Complusion com·pul·sion (kəm-pŭl'shən) n.
- An uncontrollable impulse to perform an act, often repetitively, as an unconscious mechanism to avoid unacceptable ideas and desires which, by themselves, arouse anxiety.
- an irrational motive for performing trivial or repetitive actions, even against your will
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is something I have never given much thought to, beyond the common or pop-culture awareness and a vague undefined annoyance when perfectionist friends claim to "be a little OCD". But the post "OCD is not your quirky fun friend from Sarah Wilson at WriteHanded detailing some of the behaviours associated with her OCD prompted me to take a closer, if still superficial look at the definitions and diagnostic criteria, and from there to compulsion in general.
OCD is not just perfectionism, and for many people, it won’t present that way at all. It’s not “being a neat freak.”
Telling myself I am experiencing OCD is of little to no help. I feel itchy at best, suicidal at worst, until I allow myself to complete the behaviour that will stop the anxiety. Sometimes, that behaviour isn’t anything that will look unusual from the outside. It might be getting some work done. It might be taking a shower. It might be going to the supermarket with a very specific list. But what people don’t know or see is that work isn’t even due for another four weeks, but I couldn’t let it sit undone. That I’ve already had two showers today, but I feel like i’m unclean and I need to wash again. That I’ve already been to the supermarket, but an intrusive thought keeps telling me I’ve missed things out or got the wrong ones, so I need to go again.
I am quite confident in saying that I would not personally be diagnosed with OCD. I do have a variety of anxiety-linked behavioral compulsions, what I consider a susceptibility to addictive behaviours, and something of a fixation on doing things the "right" way; none of which take anywhere the amount of time out of my life an OCD diagnosis would require.
Following my curiosity I googled for /other/ compulsive disorders but did not turn up any helpful results with the time and energy I had available. I'm sure they are out there; just drowned in the sea of OCD-related results which resulted even trying (failing) to filter out results containing "obsessive". Probably I am stuck in the catch-22 of having to know what the disorders are called before I can find out what they are ....
There are activities described in the literature about OCD that I do experience quite strongly, but they are common to many anxiety disorders.
For example from the list at https://www.ocduk.org/types-ocd I can relate to
- Memory checking
- Rumination (although on more prosaic issues than the big ones, nevertheless subjects that without further action have no resolution)
- Violent intrusive thoughts and their tag-along companion - Avoidance
See also: Primarily obsessional obsessive compulsive disorder
Some of the irrational compulsions I find myself experiencing:
# checking Facebook (or before that Livejournal, and other social forums or discussion boards I have been involved in or followed).
Although I don't have any compulsion to do the check on a regular basis (I may develop mild FOMO anxiety if I haven't done so for a while) once I /start/ looking I must-if-possible catch all the way up back to where I last was. If I get interrupted I will if feasible go back to that point to fill in the gap later. (After about 24 hours it can shrugged off, with Facebook at least. Forums and article sites take longer, but also tend to move slower.)
Facebook in particular results in me losing quite a few chunks of time this way, simply by having to swipe or scroll past so much rubbish (in the form of unrelated likes, comments and ads) interspersed with the actual posts-made-by-friends I want to see :( (Between drafting and posting this entry I have actually given in and started installing "Fluff-Buster" Purity to take some control over this.)
# making things work (at work)
An example from the week before last: I arrived on Tuesday to an email outlining a host of problems with a site I had thought - while not perfect as a lot of functionality was in (re)development on this particular site - ready to go back to the client. This triggered (and I do not use that word lightly but it seems most appropriate) a 10-hour work day focused on fixing as many of the issues as possible.
Fortunately I had had breakfast about midday and had a packed lunch which served as dinner because food didn't really matter, going to boardgaming that evening didn't matter, the fact that I was not-leaving work until 10pm didn't matter, the fact that the most I can healthily manage is 5-6 hours most days compared to what for much of the last five hours was the incremental, just-fast-enough-to-press-on progress on getting a particular multi-tab, multi-validation form working precisely.
I've been getting much better at cutting myself off and leaving things until tomorrow rather than pushing myself to finish them sooner. The sheer length of the period and the way I was triggered by the email makes this incident stand out.
# (not) getting out of bed
During this it has occurred to me that the trouble I am having getting out of bed may be better framed not as "simple" depressive lethargy or motive failure but as a compulsion to stay in bed until 'X' happens. For example a particular time (often 10am) showing on the clock sometimes seems to mean "oh we can get up now!". (Unfortunately my body-clock or some other clever sub-system also seems to have a say and I haven't been totally able to trick it just by changing the bedroom clock.) Or a particular set of physical actions have to have been completed - just not at conscious want-to-get-out-of-bed mind's say-so. Sort of the reverse of the rituals many with OCD experience report having to complete before having a chance to sleep.
BUT I am not detecting any trace of specific anxiety (as I currently recognise it, and that is something that has changed over time and continues to expand) behind this. Despite my conscious brain going "I feel good, it is awake time, I should stay up and get stuff done" after emptying my bladder my legs unerringly carry me back to bed and deposit me between the covers, refusing to swing back out again.
Which brings me back to the definition with which I started this post.
An uncontrollable impulse to perform an act, often repetitively, as an unconscious mechanism to avoid unacceptable ideas and desires which, by themselves, arouse anxiety.
This would neatly cover the "do not want to deal with [day]" I often experience, as I roll /away/ from the edge of the bed, literally as well as figuratively turning my back on the world. It would also cover the above described returning to bed and the less frequent not wanting to go to bed in the first place because doing so means waking up the next day.
... thus postulated, /how/ would I go about countering this?