I am so indecisive…or it’s my OCD

Indecision has plagued me and driven those around me mad my whole life.  Decisions like what to eat for dinner or which shoe to wear take painstakingly long and cause marked anxiety.  I sometimes get so anxious in trying to make a trivial decision, I end up frustrated, stressed and occasionally just refuse to make the decision.

I recently read an article that shed some light on this frustrating trait and helped me to learn that indecision in an OCD sufferer can be a symptom of OCD.

Dr. Charles Raison writes:

Although many people with OCD do primarily manifest classic symptoms such as fear of contamination, a need to count or a need for things to be symmetrical, it is just as common for individuals with OCD to suffer most from symptoms that are less well-known, none of which is more common than indecision. And indecision is always at its worst when the patient is presented with two options that are equally desirable.

Seriously!?  It’s my brain again!?  Bitter sweet because it’s not my fault or a flaw in my character, but I guess this also means it’s not so easy to change, but I suppose I knew that part already.

Indecision is a symptom in its own right and doesn’t need any additional obsessional content about bad things happening if the wrong decision is made. It’s not the outcome that bothers patients as much as the raw problem of a making a choice.

In this, as in almost everything, people with OCD are suffering from a truth of the world that most of us ignore: in this case that every decision requires that we give up the choice we didn’t make.

It’s difficult to explain why decision making is so hard especially when the choice at hand is over something so simple where either outcome would seemingly be fine.

So, this goes on my list of attributes that are not my fault and that I may not be able to change, but it is my philosophy that one must make the best of things.  Accept it, but make it work or at least practice ways to deal with it.  I know this will most likely be a life long struggle, but knowledge brings clarity and clarity is the start to solving problems.

Click here to watch my video post about indecision on my youtube channel.

Does OCD Go Away?

I have had OCD my whole life; in fact I really can’t imagine life without it.  As my previous posts state, things are mostly under control, but it’s still a part of me.  Some people, however get OCD later in life.  Most researchers say that this is not a sudden affliction, but rather something has triggered what was always there.  I recently came across an article about a book called, Saving Sammy, that details the story of a mother whose child suddenly experiences OCD symptoms at age ten.  He is later cured after a year of antibiotics when they learn of his strep (PANDAS).

These “triggers” that set off OCD always seem to involve a stressful event or situation like pregnancy, divorce, moving, college, etc…

I think for some people OCD can go away, but for others it can be there for life.  I don’t feel one way about this or the other because really, whether OCD is in me or out, I will strive to make the best of my situation.

Overvalued Ideas: This could be tricky…

I am one of those OCD sufferers to have covert and overt compulsions, meaning some of my compulsions manifest physically while others are in my head, like mental counting.  This makes me think that CBT therapy may not be so helpful for me since the psychologist much of the time monitors the patient during an exposure.  Additionally, some things I fear that cause my anxiety are not easily proven wrong, like my fears of the paranormal.  So, how do I really let this stuff go?

I came across a very interesting excerpt from O’Dwyer, Anne-Marie Carter, Obsessive–compulsive disorder and delusions revisited, The British Journal of Psychiatry (2000) 176: 281-284 that discuss some of this:

Some OCD sufferers exhibit what is known as overvalued ideas. In such cases, the person with OCD will truly be uncertain whether the fears that cause them to perform their compulsions are irrational or not. After some discussion, it is possible to convince the individual that their fears may be unfounded. It may be more difficult to do ERP therapy on such patients, because they may be, at least initially, unwilling to cooperate. For this reason OCD has often been likened to a disease of pathological doubt, in which the sufferer, while not usually delusional, is often unable to realize fully what sorts of dreaded events are reasonably possible and which are not. There are severe cases when the sufferer has an unshakeable belief within the context of OCD which is difficult to differentiate from psychosis.

Sometimes after I fly into what I call a blind panic, I look back and feel like I was delusional.  I also feel lately that my memory is quite poor, and I have to wonder if this is my fault.  In trying to let go of obsessions, I feel like I may have sort of trained my mind to forget in general.  I feel like this is probably extreme, but OCD makes me feel like any emotional pain could lead to awful anxiety and so I try to avoid it.

I am now trying to learn that not all anxiety is bad and feeling some discomfort is probably ok, but at the same time, not beat myself up during this process.