This information is designed to be helpful to anyone who feels they may have or care about someone who may have symptoms consistent with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Let’s start with by answering a few questions.
How is an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Different from Ruminating?
Our unconscious mind talks to us about things we need answers for. Why don’t they love me? How much longer is this going to take? Am I going to be able to do this? These are examples of fairly normal questions the unconscious mind may bring up from time to time. Usually, we consider an answer and maybe even consult with friends, for example, “If she doesn’t love me, I better find this out now. We both deserve to be loved for who we are.” On the other hand we may walk around thinking about the question and not really even realize that we are supposed to be trying to provide the unconscious mind an answer. Something like, “Why doesn’t he love me? Why doesn’t he see who I really am? Why doesn’t he understand me? What’s wrong with him?" and on and on and on. This is rumination. We’re caught in an endless loop of questions that upset both our conscious and unconscious minds. Our conscious mind is going along with the questions, even the emotional tone of the question, rather than considering the question mindfully and proving the unconscious a workable answer.
An obsession is quite a bit different. It has no healthy purpose in our life. It is a ‘brain fart’. It is a thought that has little to no connection to our life. It is like a mental cancer that has no real purpose other than to self-propagate at the cost of the host, both our unconscious and our conscious mind. Unfortunately, in everyday conversation, there is little difference between an obsession and rumination. “I am just obsessed with owning that car!”
To think about a recent loss over and over would be considered ‘rumination’ and would be a normal response to a loss. An obsession is totally illogical, recurrent and persistent, like the feeling of being dirty or contaminated after a shower. In Obsessive Compulsive Disorder this is then followed by a compulsion to wash over and over again, needlessly wasting our time, our life and causing significant life stress. The anxiety that comes with the obsession is often only briefly relieved by ritualistically performing the compulsion...again.
All of this increasingly distorts what we value in life, our moment to moment focus, how we see others, and how we feel about those who love us, and slowly diminishes our ability to love at all.