What makes us constantly think about the worst and double-check everything?


Have you ever returned home to make sure the iron was really turned off? Or read the letter many times before deciding to send it? Why constant anxiety makes us painfully imagine the worst-case scenario and how to restore trust in the most important person in our lives – ourselves, our experts argue.

Remember the movie “It doesn’t get better” and the character of Jack Nicholson, who is maniacally afraid of getting infected and therefore constantly washes his hands in hot water, avoids being touched by strangers and eats exclusively with disposable utensils? “This is how obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) manifests itself,” explains psychologist Marina Myaus. – Obsessive thoughts or images of the worst that can happen to us are obsessions, and repetitive actions that, as in the case of a movie character, do not carry any meaning, are compulsions. No matter how much a person wants to get rid of them, he does not succeed, because this is the only way he relieves the constant anxiety that has long become the background of his life.

We get calm not because we are convinced that the conditional coffee maker is turned off – but because, returning home, we once again performed the routine ritual of psychological unloading. Why do we choose such a strange way to calm down?

In endless obsessive fantasies, they play out all those painful feelings and emotions that they do not know how to show otherwise.

“Although there is still no unambiguous evidence base for the origin of this disorder, psychoanalytic theory refers us to a person’s childhood, when his mother praised him only when he was an obedient and comfortable baby,” explains the psychologist. “Meanwhile, children have natural impulses of anger, hatred and aggression. If the mother only scolds for them, does not help to realize their feelings and cope with them, the baby learns to force them out. In adulthood, a person hides his forbidden, as it seems to him, fantasies and desires in obsession or compulsion, tries to be good for everyone so that he is not rejected.

“In life, I am by no means an aggressive person, but I was tormented by the same strange thoughts,” recalls Oleg. – At work, it seemed that I would now yell at a colleague, in the store, talking with the seller, I suddenly imagined how I was starting to beat him. Even though I didn’t actually harm anyone, I felt embarrassed to interact with people.”

“Such people have a frozen emotional sphere,” comments Marina Myaus, “and in endless obsessive fantasies they lose all those painful feelings and emotions that they cannot express otherwise.”

Pitfalls of OCD

The most typical fears of people with OCD are related to the possibility of infection, loss of health and imminent death. A person constantly worries about himself or loved ones, is fond of the magic of numbers and believes in omens. “Almost all the objects around me at some point may seem dangerous to me,” admits Arina. “I often start counting shop windows in houses on an unfamiliar street and tell myself that if an odd number comes up before the end of the road, everything will be fine. When the number is even, it scares me so much that I can go back and start counting again.

“I’m constantly afraid that I might flood my neighbors or start a fire in the house from which people will die through my fault, so I often return to check the faucet and burners,” says Anna. “It seems to a person that he will be let down by numbers, pipes or electrical appliances, but in fact it is a fear that hard-restrained feelings will splash out and show up, often those that can be difficult to admit to oneself,” says Marina Myaus.

Quite healthy aspirations can turn out to be only a cover and an attempt under the guise of vigorous activity to get away from anxiety.

Along with rituals that are strange for the environment, which people often try not to advertise, there are many disguised and, at first glance, socially acceptable obsessions.

“For example, a girl wants to get married and talks a lot about dating sites and dates. The man seeks to open a business and constantly goes to trainings. These quite healthy, at first glance, aspirations may in some cases turn out to be just a cover and an attempt to get away from anxiety under the guise of vigorous activity, – Marina Myaus is sure. – You can check it only by the result. If, five years later, a girl still talks about marriage, but is not ready to build relationships with anyone, and a man, having written one business plan, refuses to implement it and quickly moves on to the next idea, then with a high degree of probability only painful problems are behind this. obsessions.”

How to get rid of obsessions?

“It is important to give a person the opportunity to see the irrationality of his fears,” says cognitive therapist Olga Sadovskaya. “Teach him to meet them face to face, to endure, not to avoid. The exposure technique helps a lot in this, that is, immersion in fear, when we try to maximize the state of anxiety, while the person refrains from his usual actions. Having reached a peak, the anxiety gradually subsides.

“When the therapist suggested this exercise to me, I thought that it would only get worse for me,” Alice recalls. “However, once again thinking that I hadn’t locked the door and that I had to return, I restrained myself and didn’t do it. It was almost unbearable: my beloved cat remained at home, it seemed to me that someone would break into the apartment and harm her. These thoughts literally made me shudder. But the brighter and more detailed I imagined everything that could happen, the, oddly enough, it became easier for me. Gradually the negative thoughts dissolved.”

Do not try to be right all the time, allow yourself what may have been forbidden in childhood – to be different.

People with OCD, as a rule, live in a very rigid framework, a kind of emotional box. So it’s important to start by listening to yourself. “If you are characterized by the symptoms of this disorder, analyze how much you tend to restrain yourself when communicating with people or evaluating events,” suggests Olga Sadovskaya. Try to be more sincere with yourself and your surroundings. To do this, it is useful to keep a diary of feelings, every day describing episodes of communication in it and comparing your true feelings with words and actions in reality.

Do not try to be right all the time, allow yourself what may have been forbidden in childhood – to be different.

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