List-Making as a Compulsion

lists2A compulsion I haven’t talked about very often on this blog was list-making.  Since it was never something I worked on in CBT/ERP, sometimes I forget about all the lists.

Mine would be numbered (though the numbers didn’t mean much), and they were an attempt to bring some sort of order back into my messy thoughts.  They were an attempt to nail down a position or a stance or anything I could stand on.

This was mostly in high school and in college, before I was even diagnosed with OCD.  All I knew was that my doubts were eating away at me.

For example, in college, I didn’t know if I liked one boy (who liked me back) or his roommate (whom I fought with).  I was in turmoil over this (since OCD can’t just play it by ear– let alone see that I didn’t like the roommate, who annoyed me), so I’d go down by the lake with a notebook and start making a list:

1) I think I like James, not Toby.
2) I don’t want to like Toby.
3) I can decide that, right?
4) Maybe I can’t.
5) But I should be able to– right?  That’s my decision, isn’t it?
6) James is so kind.  And cute.
7) Toby pisses me off.
8) I would break James’s heart if I liked Toby.
9) I don’t want to like Toby.
10) Then why do I think I do?
11) I don’t want to hurt James.
12) If I don’t want to hurt James, then I must really care for him.
13) Do I care about hurting Toby?
14) Not as much.
15) I must like James then.

Satisfied that I was now certain I liked James, I’d stash my notebook back into my backpack and head to class with a smile.

Except that the next time I saw Toby and James, I’d be confused again.  Time for another list.

List-making was a mix of confession and seeking reassurance, to and from myself.

Did/does anyone make lists as a compulsion?

3 thoughts on “List-Making as a Compulsion

  1. I make lists sometimes to avoid doing the actual work. I’ll make lists of things I want to accomplish and feel a sense of accomplishment from doing that, but then I don’t move ahead with whatever it was that I wanted to do. So for me, it is more of a tool of procrastination. When I was in high school, I wrote a lot in my journal, and a lot of that writing mirrored my OCD thoughts. It wasn’t in the form of a list, but the words reflected the doubts of OCD.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Jackie. I’ve never heard of list-making in relation to OCD. I personally love to-do lists, for the sole reason that I love crossing off things as I accomplish them! My guess is you were not the only OCD sufferer who had the compulsion of list-making.

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