It is like the earworm chorus to a song that makes you sad: “Is this normal with OCD?”
Is this to be expected with OCD? Do others with OCD experience this? Am I going through something unique here or is this normal? Is this normal? Is this normal?
So, first off, as always, let me remind you that I’m not an OCD expert or a therapist of any kind; I’m just an OCD survivor who knows an awful lot about it and has talked to a lot of sufferers over the last decade.
Secondly, while I do hear common experiences among a lot of OCD sufferers, I sometimes hear the opposite (or quite different) experiences from others. What I’m trying to say is that NO ONE IS ALONE, but also there’s not just ONE narrative either. Picture it as an OCD mansion where there are many rooms, but they are all full. There is no room where there is just one lonely being. We are in this together.
The list below has a two-fold purpose: first, for those suffering to “put a voice” to their experience. I want you to see that what you’re thinking and feeling is normal and common enough that it’s on a list. I remember the first time I read Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser, I literally underlined line after line because this book was putting my own thoughts right onto a page. A woman I had never met had an experience similar enough to mine that her work of fiction felt like I could have been the main character. That meant everything to me. It showed me some universal themes of OCD. It showed me I was not alone.
Secondly, this list is for non-sufferers, because it’s important for you to see how debilitating this disorder is, and perhaps it will help you to recognize symptoms in others.
ALL OF THIS IS NORMAL FOR OCD:
I doubt I even have OCD.
What if I really just believe X, am Y, or enjoy Z– and it’s not OCD at all?
I dread things or people I used to enjoy.
I avoid things or people I used to enjoy.
I will feel perfectly normal for weeks and then suddenly completely sick and anxious and scared and awful. It comes and goes.
The thoughts are worse in the morning.
The thoughts are worse at night.
I had one thought about homosexuality and now it’s all I can think about. Does that mean I’m gay?
If I fixate on someone I think is beautiful, does that mean I like him/her?
My body reacts to things it shouldn’t.
My body reacts to things I wish it wouldn’t.
Does a bodily reaction mean [this obsessive thought] is true?
I can no longer experience normal crushes.
I can’t enjoy crushes.
When something good happens, something in me finds a way to sabotage it.
I think I’m not allowed to enjoy good things.
I will find a reason I should not enjoy good things.
I will turn the good thing into something bad or wrong.
I get uncomfortable feelings and sometimes I feel like I want them, but I don’t.
I used to get so triggered and anxious that I would think X must be true. But now I don’t get as triggered and anxious, so I think maybe it’s because X is true. Is X true?
I’m exceptionally aware of [blank]. This must mean [something bad].
“Something” just keeps telling me that I’m [whatever it is].
I have always wanted X, but lately “something” is telling me I want Y, even though I don’t want it and it makes me feel sick.
My problem last month was X. Now I think I’ve sorted most of that out, but the problem has shape-shifted slightly into Y, and now all I can think about is Y.
Am I dating the right person?
Am I married to the right person?
I love my significant other so much, but sometimes I feel like maybe I don’t. Do I?
I feel like I should break up with my significant other because I’m so unsure.
I keep thinking back on my past and stuff that I never worried about before now is plaguing me.
I think on my past and am not sure if I’m remembering things right. I’m so focused on rebuilding that memory correctly because then it will prove [something important] to me.
I think on my past and remember something I did, and now I’m wondering if I liked it.
Now I’m actually not freaking out anymore; does that mean I’ve subconsciously accepted those thoughts?
If I feel better, am I actually better, or have I just given in to that belief?
I thought I was just accepting that I have OCD, but now I think maybe I was accepting the bad thoughts.
I’m scared ERP therapy will actually make me the thing I am dreading.
I’m scared ERP therapy will reveal I am the thing I am dreading.
Sometimes it feels SO REAL.
OCD friends, what else would you add to this list?