Reality vs. Phobias
One of my biggest OCD fears is food contamination. I spent years refusing to eat beef or pork. I’ve thrown out so much canned cat food over botulism worries. It’s a big deal for me.
Nothing has demonstrated how much I built up those fears than finding out I may have eaten recalled potato salad.
I went to a potluck picnic on Saturday, and my plate included a scoop of some Reser’s brand potato salad. Yesterday, they issued a recall over fears that some of the potato salad may be contaminated by listeria.
I don’t know if the potato salad I ate was from the sell-by batch that has been recalled, but the size and flavor is on the list. That was enough to give me a mild anxiety attack last night.
But I called my mom to chat, and that was enough to snap me out of it. I’ve been fine since.
I thought this would be scarier, but I already ate the potato salad. There’s nothing I can do about it at this point. I’m going to avoid looking at symptoms — I know I’ll start imagining I have them if I do — so all I can really do is wait and see. If I do get sick, I’ll head straight for the ER.
Turns out that the imagined fear of eating potentially contaminated food was way worse than the reality. I think it shows how much of OCD (at least, my own OCD) is about control. The only part of this scenario I could control is avoiding the contaminated food in the first place. That’s what I always tried to do.
I’m past that moment now, so there’s really nothing I can do but let go. If I am going to get sick from this — unlikely, since there have been no reported cases of illness yet — I can’t stop it. And that’s weirdly liberating.
This is not how I would have chosen to do exposure for this particular phobia, that’s for sure! And I can’t guarantee I won’t have any more anxiety or panic attacks later this week, but right now I’m OK.
Cathey, K. (2016). Reality vs. Phobias. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/overcoming-ocd/2016/04/reality-vs-phobias/