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Distracted Driving (But Only If We Let It)

Hello–and thank you for reading my humble blog about OCD and its ugly cousins: anxiety and depression.

A little about me: I was diagnosed with OCD twenty years ago and spent a significant portion of my college years trying to make sense of the intrusive, disturbing thoughts (cheat code: you can’t make sense of nonsensical thoughts).  As I have aged and wizened, I have gained perspective on OCD–what works, what doesn’t, and what leaves your pounding your pillow in a pique of frustration. OCD is the disease that has nine lives–when you think you have vanquished the latest diabolical round (of thoughts), it emerges stronger, fresher, and more sinister. It is the Floyd Mayweather of mental illnesses, if you will.

When OCD first torpedoed me, I was a freshman at Chapel Hill. The obsessive thoughts submerged me; I remember playing hide and seek under my bed covers for two days. As someone who prides himself on my analytical mind, I tried to “logic out” these obsessive thoughts. My reasoning: If only I can figure out what is driving these obsessive thoughts, I can uncover their meaning and, more importantly, what it means for me (cheat code: the “logic game” is a futile exercise–one not worth wasting your time and emotional energy on). The obsessive thoughts are meaningless; they are not a reflection of you or your core beliefs.

While it has taken me a decade plus to realize this–and, at times, I have to remind myself of this on a daily (check that–hourly) basis, this truth has helped me navigate OCD’s perils and live a healthy, productive life. Despite lamentations to the contrary, OCD is a disorder that you (and I) cannot wish, hope, or cajole away. It is too mischievous–too skilled at exploiting those slivers of doubt.

While OCD, admittedly, can be a cruel and taunting disease, you can empower yourself against its ravenous self-doubt. The trick: immediately identifying the OCD thought and resisting its stranglehold (easier said than done–I know). You see, OCD wants you to ruminate–on its meaning and implication (cheat code: there is no meaning). That rumination, unfortunately, is where OCD gets it power–and flings you into emotional turmoil. Or, in my case, hide and seek under the bed covers.

Here is a better–and healthier–way to approach the doubtin’ disorder: OCD as highway billboard. Let me explain further: When you are driving down the highway, you spot a billboard urging you to exit right now. You don’t stop and analyze the billboard for a deeper, hidden meaning. Instead, you acknowledge the billboard (“Oh, another advertisement for Bob’s Cheapo Tires”) and continue on your way–passing other nondescript billboards during your daily commute. In a nutshell, OCD thoughts are these billboards. OCD thoughts are random, idiosyncratic thoughts that don’t deserve your attention (a la the recurring billboards for Bob’s Cheapo Tires). And just like you aren’t getting off the road despite these billboards’ insistence, there is no reason to detour when the OCD “billboards” emerge.

As I write my OCD-focused blog, I look forward to your insight and input (aka “welcome distractions”) and learning both from you and with you. You see, OCD can be an incredibly potent disorder–but only if we let it.

Distracted Driving (But Only If We Let It)

Matthew Loeb

Matthew Loeb is a recovering attorney, part-time graduate student, and full-time mental health advocate. He shares stories and strategies about living--and thriving (at least some days)--with OCD.

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APA Reference
Loeb, M. (2018). Distracted Driving (But Only If We Let It). Psych Central. Retrieved on February 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Oct 2018
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