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My Mildly OCD Life

Here’s what I’ve been thinking lately: there’s more to OCD than meets the eye. I’m talking very low grade, fully functional, almost imperceptible OCD. Not the whole extreme OCD, Howie Mandel fist-bump thing. Not scrubbing til your hands are raw nor compulsively counting things. No, no, no. More of a low-grade, fully functional OCD lifestyle.

Do you ever feel frozen? Paralyzed? Like you just can’t function unless {fill-in-the-blank}?

That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Here’s a personal example. The other day, Michael actually told me what he wanted for supper. Now that in itself was amazing because he’s a very, “Oh whatever. I’m just happy to have food” kinda’ guy.

Walking into the kitchen I suddenly froze. I could not start cooking. Then I realized the problem: I wasn’t following my pattern. I’d ignored the “Manual” that tells me how to run my life in a way that’s comfortable for me. And the manual says, “Clear the decks before starting another meal.” Before I could start chopping or frying, I had to run a dishpan of hot soapy water. Until I had my hot soapy dishpan, cooking was impossible. I was frozen. Paralyzed.

That’s what I mean by low-grade, chronic yet livable OCD.

The tip-off is that feeling of being frozen. Paralyzed. You’ll know it when you feel it.

OCD was once summarized as “the itch you can’t scratch.” Spot. On. I describe it as a mild, low-grade, constant feeling that something is wrong. Just wrong. No one in my family admits feeling this way. Maybe they don’t feel it. But I do. And I recognize the symptoms in myself and in others.

One relative cleans. And cleans and cleans and cleans and…well, you catch my drift. When relatives visit, she makes them help her clean even though you could eat off the furthest corner of the basement. When she’s not cleaning her own home, she’s cleaning other people’s homes. She’s waged a lifelong pathological battle against her arch nemesis: dust.

Cleaning scratches her “itch.”

Her deceased sister used to polish things. She’d rub and rub and rub one piece of furniture for hours while her babies needed her and other housework went undone. She was a loving mother, but suffered lifelong, debilitating OCD from her teen years until her untimely death in her thirties.

Polishing furniture scratched her “itch.”

Another relative gets rid of things. As in, almost everything she owns a la OCD spartanism. It’s a real thing! PsychCentral published a wonderful article about it. This woman talks about how she gets a “high” from decluttering. She has a fascination with only owning 100 possessions. She talks about it, dreams about it, fantasizes about it, talks about it to other people. The joke is that when she dies, the only things left in the house will the bed, the computer and the pizza cutter. When she ran out of personal possessions to throw out or donate to get her “high,” she secretly started jettisoning her husband’s beloved books. And my possessions. To this day, there are things I miss and wish I’d never donated, but there was pressure.

Dejunking scratches her “itch.”

Another relative compulsively tears off his toenails. Use a nailclipper? I never saw him do it. He tears them off until his toes bleed.

Tearing his toenails scratches his “itch.”

Unfortunately, I inherited the family OCD. Yes, OCD is genetic. As a child, I was always a scratcher — mosquito bites, scabs, things like that. It took major trauma to really trigger full-blown OCD. The whole family went bat-crap crazy overnight. Literally overnight. The rage-fueled blackout rage trauma went from now-and-then to weekly and sometimes daily. That’s when the PTSD started. That’s when the OCD started.

I developed dermatillomania (skinpicking) and trichotillomania (hair pulling.) Escaping narcissism in 2013 cleared up the dermatillomania and about 90% of the trich…but my eyebrows are still way over-groomed. (Which is almost humorous seeing as last week Google news was exploding with the conclusion that thick eyebrows signal narcissism. Seriously!?!)

But OCD evidences itself in subtler ways than wounds or a dependence on eyebrow pencil.

Until I have my shower in the morning, I just feel, feel, wrong.

Until I get dressed, I feel vulnerable.

Until I clean up the kitchen, I feel paralyzed.

And almost all the time, I feel wrong. Just wrong. Personally, I blame it on cult withdrawal. My family operated more like a cult than a family. When I left them, I committed the horrible iniquity of Doing Something of which They Did Not Approve. It was my first time displeasing them and sticking to my guns. Leaving a cult feels like you’ve given God the finger. It hurts the brainwashed person who does it more than it hurts the “cult.” Until my cult withdrawal heals, I’ll always feel wrong and that expresses itself in OCD.

Scrubbing numbs the wrongness, but it doesn’t cure it. So I resist the temptation —the one time when not cleaning might actually be a virtue. I don’t want to give in to my OCD. Scrubbing is like Calamine lotion. It temporarily numbs the itch, but doesn’t cure it. So I clean a normal amount and live with feeling wrong, push through feeling frozen.

You can’t see my OCD from the outside. My husband teases and twits me about it, enough to keep me on “this side” of normalcy. But I can feel it. Always. Someday I hope I can figure it out and cure it.

But until that happens…

I just continue living my mildly OCD but fully functional life.

Thanks for reading this article. I hope it was helpful to you. Visit my website to learn more about the roots of Narcissism Meets Normalcy. Thanks!

My Mildly OCD Life

Lenora Thompson

Lenora Thompson is a syndicated Huffington Post freelance writer and food blogger. Her readers call her the "Edward Snowden" and "Wikileaks" of narcissism because of her no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners approach to writing about narcissism. “Narcissism Meets Normalcy” is the real-life, ongoing story of her healing journey from being held “hostage” by a multi-generational, cult-like narcissistic family. It's gritty and real, bloody and bruised, humorous and sarcastic. Lenora Thompson considers herself a “whistleblower,” shining a spotlight on narcissistic abuse so others can also claim their freedom and experience healing. To learn more about Lenora, her husband Michael's heroic battle with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and to read her writings about food, please visit Thank you!

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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2018). My Mildly OCD Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Jun 2018
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