compulsions become monsters

“Compulsions are a lousy solution to the problem of having obsessions.”  Fred Penzel

Some of you don’t know just how true this quote is!  I was explaining OCD to a group of student workers in my office the other day, and here’s what I had to say about compulsions:

They start as a way to provide temporary relief to the stress/terror/anxiety/disturbing nature of obsessions, but after a while, the compulsions get out of control and become monsters themselves.

For example, maybe an OC will worry that a room is contaminated and therefore, she is going to get sick herself and die.  So she washes her hands to forestall any illness, and for a moment, it relieves that anxiety.  But after awhile, she is washing her hands all the time to try to keep that anxiety at bay, and now her hands are bleached, raw, bleeding and she can’t stop.

Which is worse– the obsession or the compulsion?  I know different OCs have different answers.  I’d like to hear yours!