By Emily Carter
OCD Through History
I would like you to take a moment and ask, what do Charles Darwin, Nikola Tesla, and Katherine Hepburn all have in common? You could say they all have had a significant impact on the world, but that would not be what links them together. There is something else that all three of these individuals were assumed to share and were affected by, which is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, more commonly known as OCD. Although medical tests never proved this, there is sufficient evidence to say that they all experienced a form of OCD during their lives. While they all were exceptional people in their time, from being a famous actor to evolving the theory of evolution, the key point here is that these figures never let their OCD hinder their success, and neither should anyone else. Having OCD, or any neurodiversity makes people unique and, with the proper tools, can be used to help achieve great success in whatever path of life you choose.
What is OCD?
OCD is a mental health disorder that causes unwanted obsessions and compulsions that can cause thoughts or actions that result in extremely distressing feelings. Many people get these feelings of obsessing over something, but the trigger is when it starts to consume your daily life and makes it hard to complete everyday activities. The pathway of thought for a person that may be affected by OCD would follow along the lines of a trigger to an obsession and constantly thinking about it, which in turn disrupts their day. This person will then use a compulsion as a security blanket to relieve themselves of the large amount of stress caused by the obsessive thought. Some obsessions can include contamination of germs/disease, fear of acting on an impulse, fears relating to perfectionism, religious obsessions, and harm to self or others. With the numerous amounts of obsessions that people endure, there are many more compulsions to help release some of the stress that results from their feelings. Many contain a safe number or repetitive action that soothes their mind to a state of calm or peace with themselves. These can include counting, reassurance from a close friend or family member, washing hands in a specific pattern or way, and avoiding places or things that bring about the obsession altogether.
I have sensed some of these behaviors in myself. I often experience obsessive thoughts over everyday activities that start to consume my entire day. They are unconsciously happening all the time. The more prominent thoughts I have is with organization in my daily life. I am very meticulous about colors and numbers that I can physically see. I feel a sense of frustration and stress when things do not look the way I may want or need them to be. It is along the lines of perfectionism and a need for exactness. I also have a large focus on my skin. Picking at my face and nails is a subconscious habit throughout the day to the point of scabs and scars. I don’t bring this up to worry or scare anyone. I bring this up to recognize that these things occur to many people and that it is ok. I am also bringing it up to help people that may have struggles like mine.
Calming the Storm
These actions or thoughts sometimes affect most of my day, but I have learned to take active measures to bring awareness to myself about it. I do this to continue focusing on the job at hand and working on getting it done. Some steps are little, just to bring some ease to my day. Others are to help continue focus for a more extended time. I take some more involved measures for these scenarios, but all very easy to do and all very helpful. I have compiled a small list of ways to help the next time you or someone you know is struggling with OCD or is showing signs of obsession and compulsion.
7 Ways to No Stress Days
- A deep breath- The power of a big breath in and out in any stressful situation can work miracles for so many. I tend to do this right before a large event, such as a project, speech, exam, a workout, or even a family gathering.
- Meditation/yoga- Find a time during the day to take a few minutes for a break from the world around you to center yourself. This is a great way to find relief from the busy or tense environment you could be in. This could range from 1 minute to 60 minutes. The time would be based on what you need at that moment.
- Drink water- I sit a water bottle in front of me on my desk all day to focus on drinking the water instead of my obsessions that take over my day. This not only helps me keep working on my schoolwork, but it also keeps me super hydrated.
- Check your numbers- I tend to dislike the look of numbers, specifically odds, because it creates a feeling of frustration when I see them. They make me feel lost and uncertain. The best way I have found to deal with this situation is to focus on the numbers you can control. Although it may be hard to work on initially, try to trick your brain into only seeing numbers that you can personally change. Some places to find these are as follows, but not limited to: the tv volume, the running pace on the treadmill, the cruise control on your car, or the thermostat in your place of living. Although not 100% banishing those awful odd numbers, it helps to have some regulation over the ones you can have control of.
- Make a schedule- This may seem like an odd way to help with an obsessive feeling, but it can do wonders when you feel like time is running out. I notice that I will get a thought in my head that will distract me for the whole day, and then I will get nothing done. This mainly happens with my schoolwork. I want it all to be perfect with no errors. This can be next to impossible to do, especially in college. To allow me to feel comfortable with the product and complete multiple tasks in a day, I make an hour by hour schedule. This not only helps me stay on track with my work, but it also reminds me of what I have in my day so that I don’t forget anything.
- Find a fidget- with the way I get easily distracted by my thoughts and feelings. I find myself a fidget to keep me focused and on task. This can be anything that your subconscious mind will focus on so that your conscious mind can continue completing your task(s) at hand. My personal favorite is the fidget spinner, but you can use stress balls, Rubik’s cubes, small pillows, stuffed animals, slime, etc. You can find many of these from your local Walmart, Target, Dollar Store, and off Amazon. The key is to see what fits best with your needs.
- Pace yourself- Obsessive feelings can spring from overstimulation and high-stress scenarios. This is an excellent example of last-minute study sessions, late-night paper writing, and a large amount of semester project procrastination. With the stress that students have, it is hard not to lose focus on the goal ahead by anything they may battle internally or something that could distract them externally. Finding a logical pace to work at is the key to not spending too much time on one assignment or not enough on another. A good example could be two small assignments and one big assignment completed a day. If there are tests, then take away a small assignment and only do half of a big assignment. This balance comes with compromise and a sense of exactness that can help soothe that inner perfectionist.
Believe In Yourself and Change the World
With these small and simple steps, I have found relief from daily stresses and anxieties that I never thought I would get under control. Because of these, I have achieved much more success and achievement in my daily life. I have been able to enter college with ease and continue to keep high grades in all my courses. I successfully manage my time to enjoy moments with friends, family, and better my life in fitness and nutrition. I have joined a few organizations at my university to better interact with the other students on campus. I also have control over the obsessions I have and can catch my unconscious actions and direct them to something I can control. And I also have been able to be selected to join the wonderful community that is Different Brains Inc. through their internship program. These are just a few of the things that I can do now that have already refocused my energy and feelings towards more positive outcomes. With this plan, I don’t want to stop there. My goal someday is to become an orthopedic surgeon that can help people get to the peak potential of their physical being. I want to help the greater good of the world in a way that I know I can help.
These tools are always in my toolbox for when I need them the most. I know not all my tools may work for everyone, but they are a start. By making them a part of your daily routine, they can put you on a path for excellence, just like so many people in history. Even battling OCD or any type of neurodiversity, you can conquer anything you set your mind to. You just need the right tools to help you along the way. I hope that by reading this, you have found something that will work for you; and that this will make your dreams become a reality. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one changing history someday.
“The History of OCD.” OCDUK, 2013, www.ocduk.org/ocd/history-of-ocd/.
“What Is OCD?” International OCD Foundation, 5 Nov. 2020, iocdf.org/about-ocd/.
Hello readers! My name is Emily Carter, and I am student at the University of Central Florida. I am originally from Rockford, Illinois but have since moved to the sunny state of Florida. I am currently a freshman studying a major in biomedical sciences and a minor in biomedical engineering and Leadership studies. My goal is to obtain my medical degree to become an orthopedic surgeon. I am so happy to be a part of the Different Brains Inc. Internship program to hopefully continue to grow and learn about how different everyone’s brains really are.