I am obsessed over many things. Some of these obsessions are healthy, others are not. Along with these obsessions I am compelled to take actions based on these obsessions. I’ve always been that way, but it wasn’t until recently that my Therapist asked me if I thought that perhaps I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It had never occurred to me, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
OCD is frequently a secondary diagnosis along with bipolar disorder. Research has established a strong link between bipolar disorder and OCD. It has been estimated that between 10 and 35% of people with bipolar disorder also have OCD. OCD is thought to be the most frequently occurring anxiety disorder among people with bipolar disorder.
My own OCD isn’t what I had always associated with this diagnosis. I don’t do the repetitive hand washing, or have to touch the door frame every time I pass through, or any of what could be considered the nonsensical activities you normally think of for OCD.
My first clue was an obsession with organization. Everything must have a place, and everything must be in it. I guess that isn’t an obsession per se, but the way I react when that’s not the case takes it over the top. If I go to find a tool for example that should be in the tool drawer, and it’s not there, I completely freak out. First of all it totally pisses me off! And I will stop whatever I’m doing, tearing up the house looking for the missing tool. And I will not stop until I find it! It doesn’t matter that I have the same tool in my tool box outside; the one I was looking for was not where it was supposed to be! I will be consumed until I have it back where it belongs.
Cleanliness is also an obsession. There must never be dirty dishes left in the sink. I’m a fast eater, and usually finish before anyone I’m having dinner with. I will usually have my own dishes washed before they finish, and will hover over them, barely waiting until they are finished so I can take away their plates and have them washed and put away. When I’m cooking as soon as I’m finished with a bowl or pan it is washed and put away. By the time the food is ready, there’s only one or two pans left to clean, and I usually get that taken care of before I serve anything. I make my bed as soon as I get up every morning; usually even before the first trip to the bathroom. At any given time my place could be on the cover of “Better Homes and Garden”. And it drives me wild if it’s not immaculate.
The obsessions aren’t just behavioral. The really disruptive obsessions occur in my head. I have repetitive thoughts that are usually just part of a sentence that overwhelm my conscious thinking. Once, when I got upset over a bad haircut, the phrase “What was she thinking…what was she thinking…what was she thinking… what was she thinking” just wouldn’t stop, even long after I had calmed down about the haircut; it went on for days. I never considered this to be an obsession, but according to my therapist the music that is always playing in my head is also symptom of OCD. I always have music in the background… a personal soundtrack. (See previous article “I’ve got the music in me”) There is no rhyme or reason as to what I hear. It’s not something I’ve heard or anything related to anything going on. I just wake up with a theme song for the day that plays over and over.
There is the compulsive side as well. Again, it’s not repetitive behavior that I am compelled to do. But I get an idea in my head that will drive me crazy until it’s accomplished. A few years ago, I had to have a dress hat (Like a fedora worn in the 40’s or 50’s). I shopped for weeks. No, I shopped for Months looking for the exact hat I wanted. It was driving me crazy, and I drove hundreds of miles in my quest. I finally did find one, but now I rarely ever wear it. It was the search not the possession that was driving me. Or I’ll get the idea that I need to go somewhere, like the beach. I will call out of work, I will spend money that I need for bills, I will beg friends to go with me or even go by myself if I have to. But by God, I’m going to the beach! Or wherever else I get in my mind that I have to go. Once I have the need to go it becomes all consuming until I get there.
My OCD can be disruptive and annoying, but it is secondary to the bipolar illness. And depending on where my cycle is can have a huge impact on my OCD behaviors. The worse I am in the mood swing, the stronger the symptoms of the OCD. Just what I need; something to exacerbate what is already an overwhelming and devastating illness. OCD; or as I call it, (to steal a phrase)… CDO. At least get the damn letters in the right order!