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OCD or just "anal retentive"?


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I'm not overly concerned about this, but sometimes it really bugs me that I'm like this and it definitely interferes with my life - especially work.

I don't worry. Not unreasonably or excessively. But at times I go over and over and over the same things in my mind. Maybe this is worrying. But I've always thought of worrying as thinking something bad is going to happen. I just "practice" having conversations... or overanalyze ones I've already had. Stuff like that. "Rumination" is the best way I've heard it described. It was really bad a few years ago after I broke off a serious relationship. I was also severely depressed at the time. Cymbalta all but eliminated the symptoms.

As for the compulsive behavior... here's a perfect example:

Last week I went into the supply cabinet at work to get some supplies. It was kind of messy, so I started to straighten it. This is not even close to being one of my responsibilities at work. But it bothered me.

I was just going to straighten it out a little. But the next thing I knew, I had both cabinets completely torn apart. All the red permanent markers had to be in different boxes from the black permanent markers and the red whiteboard markers. All the various sets of tab dividers (for binders) were sorted by style, then put into collated sets and filed separately.

The worst part was all the little plastic tabs for hanging files. They were loose in a big box. It bothered me that the colored ones were mixed up with the clear ones. Three times I put the box back in the cabinet that way, telling myself it was silly to separate them. But in the end, I couldn't help myself. I found another box and separated them. This was after sorting the brownish colored hanging folders from the greenish colored ones.

I spent 2-3 hours doing all this. Mostly on my own time. On a Friday night. And not because I didn't want to go home or not because I didn't have anything better to do. I just couldn't stop myself.

I'm not like this about everything and I'm not like this all the time... just once in a while. I don't think anything bad will going to happen if I don't do them. When it happens, I just can't stop myself. I don't know how to describe it.

I once read that one of the root causes of OCD is possibly the need to control things when other things feel out of control. This makes a lot of sense to me. Work has been pretty stressful lately. We are short-staffed and priorities are constantly changing and I never seem to be able to finish anything before I'm told to work on something else instead.

So in a way, it was very satisfying to start something I could actually finish. And it looked so good when I was done.

But it really bothers me that I sometimes can't stop myself from doing these things. Sorting the file tabs was just plain crazy.

The behavior is definitely compulsive, but doesn't seem to fit the DSM-IV criteria for OCD. And the "obsessive" thoughts were more rumination, but I'm not really sure what the difference is - other than again, I don't worry that bad things are going to happen. I know a lot of it is ADD-related (ooh... look, a puppy... one that needs a bath!).

I'm not sure what I'm looking for here. Just some feedback or thoughts, I guess. It's not so bad that I'd want to add any medication to address it. But some behavior therapy or something like that might be helpful. Guess I should mention it to the pdoc. But if you've got any thoughts for me in the meantime, please feel free to share.

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Good question Sunshine.

Your cabinet cleaning sounds exactly like what I do, including the feeling its not because something 'bad' is going to happen if I don't but I still can't stop anyway. The satisfaction thing. My organizing compulsion also mirrors yours in that it tends to be at work and when work is unusually stressful (either due to the work itself or the people at work) or I'm not getting the satisfaction of task completion (such as a long string of boring, useless-feeling neverending tasks).

I also do the same flavor of rumination. The past conversation tape in my head almost never stops. And it is never self-affirming or praising conversations, its always the ones whereI stuck my foot in my mouth or otherwise made seriously bad moves. The other conversation tape in the queue is the 'rehearsal' tape where I practice what I'm going to say for x, y and z upcoming conversastions. I even run stupid things through my head several times like practicing how to say my coffee and scone order at the cafe.

I don't have anything really useful to add except for the personal tidbit that I'm not ADD but my p/tdoc is currently mulling over whether I may be OCD due to other things I've talked to him about like complusive skin picking and occasional bouts of hair pulling. I too am curious what kind of responses the thread will gather.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Unlike some anxiety disorders (eg panic disorder) OCD is difficult to treat with cognitive behavioural therapy.

However, a good clinical psychologist or psychiatrist can teach you some skills to help you gain control over your obsessions.

Keep in mind that obsessions are intrusive thoughts that involve two things - perceived threat, & self doubt.

You can learn to filter the intrusive thought "noise" from your normal train of thought. Unfortunately this does not stop the intrusive thoughts from occurring, even though they tend to be cyclical.

This is where meds tend to help - esp the ssri group and some of the aps. This is DEFINITELY an issue to discuss with your therapist ASAP. FYI people with OCD are unlikely to ever act out on their obsessions, but the self torture is something that no-one should have to live with.

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Unlike some anxiety disorders (eg panic disorder) OCD is difficult to treat with cognitive behavioural therapy.

However, a good clinical psychologist or psychiatrist can teach you some skills to help you gain control over your obsessions.

Keep in mind that obsessions are intrusive thoughts that involve two things - perceived threat, & self doubt.

You can learn to filter the intrusive thought "noise" from your normal train of thought. Unfortunately this does not stop the intrusive thoughts from occurring, even though they tend to be cyclical.

This is where meds tend to help - esp the ssri group and some of the aps. This is DEFINITELY an issue to discuss with your therapist ASAP. FYI people with OCD are unlikely to ever act out on their obsessions, but the self torture is something that no-one should have to live with.

I agree no one should have to live with the torture it feels so helpless watching a loved one

KNOW that the worries don't compute

but get 'stuck' in their compulsions

gah

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That's why I'm thinking it's not OCD. I don't worry that something bad will happen if I don't do the occasional odd thing that I do. And it's not like every time I go into the supply cabinet I feel compelled to clean it out... so I'm not sure it's even compulsive. If compulsive means you feel like you have to do something every time.

When it happens, it's compulsive in that I can't NOT do it. But I've yet to figure out why. Other than I think it has a lot to do with needing to feel in control and/or needing to feel like I've accomplished something. This kind of behavior is more likely to occur when I'm stressed.

"Worrying" is also the thing that has always bothered me about anxiety disorders and why I've always "fought" the diagnosis. I don't worry excessively about things. Or more to the point, I'm not afraid bad things will happen. Yet I often feel "anxious." I don't know how to describe the difference.

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The past conversation tape in my head almost never stops. And it is never self-affirming or praising conversations, its always the ones whereI stuck my foot in my mouth or otherwise made seriously bad moves. The other conversation tape in the queue is the 'rehearsal' tape where I practice what I'm going to say for x, y and z upcoming conversastions. I even run stupid things through my head several times like practicing how to say my coffee and scone order at the cafe.

YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!!!!!!!!

WHAT IS THIS? What is the clinical name? This behavior is presently at the top of my list to identify, because I think it is separate from either the mania or depression of Bipolar. I do not believe it is a part of common 'ruminations", that I have more often when depressed. To me ruminations run along the lines of worrying about the next job, the last job, taking the trash out, wondering if the electricity is going to be turned off, will I ever be happy...

This other conversation tape will suddenly intrude any time, any where, often unrelated to anything in the present. Replaying a faux pas and conversation from 23 years ago, during the second week of my first job!? Reviewing all the arguments and justifications for a tough decision ten years ago. Spending twenty minutes anticipating and rehearsing conversations with someone, word for word. The higher my stress level, the more this occurs. [edit, and yes, rehearsing how I'm going to order a sandwich at a restaraunt.]

One other behavior that I feel may be related, is that when I am suddenly under a great deal of pressure, perhaps a deadline, or rushing to get to an important appointment, I will have a short phrase, or snippet of music that gets stuck in my head playing continuously. All I can do is mouth the words or hum the tune to myself. It's not pleasurable and it won't go away till the stress it over.

a.m.

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i'm relating a lot here. i've been known to straighten stores. seriously. when stock is jumbled i will sort it into the right bins. and just yesterday i spent quite a bit of time sorting the 1/5 cut clear plastic tabs from the 1/3 cut plastic tabs in the supply closet cuz it bugged the crap out of me, and like you said, i couldn't stop myself, even though that conversation was going on in my head about how silly this was and how i should just step away from the tabs thingees.

constantly doing the practice and reliving of conversations in my head too.

i would love to know more about this and where it falls. thanks for starting this discussion Sunshine.

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  • 1 year later...

Hmm, I do the replaying conversations thing too. ALL the time! I wonder what that's called? I used to think it was normal but I waste a lot of time doing it and it's usually negative worrying about what I didn't say, or how I said something. So I don't think it's healthy. I don't know if I have OCD or not...I am a compulsive perfectionist and worry about a lot of things but I don't have any rituals and I'm not very organized.

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