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18 Things to Remember If You Love a Person with OCD

18 Things to Remember If You Love a Person with OCD

Two simple words can destroy your life. Every minute, every second, of every hour all you hear is, “What if?” Every situation is potentially dangerous. Your heart and mind join forces becoming an evil villain that is out to destroy you and bring you down. That’s what if feels like if you have OCD.

The simplest things in life became huge mountains that are impossible to climb. A family vacation, a night out with friends, or a walk around the block is a death trap.

Obsessions are thoughts that get stuck in a repetitive cycle when the brain doesn’t shift gears as it should. Unwelcome, unwanted, and distressing; these mental images don’t stop.

That’s when the compulsions begin. The OCDer repeatedly performs behaviors trying to erase the scary mental images that won’t go away. These rituals might be excessive hand washing, cleaning, counting, or checking. Even though the person with OCD knows these are ineffective, the urge is overwhelming and overpowering so they give in to it.

Whether you’re born with it, or develop it later, life with OCD is a living hell. Their brains can’t shift through thoughts at a normal pace.

Thoughts get stuck, constantly running like a hamster trapped in a cage spinning endlessly on his wheel. OCD interferes with responsible functioning: job, relationships, punctuality, or just being able to live comfortably with themselves and their loved ones.

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Most people are familiar with the most commonly talked-about types of OCD such as checking appliances and doors, fear of germs that may cause illness or death, and repetitive invading thoughts. However, there is a lot more to OCD than that.

“OCD is a biochemical problem in which the brain locks and starts sending false messages that are not recognized as false,” according to Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, author of “Brain-Lock: Freeing Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” The brain gets stuck in gear and cannot shift to the next thought.

The good news is that you can make a physical change in your brain. Here are 18 things that will help you understand your OCD loved one:

1. They have a repetitive cycle in their brains that they cannot control.

They want to “just stop,” but as hard as they try; they can’t. Because the OCD brain is locked, it doesn’t move through tasks at a normal pace.

2. They derive no pleasure from rituals.

Gamblers, shoppers, or substance abusers receive pleasure from acting out a ritual. OCDers do not.

3.  They catastrophize.

The scenes that appear in the minds are suitable for a gory horror movie.

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4. They check, re-check, and can’t stop checking.

Everyone checks the doors or stove to make sure they are locked and off before bedtime. You might have forgotten to shut the stove after answering your texts. But when a person with OCD checks, they don’t trust that they checked, so they check again and again. Maybe they missed something, or maybe the stove magically got turned on again?

Are the doors locked and the appliances off? Was that bump in the road a person I ran over? What did I say in that email? Checking is never believable. No matter how many times they check, they don’t trust their last check-up (garage doors, toasters, hot irons). The only comfort comes from putting your hot iron in your purse and carrying it with you to work.

5. They have disturbing thoughts of harm to themselves or their loved ones.

One small thought can become a horrendous mental vision of tragic events that they might cause or could happen.

6. They worry about worrying.

As if worrying isn’t bad enough, OCDers worry about why they worry so much. They feel anxious that they worry about things that are not worth worrying about.

7. They avoid certain objects, situations, or environments.

A person, place, or thing can spark a destructive wildfire in their minds. Fearful of obsessive thoughts, a person with OCD will go five miles out their way to avoid a reminder that could set off obsessive thinking.

8. They live with constant doubt, insecurity, and uncertainty.

Checking isn’t reassuring. Worrying is disturbing. Living in constant doubt causes anxiety and distress.

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9. They may be superstitious.

Associating a past event to a word, piece of clothing or place; a person with OCD can think it has power. They also believe that any action they take will have a positive or negative effect because of that word, item, or place. They will walk over cracks on a sidewalk, avoid driving past a certain address, or even wear the same item of clothing for a week. They can get stuck on numbers. An address or date can seem lucky or unlucky so they avoid it or succumb to its power.

10. They need reassurance.

Who doesn’t need to hear “everything is going to be alright” when feeling nervous? But a person with OCD needs a lot more reassuring than one sentence.

11. They have no concept of time when in a ritual.

A shower may last for an hour even when the hot water runs cold. You wonder why it takes so long to brush her teeth or wash her face. Every action must be performed in a certain order and with meticulous detailing as if they were preparing the latest model Tesla for it’s debut at the 2015 Auto Show.

12. They may be hoarders.

Old clothes, purses, shoes, and papers cannot be removed. They might need them for future use. You might also be a bit nostalgic, but is there so much clutter you can’t see the floor?

13. They won’t use a public bathroom.

Germs are so scary that no matter how much their body needs to release itself, they will wait until they get to a bathroom that they feel comfortable in.

14. They place objects so they are perfectly aligned.

Symmetry is important, so is order. Papers on a desk, pictures on a wall, or hair on their head; everything must be just right. An uneven edge on a fingernail can cause an hour of nail-biting as they try to smooth the jagged edge. They can spend hours getting dressed, choosing outfits, or fixing their hair. Never feeling that they are “just right,” they will try on ten different outfits until they find the perfect one. They are often late for work or their own birthday party.

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15. They touch, rub, or tap certain objects repeatedly.

Trying to calm their minds away from upsetting thoughts, they may pick their face, play with their phones or twirl their hair.

16. They examine their food very carefully.

Afraid that they might get sick if the food isn’t fresh or cooked perfectly. Any little bruise on an avocado might be a sign of an epidemic disease. It might take them ten minutes to examine and prepare a hamburger before biting into it.

17. They dread illness.

They fear that they have every disease they read or hear about that they become a hypochondriac.

18. They never feel that anything is clean enough.

Feeling that every pot, dish, or item of clothing is contaminated, the person with OCD is repeatedly cleaning them.

As difficult as it is to live with OCD or someone who has it, there are benefits to it. Most likely with a higher than average IQ, people with OCD are mathematicians, statisticians, and analysts who give us the latest technology, medicine, and put astronauts into space. Striving for perfection, they are excellent in fields that require repetitive practice such as athletics and musicians. And it’s probable that the person who takes care of you when you’re sick, does your taxes, and built the bridges that you drive across has OCD too.

There is good news! When OCD interferes with normal daily functioning, they can learn to self-command with self-control. A person with OCD can improve their quality of life. They no longer have to suffer. With proper treatment of Cognitive Behavior Therapy using the Exposure and Response Method, and learning to say, “It’s not me, it’s my OCD,” a calmer, happier life is possible.

Special thanks to- “Brain Lock- Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. with Beverly Beyette.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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