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Bizarre transcendental compulsions - am I alone?

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Can I preface this by saying I'm not trying to be one of those people who's like, "Oh I'm totally OCD!" I have bipolar disorder, that happens to me, it's annoying. But I finally want to talk about this, and my therapist is out of town for a couple weeks, so I just wanted to kinda chat. This is pretty long and rambling but if anyone feels inclined to read it all, I would be so thankful.  I feel like this board would be best to discuss this with, but maybe anxiety board is better. I'm not sure. I know the drill, you aren't doctors, can't diagnose me, etc. I'm hoping simply to see if there's anyone I can relate to, because this has always been a weird, isolating thing in my life. I guess I can relate some of these slightly to checking and symmetry.

Since I was a child, I've worried about unevenness. That's what I'd call it though it's not quite right. If I were to truly explain, I'd say that it's a need to be sure that the molecules and atoms of items are aligned with the universe. It is based on this concern of following the inexplicable rules of the universe rather than concern over bad events. (see? freakin weird) It's always been embarrassing to tell anyone, even a therapist, cause it is just truly stupid things. Additionally, it's never affected my life seriously. I am often able to repeat actions and eventually reach a place of confidence. Sometimes I can tell myself not to do it, and I succeed. So it's never been important, especially compared to bipolar, PTSD, and dissociation. But its flaring up pretty bad. I no longer feel like I can ignore the compulsions, though still they aren't big enough to hurt my life. They just compound with current difficult bipolar symptoms. (my grammar is shite right now)

Here are some I can think of. There's a TON of these types of things, but these are some good examples:

  • I will get the sense that an object is "uneven." This could be from me touching it, or from me suddenly being aware of it. It can be a sock on the ground. I feel it's wrong, and I touch the sock. Then pick it up, set it down. Touch it again. When I set a glass down on a table, if I feel that I set it down on one side more than the other, I will pick it up and put it down several times until I think it hit the table evenly.
  • The computer is super tough. And I work from home so it does interfere slightly with my efficiency. I will suddenly feel my laptop is...god, how do I explain this? Like you know if you push something, some heavy item, across a bed...the comforter would drag along? I feel that wth objects. I'll feel that the laptop is dragging the atoms of the table upwards (without having pushed it or anything, just sudden) and it makes me feel nuts, like my heart hurts and skin itches. So I pick the stupid laptop up and down. Every time, no matter what, if I need to change the volume of my music, I press the button up to where I want it. Then click it twice upwards. Then down to the first again. Then down two more clicks, finally back up to the correct volume. By doing this I feel like I made that volume button in the "middle." The middle of what?? I do not know lol. I do it several times. I do a lot of actions like this with my phone and computer. 
  • When I leave my house, I check that I have everything I need in my purse. This is one that's not metaphysical. I worry I'll cause a distressing event if I forgot something important. I've developed a mantra over the years to ease my anxiety. "Phone, wallet, keys. Phone, wallet, keys." Touch each one as I say it. Do several times. Leave the house; by the time I'm walking down the stairs, I need to do it again. Sometimes (when I worked outside the home) I'd be headed out to work and get stuck doing this, which would frustrate me since it wasted time. So if my husband was there, I'd tell him to listen to me do my check, to ensure I got it right and prevent re-checking. Say my mantra out loud, touch the items, ask him if I got it right. Do it a couple times. Usually get down to the car and then I need to do it again!
  • I went through a phase as a teenager (coincidentally, following my parent's divorce) when I felt like my throat was odd and once again "uneven" and I had to clear it to even it. This one is one of the really strange ones. I'd make this mini, gentle throat clear. I didn't want anyone to hear. I was confused by this compulsion and my inability to ignore it. Naturally, akin to the obsession of getting the music volume correct, I would want to clear my throat to the "middle." But you can only clear your throat one way. So I'd just do it forever and never get it right. I remember doing this in church and my best friend looking at me and asking later, "What the HELL are you doing?! I'll have issues like this on my body. I'll think, "My feet are like knives and they need to be dipped in pudding to even them." O.o

So it's not like feeling some dread from these symptoms, that my family will die or the house will burn down or things like that. I can only say again that it feels like a metaphysical issue. As if somewhere in the ether of this world, there is an even, perfect, 'middle' of everything. Do I believe not performing these checks will cause some terrible, awful event? No. It just gives me bad anxiety and a worry about the state of my universe. :| Hence, not fitting OCD descriptors. Yet not quite normal anxiety symptoms. So, what the heck?

I'm completely aware that this makes no sense, and it's embarrassing. I've never talked to anyone about this, even my therapist. Though my husband sees a little of it. And especially not my other friends (in group therapy, friends I've made at psych hospitals) who have real OCD, because this doesn't compare and I'm afraid saying anything will make me look like a fool who wants to adopt another mental disorder just for the heck of it.

Thank you SO MUCH for reading all of this. Even on the internet, I feel stupid and ashamed and worried that you're all going to attack me. I'm at a very difficult time of my life, with delicate mental health, that these things are extra stressful. I can't cope with this on top of everything else. I want to know if this makes sense to anyone. Am I alone? And whatever it is, a weird manifestation of anxiety or anything else, maybe some ideas on how to start to cope with it. You guys aren't my therapist. But you might know of resources or books that could help, or general experience from your own life, even if our issues aren't the same. Please please tell me that someone gets what I'm saying.

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Huh.  From the outside, the description you give of your symptoms reminds me of some things that I heard in a lecture when the speaker talked about having Tourette's.  The clearing your throat, the feet thing, the computer thing...  from the outside, it looks completely illogical.  But I don't remember if they said they had some underlying logic; I do remember they said that they could suppress their tics with great effort but then they *needed* to fix it.

What I do know is that your therapist or psychiatrist has undoubtedly heard even "stranger" things.  The fact that this is causing you distress is enough reason to ask for help now.

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I read this and I feel like I remember having the same kinds of compulsions when I was younger, during different stressful times in my life.   

One thing that I wonder about is if my own compulsions were related to generally isolated instances of emotional abuse growing up.  I suppose that for other people it could be any kind of abuse where they were made to feel that nothing they did was good enough.  I feel like as adults we carry scars from situations like that and things like OCD rituals can be ways to relieve the anxiety of PTSD, which I see you mentioned you have.  The feeling of "Something isn't right" or "it's all wrong" or "something needs to be fixed" might be a a part of it.  It's like carryover from being hurt and terrified but it shows itself in more subtle and mysterious ways.  

It's like circuits in the brain get confused because of abuse.  You get conditioned to fear negative outcomes for things where no fear is actually warranted.  It's just your mind playing tricks on you.  

I don't think your experiences seem weird or even too extreme at all.  Extreme might be wearing a tinfoil hat and eating cat food.  IDK.  But seriously, you're doctor will understand.  

I hope this was helpful.  


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That was actually really helpful chillpill. My history with abuse is severe. And its become worse the past couple years. I think I do see a relation between them.

Tourette's, for some reason I think I'd thought of this vaguely once. When I happened to read a description of it that was totally different from how media portrays it. Huh.

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In my research I came across this description of symmetry. http://www.ocdtypes.com/symmetry-ocd.php

Some of this really rang true to me. Like scratching one side of the face then doing the other. I do those sort of things. I thought that you had to be compelled to do these sorts of things only because of worrying about some negative event occuring. However, 'needs to feel just right' sounds like a much more sensical and simple way of describing how I feel. I've hesitated to ever talk about these symptoms because of aforementioned embarrasment, and the fact that it's not severe.

But now I've read a bit more and see that these actions can snowball into something more. I guess I will bring it up to my therapist.

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I have the thing about even-ness, but it's really not an OCD thing for me. It's more related to a sense of needing balance, as you'd mentioned, although I don't experience it as metaphysical. I just need a sense of balance and, especially in my childhood, I wasn't capable of finding it anywhere else. So while it's ritualistic, for me, it's also a sign that I feel out of control in other areas of my life. I don't even attribute it to a crazy, necessarily. It's just one of the quirks of who I am. But if I had to attribute it to something I'd say that it's trauma-related and is a form of either self-soothing or self-calming; it's nice to know that there are some things that I can control however small they may be.

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  • 2 months later...

LOL YES! I did this the other day like I had to line something up w the center of the earth, but usually just have to place it correctly. Always wear mismatched socks often have to switch feet or turn inside, right side out. The other day (at midnight) Had some fixation w this rock so I had to keep doing weird shit forever until I finally put it in my pocket. Understand balance. Understand. 

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