“Since doubt is the cornerstone of OCD, sufferers often have the need to know, for certain, that all these decisions they are making are the right ones. This is much easier said than done… Perfection eludes us; there is always doubt.”- Mentalhelp.com
“OCD sufferers might also worry how their choices will affect others, and agonize (to the point of obsession) over even the most minor decisions.”- Mentalhelp.com
“…those with OCD might make a decision they are quite sure of, only to then have OCD sabotage it. A vacation (or Relationship – my edit) … you’ve been dreaming about for years can now finally be a reality, but OCD might force you to second-guess your choice. The weight attached to all kinds of decisions can be too much to bear, at which point OCD sufferers may avoid making decisions whenever possible. Unfortunately, avoidance is never the answer, and while this tactic may temporarily quell anxiety, in the long run it will make OCD stronger.” – Mentalhelp.com
Let me emphasize, and as the reader you should know – the above quotes, for me? Are…sigh…horribly spot on. OCD can have an overpowering influence on making choices, and in my case – create obsessive thoughts on how others will perceive you and your said choices (Note: My perception issues are definitely tied into Social Anxiety and worth the click through to illustrate my comorbidity), and the avoidance of even making a decision and all the consequences that might result. This is, by far, one of the worst manifestations that I have as it has negatively affected me and those close to me. This is not an understatement.
Before I go on, let’s keep this in mind – OCD is not just about being a “clean freak” or very “organized” because that is OCPD. It can, however, vary far and wide from person to person but many times the results are disastrous.
Okay, so here is, exactly, what it’s like to be me and why, many times, I avoid making choices – I go to buy a shirt but have money for one. After trying on a couple, I need to choose. Most people will just mull it over a bit, pick one and be content. Not me, my decision-making anxiety will start up, almost uncontrollably, and the compulsion to create an endless loop of decision making and doubt kick in. “This one works better for work…but this one looks a bit nicer…I think…maybe…this one seems like it’s better made…although this one would be better for more seasons…but this one people might judge me on…maybe I should wait and put it off…I dunno…” And on and on and on…It sounds funny, but it’s a real-life occurrence and not an analogy. It sucks and infuriating to feel this way. It’s not all the time but disturbingly frequent (which is why I have my default purchases and places…to avoid choice). Just to emphasize this is not “waffling”, or just “commitment issues” because it’s far more than that. It’s an internal mechanism driving me (one I am working to resolve).
Another example – it takes me years to buy a car. I get bogged down in the minute details of comparing features between different choices and that takes a lot of time. My enjoyment of cars just feeds the OCD and my obsessive need to get lost in the weeds of minutiae and to have all the “facts” (and with OCD you can never have enough facts) before making a decision, over and over and over again…obsessively. Doesn’t matter if you have all the information you could ever need, you cannot pull the trigger, you won’t just take a chance, so you keep going over the lists, “doing the math” and caught in a never-ending thought loop. It’s tiring, and many times, fruitless. Then I’ll just ruminate over a lost buying opportunity, years after the fact.
Look, sometimes I even get anxious making plans in advance of the weekend because I can’t make a decision on what to do, I get worked up and over-think. If I choose to stay home, I regret my decision and wonder if I should’ve gone out and that I’m missing out…until it’s too late to call someone, then the decision is made for me…by not making a decision. And then I ruminate.
These anxiety-inducing, risk-averse situations are fairly common and only becomes worse when involving…relationships. It’s brutal and infused with a far greater level of emotion and anxiety and can be paralyzing. Even if I know the answer, in my heart of hearts, it doesn’t matter because of a term that ties into OCD – “pathological doubting”, which is spot on. You see, I’ve been asked, more than once through the years, to make decisions on a relationship. Finding a definite answer is tough because of overpowering anxiety and indecision. In turn, that lurking OCD pounces and asks a sufferer to do something they might be, often, unable to do (again, untreated). This is because there are physical mechanisms in the brain (addressed a few posts down) that are causing being stuck in a non-stop, inescapable flowchart loop…for me, this is frustrating and quite often…sad.
So, making heavy and important decisions crushes me with doubt and fear even if I know 100% how I feel (it’s the brain, not the heart) and that starts a feedback loop of 2nd, 3rd and 4th guessing. Ultimately, the decision is made for you, and usually, the results please no one. If you’re reading this your gut response might be that it sounds lazy, weak, shifty or that I lack caring/empathy but I can assure you, it’s not that at all. It’s full of emotion and angst because OCD is tied into Anxiety after all. It’s taxing, tiring and physically/mentally unhealthy for everyone and that knowledge hurts even more…because I know I’ve hurt others too. And, again in relationships, even being in love, I can’t help but still find things to cast “doubt” upon and that reinforces the inability to make a choice (It’s OCD with a Relationship component, and if you follow this link you can see how much it sucks). It’s profoundly hurt me, and as I’ve said, – others too. So, think about it – if there is so much drama associated with buying a fucking measly shirt, anything beyond that can be more of a struggle. No…no…affairs of the heart can’t be broken down into lists, doubts and constant second guessing now can it? Nope! But OCD will demand it of you and you will comply and you will feed it. It’s always hungry.
So, in the end, if left untreated, it’s like a shitty Santa, checking his list twice to find out whose naughty or nice but going back and checking it 3, 4, 5, 6 times…to be sure…and then nobody gets presents in the end because time has run out. Screw you, Shitty Santa.