ARC Blog

Bad Habits or OCD?

When did my OCD saga begin? For me, it was one particular moment at age 5. I cannot tell you what “triggered” it if anything. I just remember that day: it felt like nothing more than a flicker of light and my mind seemed to break. One day I was a healthy, happy child, bubbling with curiosity and full of life, and the next I was consumed by OCD, as I would remain for years.

The Cycle Begins

Before long, I began having tics. I had to hold my stomach in a certain way, make certain movements with my mouth and nose, and I became hyper-focused on yawning. Part of me thought that everyone experienced this, but another part knew they didn’t. Then came the disturbing intrusive thoughts. It started with taboo images of religious figures. I imagined that everyone had these thoughts, but that they bothered me more than others. 

It started off innocently enough, questioning everyday things and their meanings. What if I lied? What if I did something wrong? What if I unintentionally hurt someone that I loved? These questions were often unanswerable, which led to the most uncomfortable feelings of distress. I became a ball of anxiety. Each new thought brought about a new sense of dread. I was consumed by my thoughts, with an internal dialogue that never stopped. I became a shell of my former self.

In an effort to rid me of the feelings of shame and guilt that these thoughts caused, I turned to my mother. I felt a need to confess my intrusive thoughts to her, but the shame and guilt made it extremely difficult. I wrestled with this until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I finally talked to her. 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this would begin one of my longest-lasting compulsions: confessing my intrusive thoughts. My mother’s loving support made me instantly feel at ease and made the anxiety subside. I was able to breathe again, to experience joy and a level of freedom that I longed for. But these feelings didn’t last, and it wouldn’t be long before a new fear would pop into my head and the cycle would begin all over again.

A Sense of Over Responsibility

As a child, one thought in particular haunted me: I was so scared that I would lie and something bad would happen. I tried to make sure that everything I said ended with “maybe, it could be, I think” or “probably” to cover all my bases. For example, my parents would ask me what I did at school that day and I would say “I worked on my handwriting, I think.” 

As you can imagine, this caused problems. My parents and everyone around me became very annoyed at this “bad habit.” I couldn’t explain the urge I had to say these things. I thought that if I didn’t tell the “exact” truth I would be punished, that one day I would go to jail, or that something bad could happen to someone else as a result. 

As time went on, these feelings expanded to become an inflated sense of responsibility for everyone else and their safety. I needed to ensure that everyone I loved would be safe, or else it would be my fault if something bad happened to them. This was no small task for a young child. By this time, I was 6 or 7 and I had become consumed with fears that a parent or loved one would die. 

In particular, I was scared of car accidents, and it would be my fault if I didn’t tell someone to wear their seatbelt and they got into an accident. That simple phrase – “wear your seatbelt” – became a shield against my fears. I had to say it every time someone left the house. I had to remind them incessantly, and if they did not acknowledge I had said it, I assumed they had not heard and would repeat it until they did. This became another of my frustrating “bad habits.”

There were so many other stages in my fight with this peculiar and misunderstood disorder. My experiences with OCD, like many others with the condition, did not fit neatly into any stereotype or theme, but were messy, causing havoc in my life and in the lives of those that I loved the most. The only constant was the doubt and anxiety that consumed me for years. 

There is Hope

After all these years, I still have OCD, but it doesn’t control my life or make decisions for me. I can manage it and live my life. By doing exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, I was able to learn the tools I needed to fight back. 

ERP is the gold standard treatment for OCD, and it works by habituating people to the uncertainty and anxiety caused by their obsessions, then teaching them to resist doing compulsions as a response. It has been nearly 20 years since I initially started ERP, and I still use the skills I learned daily. These days, I manage my symptoms effectively, and they are far, far less bothersome than they were in the beginning. I know ERP works. 

That’s why I became a therapist at NOCD: to deliver care that can be truly life-changing. If you suffer from OCD, it doesn’t have to define you. You can write your own story. That is why I’m so driven to get the word out about what OCD really looks like: to help people get the best treatment possible.

If you’re ready to stop living in fear and doubt, it’s important to see a therapist who is specialty-trained to treat OCD with ERP therapy. They will understand intrusive thoughts, the anxiety they cause, and how this leads to physical or mental compulsions. They will also understand how to break this cycle, teaching you how to accept the uncertainty behind OCD fears, and they will give you the tools and knowledge you need to manage OCD.

Stacy Quick LPC is a therapist at NOCD, specializing in the treatment of OCD. Her goal is to help members achieve skills to help live a more fulfilling life without letting OCD be in control. Quick uses ERP and her lived experiences to help clients understand it is possible to live a life in recovery. She is a mother of 3, 2 of whom are also diagnosed with OCD. Quick is also a writer and content creator. Learn more about NOCD and Quick on Instagram: stacyquick.undone.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and happenings around ARC.

You have Successfully Subscribed!