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Part of me wants to break down barriers, set people free and make the world a better place. A bigger part of me wants to sit on the sofa, drink tea and play through old Nintendo games.

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16/05/07 : Obsessive-compulsive disorder

... or OCD if you prefer acronyms. I thought about writing about this psychiatric disorder and how it affects me following a TV programme about phobias (different thing entirely) and because it's something that most people just don't "get".

There are a number of things that I find myself doing that would just make me appear a little anally-retentive to the casual observer. My CDs are in alphabetical order. If you open my kitchen cupboards you will find all the tins and packets neatly stacked with the labels facing forward (I'd like to point out here that I in no other way resemble the psycho husband from the film Sleeping with the Enemy!)

I often walk past something - an ornament for example - and feel the need to move it slightly so it is at the "correct" angle. I also organise things in groups of four - even my steps as I'm walking along. This sometimes means that I will suddenly have to take an extra long (or short) step to finish a group of four before reaching a kerb. I do this as discretely as possible though - if other people are around I'll make it look like I'm tripping up or something (I'd guess that a lot of people would think that all of this is an attention seeking thing, which it certainly isn't - in fact I've been rather embarrassed on the occasions that I've been "caught out").

Sometimes I might pick up a packet of something in a shop, walk a couple of steps away, then feel the need to return and exchange the packet for another packet of the same product because I'd taken the "wrong" one (usually because I had broken some sort of pattern on the shelf by taking the first one). I even find myself apologising (not out loud thankfully) to the inanimate object for disturbing it ...

The thing that affects me the most is the need to constantly check things. Switches in particular. Before I go to bed I have to go around the house checking that every electrical device is switched off at the plug. I'll stare at the switch for several seconds to make sure it definitely is off. I'll probably have to touch it just to be really sure - usually four times, often sixteen (four groups of four). The fear (I guess) is that if something is left plugged in it will somehow overheat and set the house on fire, although I'm not actually thinking about any such consequence whilst carrying out the checking.

Someone once saw me doing this and told me to get my eyes tested. It's not my eyes that are the problem though - and this is the bit that most people don't get - I am fully aware right from the start that the switch is off. There's just a part of my brain that doesn't quite accept what I can clearly see, forcing me to do more to be completely sure (which I never entirely am).

This may all sound rather extreme, but for the most part I deal with it. I may (for example) check the plugs every night but unless I'm having a bad day it only takes a few minutes. It's frustrating but doesn't run my life. There's no cure though - and I can't see how behavioural type therapies can work because I'm completely aware of the problem and that the things I do are irrational.

[Wikipedia article]

Posted by Tim at 18:20 [ permalink ]
Categories: Just me
Comments [ 3 ]


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