Can Obsessive Compulsive Disorder be beneficial?
Okay, I know this is a pretty surprising question. How could a mental illness be beneficial and how could it have any positive side effects? But a lot of people have asked me this question so in today’s post I’ll try to give an answer to it by sharing one of my personal stories.
OCD frightened me into learning languages
You may ask yourself: did this guy go totally crazy? Did he run out of ideas to write about? Learning languages has nothing to do with OCD. But let me tell you my story and I promise you it will make sense.
My parents are from Romania but I was born in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. So I can say that I come from a pretty multicultural background and speaking other languages has always been an important part of my life. But it turned into an obsession during my mid-teens. And by obsession, I do not mean that I was addicted to studying languages or that I was actually enjoying it. Not at all. It was something much darker: full blown OCD.
Ever since my high school days, I’ve had severe financial anxiety: I’ve always been afraid of not finding a job or not having enough money to live on. And in my city, it’s much easier to find a job and to earn a decent amount of money if you speak foreign languages. So as a result of these two factors, a surprising thing was born: obsessive compulsive studying.
It all started by the usual intrusive thoughts:
– what if I will not be able to find a job?
– what if I will never have money?
– what if I will end up on the street?
And I guess most OCD sufferers have already experience the vicious cycle:
The intrusive thoughts that will turn into terrifying anxiety. An anxiety that will soon start ruining your life so you just have to do something to get rid of it: and that is how compulsions start.
(Read more: Set yourself free: How to break the vicious cycle?)
So I arrived to the conclusion that speaking a lot of languages would save me from a horrible financial disaster so I decided to register on a couple of language learning websites and I spent a lot of money on language books. Studying languages is a very fun thing to do but as I have mentioned earlier, I did not do it because I was enjoying it! I spent most of my days reading course books and chatting with foreigners on the internet because it would give me a temporary relief from anxiety. And I’d have never skipped one single day: it would give me an anxiety attack if I could not spend at least a few hours a day on improving my language skills.
A gift from OCD
I can say that my efforts paid off: ever since I graduated from high school it’s been relatively easy for me to find jobs. But has this solved my anxiety issues? Of course not! My language learning obsession is over but we all know how creative the little OCD monster is: it’s always able to come up with something new. And I wouldn’t like to bombard you with stories about my other obsessions (but if you’re interested, you can check them on my blog feed: http://over-coming-ocd.com/blog-feed/)
Answering the question: Can OCD be beneficial?
There are OCD sufferers who are obsessed with cleaning: so obviously their homes will always be very neat. Others are obsessed with symmetry, so they might be able to design extremely beautiful things. And OCD forced me to learn foreign languages. So it does have positive side effects.
But is OCD beneficial?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one of the most terrifying mental illnesses in the world and I would never call it beneficial. And I do not say this because I am a negative person. I always try to look on the bright side of things and I am proud of having OCD: it’s a part of me and it helped me a lot to become the person who I am today. But the benefits are dwarfed by other things OCD sufferers have to live with: intrusive thoughts, obsessions, compulsions, anxiety – and a lot more.
As you know there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my stories: reading yours. So please do not hesitate to share your OCD experiences in the comment section!