OCD: Fact or Fiction?
A good work of fiction captures your attention and takes you into a different world. The plots and details of science fiction, mysteries, or horror can, in the light of day, seem totally illogical and implausible. However, a good author can make the unlikely seem possible and the irrational rational. The reader turns off the part of the brain that focuses on what is real versus what is not.
The thoughts and beliefs of the OCD mind can be much like the writings of a good author. But in this case, the mind’s writings focus on themes of horror. Most obsessions and compulsions don’t hold up to logical scrutiny, but like well written horror stories, there are many parts of the plots and details that can easily be believed. And those with OCD buy into the plot much like a movie audience does.
For example, people with “hit and run” OCD worry about hurting someone while driving a car. They may interpret bumps in the road as evidence that they have run over someone. People with this disorder frequently return to the scenes of their accidents, look for damage to their cars, read obituaries in the newspaper, or call hospital emergency rooms to check on accident victims. These worries are excessive, cause intense distress, take enormous amounts of time, and interfere with productive functioning.
Another good example can be found by looking at superstitious OCD. People with this type of OCD obsess over the idea that certain objects, colors, numbers, thoughts, or actions may end up causing harm to people they care deeply about. And when that harm occurs they imagine that they will be to blame for not having successfully avoided the various superstitions that they have.
Thus, if you have OCD, we recommend that you start having a conversation with the fiction horror writer that dwells in your mind. When you start to obsess over causing harm to others, encountering germs and other contaminants, or other types of catastrophes, tell that horror writer in your mind something like, “Well, much as I appreciate your creativity, I am going to walk out on this movie or stop reading this book.” In other words, realize that the various OCD scenarios that play over and over in your head truly are works of fiction. With considerable practice and time, you can learn to walk out of the movie and live in the real world.
In future blogs, we’ll discuss another strategy for dealing with the mischievous horror writer you’ve been living with. As usual, we also recommend that you practice exposure and response prevention on your own or with a therapist.
Smith, L. (2009). OCD: Fact or Fiction?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 12, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/anxiety/2009/06/ocd-fact-or-fiction/