I have always been a generally neat and tidy person. I grew up sharing a bedroom with my sister and would always become frustrated when she would leave her things on the floor and it would touch ‘my side’ of the room. I labelled everything, kept all of my schoolwork and sketches in named folders, and displayed all of my cd’s in alphabetical order.
As I grew older, moved into my own home, I was very particular of where I kept all of my things. I labelled my cupboards and made sure to tidy the house every day. During parties I would spend the time cleaning up after my friends, making sure no potential spillages could stain the carpet. I like being clean and organised, it gives me the feeling of control. Friends and family used to joke that I had OCD, and by my mid twenties, I began to believe them. Back then I never took the time to research, and continued on believing I had this condition, not truly understanding what having an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder actually meant.
The idea was brought up again recently about my having OCD, so I spent the evening doing a little research. I came across a very useful and informative site called OCDUK . This is a charity based organisation who are spreading awareness about the condition and are pushing to make sure that the people suffering with this debilitating disorder are recognised, not ridiculed, and are offered the right support and treatment. They have a section on their site which describes what a person suffering with OCD goes through:
“OCD presents itself in many guises, and certainly goes far beyond the common perception that OCD is merely hand washing or checking light switches. In general, OCD sufferers experience obsessions which take the form of persistent and uncontrollable thoughts, images, impulses, worries, fears or doubts. They are often intrusive, unwanted, disturbing, significantly interfere with the ability to function on a day-to-day basis as they are incredibly difficult to ignore. People with OCD often realise that their obsessional thoughts are irrational, but they believe the only way to relieve the anxiety caused by them is to perform compulsive behaviours, often to prevent perceived harm happening to themselves or, more often than not, to a loved one.”
This was an enlightening moment for me. I began to realise that the general public, including myself, had a very limited understanding of the condition. People watch tv shows and come to the conclusion that having OCD is merely a disorder which makes you wash your hands, clean your home or stereotypically turn the light switch on and off multiple times. I was embarrassed to admit that I agreed in my head to having the condition, even in a mild form, without proper diagnosis or research. Self diagnosing, wether it be from online ‘web doctors’ or from friends and family, is a dangerous thing to do for so many reasons. An article by Anna Down South explains these reasons in depth, which I wholeheartedly agree with and hope others can agree with as well.
I began to re-evaluate my own behaviour to try and find a cause for my irrational and erratic need to reorganise and clean my entire dvd collection. Of course I stayed far away from search engines and online doctors, I started to look at times when I decided to clean the house top to bottom, and realised I was using my need to tidy up as an escape. I am a very self critical person, I often believe that what I do will never be good enough, that I don’t work hard enough to deserve rewards or happiness. My need to clean or organise triggers when I have planned to do something that I enjoy. If I have planned to start a new project, or booked a day out, or have a spare few hours before my son comes home from school, I instantly realise that the dishes need cleaned, or I need to reorganise my entire wardrobe, or the entire bathroom needs bleached. I often choose chores that will intentionally take me a long time to complete, so that when I am finished I am too tired or have run out of spare time to continue any plans. Fair enough, the house is always tidy, but at the end of the day I lie in bed regretting not being more productive with my time.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
A few years ago my doctor suggested CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) for my anxiety and depression, I made a weak attempt at carrying out the exercises and concluded that it did not work for me. I then realised recently that when I was able to assess my situation and recognise the triggers, I was in fact using a form of CBT. Instead of reacting to the triggers that anxiety brought, I was able to step back, realise I was on the verge of acting on my emotional instinct, and decide how to move forward. Now I will admit I do not always choose wisely. Sometimes my mood would just be too low to claw myself out, and I would have to give in. I am still working on getting better, and I must remember not to be too hard on myself on these off days. I have come to terms that I am just a neat and tidy person, and I am happy with that. Knowing when to recognise my triggers has been the most positive thing for my anxiety and depression.
I have concluded that CBT is a technique that can be used to suit your needs. It is a valuable tool to help with many different situations. If I can give any advice, it would be not to get caught up in the self diagnosing trend, if you genuinely feel there is something not quite right, and it affects your life day to day, your health is worth every penny. Go and visit your doctor, they can confirm or rule out any worries you have, which will give you the confidence to move forward knowing the truth. If you are having trouble with behavioural triggers, research into CBT techniques, meet with a professional who can help you or even join an online forum. If you are not sure where to turn, please get in touch and I will try my best to help, I know how stressful it is to suffer alone, and no one should go through this experience by themselves.