Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Obsessive Compulsive Anxiety Disorder or Innocent Habit?

I have a quick quiz for you, see if you can quickly answer these questions:
  1. Which shoe do you put on first?
  2. Which leg do you put in your pants first?
  3. Which side of the bed do you sleep on (doesn't count if you share the bed)?
If you answered these questions, then I have a 4th one for you: Why? Think about that one for a few seconds and see if you have an answer.

Innocent Habits or OCD?

If you have any form of anxiety disorder, I know you were able to answer the first three but the 4th might have been a little harder. If your answer to that last one was "It's a habit" that's okay, because we're all creatures of habit, but if when you think more about it your answer is really "Because I have to" you need to start making some changes.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - OCD - is a common trait (to varying degrees) in people with anxiety disorders and if you have it, these little "habits" we have become difficult to break or change. In fact, a good way to find out if your habits are actually OCD behavior, is to just try to not follow a habitual pattern and see how hard it is. Note how much you have to concentrate or distract yourself in order to do something differently.

Don't get me wrong, there are some good habits, habits that make life simpler and more organized. For example, I'm one of many who sort the bills in my wallet and have them turned the same direction. This makes it easier to pull out the right amount of money to pay for something. But if I were to TRY to do it differently just for the heck of it, I'd find myself in disharmony, and I'd call that "borderline OCD".

Comfort Zone and OCD

When we follow obsessive and compulsive patterns, the behavior becomes our comfort zone. And as long as we stay in that zone, we're comfortable and secure. Or so we think: the reality is, what we're doing is reinforcing our anxiety disorder by staying in that comfortable place. It's very much like a phobia, which can be simply defined as avoidance of something we think is going to make us anxious. And if we constantly reinforce the comfort zone, it WILL make us anxious to step outside of it.

In order to begin to break free of our anxiety issues, we need to break out of our comfort zones. Changing a few of our little OCD-like habits is a great place to start, since they're not really important in the first place. Jon Mercer, creator of the anxiety treatment video program I like, has an exercise in his videos asking you to write a list of things we do out of habit and then pick a few and change them - do something differently. A few each day - simple things like shop at a different grocery or sleep on the other side of the bed. If you usually eat certain kinds of food, change it up and try something different. You get the drift.

I'd have to say Jon's advice is golden. Start small and work your way up to the major limitations you're imposing on yourself. Get out of that little comfort zone and experience some freedom. It's not a bad feeling at all!

Read more on this subject: Obsessive Compulsive Anxiety Disorder 

To your recovery,


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