Saturday, October 17, 2009

OCD: Nature versus Nurture

Twice recently, I've had conversations with people about whether my OCD was "hard-wired" into me or was a result of my environment.

As I've mentioned before when talking about my immediate family, they do not have ANY contamination issues, and I grew up in a household where handwashing didn't really happen.

So I definitely didn't learn it there. Theoretically I could have rebelled at some point against my family's lack of concern about germs or dirt. But I don't think that's it either. I didn't ever (and still don't) look back at it in disgust. That's just the way it was, and we were all healthy and fine. And the older I am, the more I realize that most of the world is closer to my family growing up than they are to over-handwashing me.

Up until my early 20s, I had brief, very brief flashes of OCD behavior, including about a month where I was sure the house was going to burn down, and one truly weird incident when I become concerned about pregnancy despite not having had sex. But at age 25, it really felt like a switch turned on. Well, maybe a dimmer switch. Over the course of about 6 months, I just became more and more concerned about germs, and washing, and checking doors, until it completely overwhelmed my life.

I don't know how it happened, or why it happened then, but I truly feel that it was going to happen to me no matter how I'd been brought up. One half of my family has a full smorgasbord of mental illnesses, and this is just the one I was lucky enough to get.


  1. Same here. I think a lot of it has more to do with nature than nurture. Some of my family members have other mental disorders, but I wasn't really aware of them until I left home. None of my family was conscious about germs just hit me like it did you...kind of like a dimmer switch being turned on, right after the birth of my first child.
    Thanks for all your posting on your blog. It's nice to read -- and although I know you're suffering with it, as we all do, I'm glad there's someone out there who understands what I'm going through. :)

  2. Both of my parents suffered from anxiety issues and my father was always a fatalist. I think this helped bring on my negative ruminations. It's funny though, I have 3 brothers and a sister and they don't suffer from OCD.

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  4. My sister is something of a worrier but nothing like me. She's always been more adventurous than I am, though, so she would have had a long long way to go to get to OCD. My mom doesn't seem to do worry, and I'm envious.

  5. Oh yeah. I've had the pregnancy pre-sex fear, too...