Mental Health

On Obssessions, Compulsions, Fixations and Other Methods of Self-Induced Idiocy

Long ago, when I was young and spent lots of time sitting in doctors’ offices getting diagnosed with things, I was tenatively diagnosed with mild Obssessive Compulsive Disorder. I thought the diagnosis was garbage, as I never found myself doing any of the deliberately repetetive ritualistic things that you see characters with OCD doing in movies or on television, and so I ignored it and went on about my life.

A few years ago, when I went back to school, I decided to get a full psych eval in order to provide the documentation that would be necessary for me to register with the college’s administration office and receive accommodations, should I need them (longer testing times, extensions on assignment due dates, and that sort of thing.) Again, OCD came up on the radar. I thought that was weird.

After I was finished with the evaluation, I met several times with the doctor who had administered the tests, and in my discussing the matter with him, I learned some pretty neat stuff about OCD and how it can operate totally under the radar in conjunction with things like religious preoccupation in certain individuals. I thought I would do my best to share some of that stuff here before I get distracted and start talking about something else entirely, and then get bored and cut it short.

This will be the fifty-fourth post that I have published on this blog, and I’ve really been avoiding it. Why, you may ask? Whatever for? Is there something significant about the number fifty-four that makes doing things associated with it unusually difficult for you? Well, gentle reader, allow me to tell you, and to explain a bit about this matter, with the wholeness of all my explainingness powers.

First, a story:

You already know I’m weird, so I’m just going to tell this story like it’s normal.

One day, as I was getting my things together and preparing to leave Brad’s house, his wife, Stephanie, randomly said, “Oh…there it is again, honey.”

“What?” Brad asked.

“Look,” she replied cryptically, with that trademark vacant stare that would come to be a defining characteristic of those who had fully accepted the consumption of Brad’s own special brand of Kool Aid as their primary sustenance, “the microwave.”

I looked over and saw that the microwave timer was sitting stopped at fifty-four seconds.

“Oh,” Brad said, with an air of tension. They exchanged knowing glances, but gave no indication of my being invited to be clued in.

I was totally in the dark here and just had to ask what was going on, what was so special about the microwave right now (which was the intended effect of their theatrically mysterious exchange, I’m sure.)

So I did. I asked.

“What’s the deal with fifty-four?” I inquired.

Steph looked over at me and said, very seriously, “Jesus warned about Hell fifty-four times in the New Testament.”

What followed was about ten years of completely and totally irrational fear and anxiety cropping up around the edges of my consciousness and fully ruining the rest of my day each and every single time that number appeared, in any way whatsoever, throughout life.

Ok, end of story. Now back to my findings.

At age 30, I found myself confronted with the very real problem of having had virtually all progress in life impeded by this and other similarly ridiculous obssessions and compulsions for over a decade, and I began to really scratch my head and wonder if maybe there hadn’t been something to the idea, postulated long ago by various mental health professionals, that my overall wellbeing could actually be suffering due to the significant presence of underlying mental illness.

The doctor who performed my most recent psychiatric evaluation told me that there were many people who suffered from highly internalized forms of OCD. These variations don’t tend to include much of the outward, physically manifesting idiosyncrasies commonly associated with the disorder, and yet can be every bit as debilitating. Scrupulosity, for example, is a specific type of OCD that is characterized by extreme pathological guilt and anxiety over perceived moral/religious violations.

OCD in general is defineable as “an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry (obsessions), repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety (compulsions), or a combination of such obsessions and compulsions.” [From the Wikipedia article on Obssessive Compulsive Disorder.]

To say that I found it immensely helpful to learn more about these types of things would be an epic understatement. The refreshment and encouragement were indescribable. I felt like there was hope again. Best of all, learning about the medical reality of these issues helped me to not be ashamed of them anymore. It came as something of a revelation to realize that I had been ashamed of them in the first place. I had spent so much time immersed in a culture which forcefully ascribed absolutely all personal difficulty to things like sin and demonic possession, that, even years after having come out of the haze of those delusions, the damage wrought by their various infections lingered still.

So! The moral of the story, it seems, is that Benjamin should read more and play less video games, and perhaps this would aid him in avoiding long years spent needlessly suffering from issues which could have been more effectively treated by being properly informed. Also, the moral of the story is, ‘Drugs are bad.’

The end.

By Ben Wolf

It's a secret!

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