What if I lose control and kill someone? What if I hit a pedestrian while driving? What If I start screaming or blurting out obscenities? What if I confess a crime that I did not even commit?
Reading this, you may think that I went totally crazy. But these are not my thoughts – or well, it depends on the way you look at it, because I am the one who thinks about them but not because I want to or because I like any of these ideas. I am having them because of my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
A lot of people think that OCD is a kind of cleaning obsession or that it is only about being extremely organized. But believe me, it is much more than that. And it’s much scarier. However, today’s post is not about telling you what OCD is or what it is not.
If you want to read more about this subject, please check out any of these posts:
– 5 common misconceptions about OCD
– 6 types of OCD
– Do I have OCD?
This time, I would like to talk about a topic that I have always found extremely interesting: Personifying OCD.
Personifying OCD is a commonly recommended technique for OCD sufferers. I have read that children were often encouraged to name their OCD as a concrete way to drive home the fact that they were separate from it.
Well, I was diagnosed with OCD in my late teens, so I cannot really tell you about my childhood experiences but one thing that I know for sure is that personifying OCD can be helpful to adult sufferers too.
How Can You Personify Your OCD?
I am not a certified therapist but I will tell you about the things that worked for me hoping that this will help some of you.
1. You Are Not Your Thoughts
I think the first and the most important thing is understanding that you are not your thoughts. A lot of us experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts – it’s hard to estimate the exact number of people who have them, but believe me, you’re definitely not alone. (I have found an article saying that there were about 6 million people in the US alone who were suffering from these disturbing thoughts.)
Now, how do you know that some of your thoughts are just not “real”? OCD sufferers often believe that they keep having certain disturbing thoughts because they unconsciously want to do the things that come into their minds. I think many of you have already had the same feeling – like, you really think that you do not actually want to set your home on fire, but what if you actually have a deep, unconscious wish for acting on your thoughts?
And we have just mentioned about one of the warning signs: What if?
If OCD was an actual person – and we’re about to personify it – I’m sure his (my OCD is a guy) favorite question would be “what if”. He just loves asking that. And when I hear him asking it, I will immediately know that there’s something wrong about my thoughts.
Another thing that helped me a lot was a question that my therapist asked me during our first meeting. It was many years ago but I will never forget that moment. I was telling her about the disturbing thoughts that I had about harming someone I loved and about my fears that I had about being a bad person who unconsciously wanted to act on his thoughts. And I was expecting her to tell me that I was insane or something like that but instead, she asked me:
Do you actually enjoy having these thoughts? Would it make you happy if you stopped having them?
I was like, yes of course, that is what I am here for. And then she told me that if I really wanted to act on these thoughts, I would enjoy having them.
And thinking about this question and realizing that I absolutely did not enjoy having these thoughts were the first steps that I took for personifying my OCD.
2. Think About Your OCD’s Personality
You are not your thoughts. And you do not even know why you are having some of your thoughts. So, now it is time to get to know the person who’s responsible for this whole thing
And well, we know it’s not a real person. It is OCD. But OCD is almost like a person.
He (yeah, I said my OCD) is:
- Extremely attention-seeking
- Coward (He is afraid of everything)
- Insane – and not in a good way
- Creative – well, DEFINITELY NOT IN A GOOD WAY
- A stalker
And I guess he wants to be my boyfriend. Like he’s the kind of guys you can never run away from.
3. Name Your OCD
Now that we know more about the annoying personality that our little OCD monster has, it is time to give it a name. My OCD did not use to have a name but then I read the story of Catherine Benfield and her OCD, called Olivia. And I thought that naming your OCD is a hilariously good idea.
My only issue is that I have never been able to find an appropriate name for my OCD, so I just started calling it “Little Demon (Démonka in my native language)”, because let’s admit – he is a real demon.
4. Imagine What Your OCD Would Look Like
Again, the story of Catherine and Olivia was an inspiration to me. As Catherine did not only name her OCD “Olivia” but she also decided to draw her.
And I have done the same. I have always thought that my OCD was a monster. A demon. The Devil himself. The biggest liar who has ever existed. A satanic creature that likes whispering scary stuff into your ears and at the same time would like to pretend that he’s your Saviour.
So, this is what I imagine my OCD to look like: (Sorry, I am not particularly good at drawing but I just wanted to share this with you)
Reading my blog, you have probably noticed that I love dark things. And probably that’s why I couldn’t really think of my “OCD” in a cute, funny way as it’s not “me” 🙂
5. Final Thoughts – Never Forget That You Are Not Your OCD
OCD is like having two brains. You know that some of your obsessions and compulsions do not make sense but you just cannot stop having them as there’s something in the background that wouldn’t let you do that. It is not like having more personalities – it feels more like spending your life with an annoying creature who just loves whispering scary stuff into your ears.
We obviously know OCD is not a person, but thinking about it as if it was one actually helps a lot.
- You Are Not Your Thoughts (International OCD Foundation)
- I Call My OCD Olivia (BBC)
- Personifying OCD: An Effective Recovery Tool (PsychCentral)
- OCD: Living a Lie (Mark Wester)
- Demons Are Real: Stop Negative Self-Talk (Mark Wester)
- Top 60 OCD Blogs (Feedspot)
As you know, there’s one more thing that I love than writing my stories: reading yours! Have you ever personified your OCD? Does he or she have a name?
Mark (and “Little Demon” alias Démonka who was obviously helping me write this article….)