By Dale Vernor
Stories from the community are submitted and edited by Toni Palombi. If you are interested in sharing your story you can view submission details at www.iocdf.org/ocd-stories.
Television shows such as Monk can be misleading as they often portray obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as being only about a fear of germs. However, OCD is far more complex. I live with OCD and I am not obsessive compulsive about germs at all. However, I have obsessions with numbers, time and recurrently checking whether I have locked my door.
For a long time, I thought these compulsions were simply eccentricities that were not uncommon. However, as I aged, I realized my obsessions and compulsions were not eccentricities but symptomatic of something more serious. I became increasingly aware that the anxiety I felt over certain subjects weren’t just quirks.
Looking back, I realize that I have experienced OCD obsessions and compulsions since I was a child. As a child, I would count the steps I took each day. For some inexplicable reason, I had to take a certain number of steps before I reached my destination. I always looked at the pavement when I walked to make sure I did not step on any cracks on the sidewalk; I was nearly a teenager before I felt I could take my eyes off the pavement when I walked. I never told my parents because I believed that other children were doing the same thing.
As an adult my obsessions with numbers has led to challenging situations. For example, I have over drafted my bank account many times because of this obsession when filling my car with gas. The amount I spend on gas must end in a zero or else I have an uneasy feeling. My obsessions compel me to keep pumping the gas even though I know I have exceeded the amount in my bank account (I use a card with a limited amount of funds that is not attached to my savings account). The $30 overdraft fee does not work as a deterrent; ensuring the amount ends in a zero reduces my anxiety albeit temporarily.
I’m also extremely obsessed with time. I can only leave the house at certain times, even if it makes me late for an event. The minutes must end in 5 or 0 for me to leave the house otherwise I feel a surge of anxiety. If it’s only 1:01, I can’t leave the house for another four minutes. If I miss the five-minute mark, I have to wait until 1:10 to leave. I feel horrible because I have been late to events and kept people waiting, including my son.
There are endless examples of situations where my obsessions and compulsions have taken over my life. However, I have now managed to control the OCD through exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP). I was able to get to this point thanks largely to a client with OCD who receives ERP treatment from her psychologist; I was helping her to write and edit a book about her experiences and learning about her treatment taught me how ERP can be used to manage my own OCD. I am very grateful that I met her. I am happy to say that presently I am able to control my symptoms and I rarely have issues related to OCD compulsions or obsessions.
Dale Vernor is a writer and researcher in the fields of substance abuse and mental health. After battling with OCD, he was able to treat his mental health in a productive way and obtain his bachelor’s degree. Dale likes to write about mental health and substance abuse to help lift the negative stigma associated with both issues.
Wow. I am so shocked at how much every word you say conveys my whole life in illustration because that too is my everyday world. Since I was able 12 I’ve worn a watch, I’ve had my Casio digital watch for 9 years. When I unpack my groceries I put an even amount of drinks and food in the fridge. I’m. Obsessed with even numbers. I’m big on symmetry and geometric. I hate being late anywhere I go. I’m a stay at home mom but fortunate enough to be able to take my daughter to school. We have to leave the school @ 9. Any minute later matters to me for some reason. And reach a certain light by 9:07 and 9:22 for 9:30. And my gas has to even on 27.79 (27 is my angle number and my car always fills up at 27 ironically lol) this is just amazing. For some reason I always knew this of my. I count the rectangles on the ceiling of buildings, lights, always using my calculator cause ironically I’m horrible at math. But I never thought for it to be OCD. I dont think it affects my life, but I notice it every single time. I’m watching a show on Netflixx called the mind explain. If you’d like. Thank you. Would like to hear back.
This is exactly how I experience my life!!! Ive been trying to look up people with similar experiences but whenever I look up “time obsession” or “number obsession” its never what i mean. Im my head there are such things as “good” or “bad” numbers. Almost every night I need to wait until a “good” time until I can fall asleep but if i get distracted I need to wait. This sometimes makes me stay up for hours after I planned to go to bed. Its the same thing when getting out of bed or brushing my teeth. I get such an intense anxiety when I dont wait until a certain time or when I solve a math problem in school that isnt a “nice” number or decimal. Even at times like _:46 I feel the urge to wait until the next o’ clock because 50 or 55 doesn’t feel as nice as seeing :00.
Similar experiences of what you experienced are also disturbing my sister badly..she even has some sucidal thoughts sometimes.Her condition is worsening day by day and this ‘time obsession’ is getting over her with everything she does, from waking up, charging the phone , opening and closing the door, switching on and swtiching off every phone in the home including mine. This obsession is affecting and controlling the life of other family members also..please help me with this as i have nowhere to look for for such problems and exact type of OCD. I felt relieved when i read this blog as i was thinking before that my sister’s case is a unique one and no one can understand this. But i think you can help me with this. Please provide your e-mail so i can contact you to know more about it. Please help me.
Hi Ralph, thank you so much for reaching out. Please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with a member of our staff for more information and resources. Also, we host weekly livestreams with clinicians/therapists in our community (you can watch live at iocdf.org/live) and these streams are a great space to ask questions, connect with others in the OCD community, as well as learn more about OCD and related disorders. Our next livestream will be on Wednesday, July 20th at 12pm ET.