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OCD: A Great Story Teller

People with OCD often hold beliefs that are, well, believable. For example, who doesn’t worry about blurting out something inappropriate (or hitting the send button) without thinking? That’s a typical OCD worry, but it’s also a worry that most people have.

In fact, just today I was quickly doing some email and not paying a lot of attention and ended up sending someone a note with the wrong name. Now, as a perfectionist, I’ll be thinking about that mistake around 3 in the morning.

My email gaff might lead me to change my routine. I might start making sure that when I do email I’m not at the same time thinking about the blog I have to write, or the statement I have to send, or the reservation for the dog groomer I have to make, or the dry cleaning I need to pick up, or the checkbook I need to balance—you see what I mean. To change my routine, I might have to come up with changing the way I do email.

I’ve been thinking I should anyway. Maybe I should start with clearing off my desk before I do email. Then perhaps I should vow to read my email twice before I send it.

What happens to those who have OCD is that their normal, believable thoughts grow. So let’s say I am coming down with a case of OCD. I find that I’m still pretty obsessed with my email mistake. Now, thoughts of not only sending out emails with the wrong name but thoughts of sending inappropriate email are flooding my brain.

My OCD tells me that I have no control over the keyboard. At any moment I might send off a batch of email to every one of my contacts with inappropriate words. Oh no, what if my OCD makes me breach patient confidentiality? If I do that I could hurt some of my patients. That would be terrible. Then, everyone will certainly sue me. My reputation will be in ruin, I’ll lose my practice. I won’t be able to pay my bills. I’ll have to sell the house but it’s a terrible time to sell, no one will buy it. I’ll have to use up my retirement money just to eat. Then I’ll end up not having enough money to feed the dogs. I’ll stand on a street corner with a sign saying “Unemployed, homeless, please help me feed my dogs.”

Now, I’m really scared. I better come up with a better routine to send out email. Perhaps if I arrange the keyboard in a certain way, then line up my chair, things won’t spin out of control. No, that’s not enough. I think that I should count the letters in each email before I hit send. All emails should have an even number of letters or they aren’t just right. I’ll have to rework them in order to get them even. Then I should read each email 4 times or 8 times before I press send. Then maybe I better ask Chuck to read them before I send them out. Will that work?

OCD can take one small molehill and make it into the biggest mountain. And the OCD brain is often turned on high alert when life is stressful. So, I’m going to tell myself to calm down. Everyone makes mistakes. And most people are pretty forgiving. I guess I won’t listen to OCD stories that my brain could spin for me.
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OCD: A Great Story Teller

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D.

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of adults and children with obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as personality disorders, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and learning disorders. Dr. Smith is a widely published author of articles and books to the profession and the public, including: Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies (2E), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies, Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies, Anxiety and Depression Workbook For Dummies, Depression For Dummies, Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth, and Why Can’t I Be the Parent I Want to Be? Her website is:

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APA Reference
Smith, L. (2012). OCD: A Great Story Teller. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Mar 2012
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