceptions. Doors must be left at certain angles. I used to have to look at each corner of my bedroom 64 times before I went to bed every night, but that one has died down. There are a bunch of others I can't remember right now, but medication has really helped.
Locking doors. If I lock a door then I test the door handle eight times. I have also had to go home halfway through a bus ride to Uni because I did not do this.
Counting things in even numbers. For some reason, this has manifested to my footsteps, and I will take extra steps to get to an even number. When I read things out loud, it has to be perfect, and I will keep reading until I have done so.
If I scratch my hands or foot, I have to do the same thing to the other one so that they are even and feel the same. Not doing these things make me feel very panicked and unsettled, especially the counting issue.
Tons of things apply to this, but one thing that stands out more than anything else is setting my alarm.
I set my alarm, check the time, check the volume, check the ringtone, and check that it's on. Repeat all of these steps over and over and over again. If I have one distracting thought while doing this, I need to start all over again. My record was taking 36 minutes to set my alarm, and this is only one of the countless thing I have to deal with day-to-day.
OCD is not fun. It's not some fun thing to pretend to have for internet points. It's not about liking things "even" or "clean". It's a terrible compulsion that drives you to do things that are not normal. I hate it with every ounce of my being.
I have a "Y" at the end of my name. If the "Y" doesn't look right on something, let's say a check, then I will rip the check and try again until it's perfect. I even keep my driver's license turned around in my wallet because I've decided that I'm not fully satisfied with the way that I wrote my name on it.
I used to get stuck in endless solitaire games because I could not end on a losing game or else something bad would happen. 3 to 4 am, I'd still be up playing solitaire.
Rereading text messages multiple times before sending them and same with phone numbers before hitting "call". Light switches need to make a satisfactory "click" noise or they will be re-flipped until that sound is achieved. I am often late for things because I have to check my house before I can leave it. When I sit down in a chair, if I don't sit "right", I have to reattempt the way I did it multiple times. I touch my face probably a hundred times a day. Basically, it all sucks!
My bed sheet has to be perfectly flat, without one single wrinkle or crease. This doesn't help when I then lay in the bed, therefore wrinkling it and forcing me out of bed. This can keep me occupied (unwillingly) for literally hours on end.
I have a really weird hint of OCD that I've never heard of someone else experiencing. Sometimes I imagine that there are strings tied to things, and I have to keep them from getting tangled.
For example, if I walk past a lamp post and then turn around, I sometimes have the urge to go walk around the other direction to keep the invisible string that is tied from me to who knows where from getting wrapped around the lamp post.
I found somewhat of a solution that helps with the amount of time that it takes to leave home. I understand that this may not work for everyone, but I take pictures of all the locked windows, doors, plugs, etc. By having physical evidence on my phone that I've locked and turned off everything, I'm able to calm my anxiety and cut back on the amount of time it takes to leave the house.
Growing up is hard to do. Suddenly, life flashes by you at a speed you didn't think possible and you're a grown adult. You didn't see life leave you behind so easily, but it has.
What are the signifiers of being an adult? Does it just mean things become less special, or that you can't ignore certain kinds of responsibility, or that you just don't have any money? What does it all mean?