Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Brain on OCD

I found an excellent description of how I experience anxiety, in of all places, a Carolyn Hax column, original link here.

"I have found that people have an amazing ability to adapt and adapt quickly -- I guess it is what makes it possible for us to survive, but it can also work to our detriment. I believe our bodies want what is best for us, but sometimes a body forgets that what is best for us in the moment may not be the best for us over the long haul.

I first noticed this in March. I live in a town that is about 100 miles from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. While my area was considered "safe" for radioactive fallout, the following days were littered with dozens of daily earthquakes day and night, no food or water to be found for miles, and no gasoline for those who wanted to go in search. After the 10th day of no more than 30 minutes of sleep a night, another Westerner and I decided to get a little distance.

After we drove about 200 miles, there were no more earthquakes, all the stores were open, it was calm and we were safe. Once my brain registered that I was safe, I had this strange feeling of my panic searching for something else to grasp onto ... I had become so accustomed to the fear and panic, that rather than it leaving when it was no longer necessary, it went looking for something else. I had to consciously tell myself there was nothing to fear and that it was OK to feel safe.

I see this in so many of the questions you get -- people are so used to feeling uneasy and unhappy, that even when things are OK, they seem to feel the need to make life fit into their adapted-to uneasiness and unhappiness. Sometimes it is OK to just allow ourselves to let it go, remember a time when life was lighter and allow yourself to go there."

My brain does this all the time. As soon as one fear passes, a new one jumps right into its place. And I'll find that if I'm not feeling anxiety, I'll scan around my brain looking for one. Interesting to think of it not as an OCD trait, but a human one.


  1. This is TOTALLY me! I seem to function the best in life when there is a "mini" crisis. Not too much - because that becomes too much stress and too much to handle. But nothing "real" to worry about my look out!!!!

  2. I always feel less stressed in crisis environment because I had been waiting for the worst all along. When things seem to be OK, that's when I tweak out. I just wait for the next tragedy to happen at any minute. i can't sleep or eat because I am always on high alert just waiting for the worst.

  3. I totally relate to this! Thanks for posting that article.

  4. Thanks for the interesting post......I also have to always have "something to worry about," and I don't have OCD. I'm not sure if it's human nature, as I have several friends who swear they never worry, but it certainly is not uncommon.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Ann. I can definitely relate. I think I probably have gotten so used to feeling anxious that it's more comfortable for me.

  6. Yes, i noticed this about myself a few years ago, even before this ocd outbreak hit me. I had to consciously tell myself that things were ok, and i could enjoy the calm. Once ocd- contamination hit, i was again always on edge just waiting for the next ocd spike to hit. I have to remind myself that when i am calm and everything is ok, that that is an ok feeling to have. Constant vigilence may be a good theme for Harry Potter, but i need a break from being tense and uptight and anxious!