Tip #32 The answer is not in your brain but in your ACTIONS.

The picture above is a scan of the brain and it is self-explanatory.Let us look at one example.

Imagine you are driving a car and you have one light that comes up on the dashboard. You can quickly understand what is going on and try to solve the problem. Maybe you are low on gas, oil, etc. Now you have 30 lights on. Can you easily understand and solve the problem?

It is the same thing with our OCD brains, there are always lights going on and off on the dashboard… and if we are expecting our brains to give us some useful information on how to solve the problem when the dashboard is malfunctioning then we will never solve it! There is no useful information there! The only thing we can take from it, is that the dashboard is malfunctioning!  What other dashboards are there that are always blinking at the tune of 30 or more lights for second? Exactly, it is not a dashboard anymore. It is a Christmas tree! 🙂

Would you let a Christmas tree tell you which way to turn or go? I know it is a ridiculous example but one that we, ROCD sufferers do often. The solution: forget about the Christmas tree and set your own course independently of how you feel in the moment.

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27 comments

  1. How do you ( Someone on the “receiving end”) support someone that is going through this continual cycle of uncertainties and doubts?

    And at what point do you stop blaming the ocd and accept that this may actually be their feelings?

    My partner suffers from this and I have tried to support him in every way I can by just being there, but he just seems to find it easier in shutting me out! Using the excuse “I find it difficult to talk about”

    He doesn’t want the relationship to end
    but all the doubts and uncertainties start creeping in which affects his behaviour in the relationship.

    But there is only so much doubt I can take which is aimed at me and I feel like a selfish b**** and feel I am completely abandoning him. I have been reading up on it more and it sounds painful and draining,mentally and physically (I don’t envy you or anyone that suffers from it) but I do envy the ones that have come out of the other side of it and are giving their partner and relationship the love and attention it needs!

    1. Hi

      It is a very difficult question to answer but I will try my best as a ROCD sufferer. For people with ROCD, it is very difficult to distinguish between own feelings and “false signals” given by the brain. So a big part of the struggle is understanding what is reality and what isn’t. If your brain is telling you something that it is not true, how are you going to move forward? The truth is that you can’t. You have to break out of this addiction of wanting to find certainty and focus on the part of the relationship that does not involve feelings. The funny thing is that once you do that, the feelings start to come back.

      I went to this same process with my wife and it was not nice for her when I started to open up. It helped me because I did not feel like I was not being honest with her. But it was also painful for her to listen to my stuff. I tell a lot of people that the problem with ROCD is not the “r” but the “o” and once they address that they are in a better position to move forward. People can get better from ROCD and have good relationships. But this will take time and most importantly effort. The important question you have to ask yourself is if your boyfriend is willing to make the effort and if you are willing to be patient with him throughout his efforts. I know that you have already demonstrated that in your story but this needs to happen more than ever when action is being taken. Doing nothing will not solve ROCD.

      So I would say, stay with him and support him if you are both willing to put the effort in. If only one puts the effort in then it is going to be very difficult. If both people have a plan together, ROCD can be greatly improved and you can slowly start to bring “normality” back into the relationship.

  2. I’m curious to know what you mean when you say to focus on the part of the relationship that does not involve feelings, if both your thoughts and your feelings trick you how can you find any peace at all? How does one know that it’s ROCD and not denial of feelings on some level? This is a confusing illness. What can one grasp onto in the midst of all of this to retain some sanity?

    1. Well very good questions.

      Feelings come and go. It is a natural thing. Sometimes you will feel loved, sometimes you won’t. Sometimes you will feel passionate love for the other person. Sometimes you won’t. This is not something that we can control. Most likely the way that you felt about your boyfriend in the beginning has changed. This was the “honeymoon” period of the relationship. Infatuation, so to speak. A lot of relationships end because infatuation is not there any more and because people confuse infatuation with love. So, with ROCD sufferers, when this infatuation stage ends alarm bells go off or if they do not experience intense love for the other person all the time, WHEN the want it.

      It does not mean that they do not love the other person. It just means that their brains see this as a sign of danger and trigger anxiety and ROCD. So the answer is to educate people that it is OK not to have those feelings all the time. But this will not be enough as you cannot control the part of your brain that creates an instinctive response. This is an irrational response. Like people that have phobias for spiders, for example. So other part, is not to focus on feelings but rather on value system. Things like, does this person treat me well, trust me, etc?

      The only thing, I think you can do is to be yourself and understand that your partner has a disease that is treatable. I don’t think you need to find sanity. He does. And don’t think you should carry his burdens either. On your side, support and patience are the most important things. If you try to go beyond it, it will emotionally drain you.

      1. So was I never in love with my partner, was it just infatuation during the honeymoon phase and now that that phase has passed, it’s all over? I’ve been suffering with rocd for 2 years, please help!

      2. Love is a choice – a lot of people think that infatuation=being in love. Being in love is a process and also the start of the process of loving someone.

  3. Just to kinda jump on this thread here, I’ve been wondering for a awhile now if it is a good idea to tell my girlfriend about all this. So far all I’ve said is that I’ve had intense anxieties that are OCD related, but I didn’t want to tell her that she is the focus of them. I mean, it’s not her fault, and I don’t want to make her have anxiety too.

  4. I once read somewhere that loving feelings come from loving actions and that even when we don’t feel or think that we want to be loving we should do it anyway because the result will be loving feelings. I have tried this before and it does work but yet somehow I fall between the cracks again. My “what ifs” swallow me whole and I dwell on moments in the past where I have doubted the relationship and take them as signs that my feelings now are because we aren’t “right” for each other.

    Another thing that might relate to the loving actions is the saying “Fake it until you make it”. When we wake in the morning we don’t feel like getting out of bed but we do because we know we should, don’t you think this goes the same for love and relationships? We don’t feel the “in love” feelings but we act that way because we want to or because we should…

    And just to add a question…is it true physical attraction can wax and wane? I have struggled with this for far too long…

    1. Hi Kat,
      Yes, it is hard to break thinking patterns, for example the “what if’s”. But it is possible.
      In regards to physical attraction, if physical attraction did not wax and wane there would be no plastic surgeries and cosmetic procedures in the world! If someone tells me that they find their wife’s drooping b00bies hotter than a lingerie model’s we will know they have a strange fetish! This is not what love is about. Love should be about seeing past the physical “imperfections” and natural ageing. It is a conscious choice and a process. A choice that also takes courage. I guess this is why a lot of people find it hard as they are getting older. And look for younger partners and get divorced.

      The problem with the ROCD brain is that it follows a broken logic. If I don’t find this person physically attractive anymore then I do not love him/her. The notion of love is based on physical attraction. The real logic would be, I don’t find this person physically attractive anymore because we do not look as young as before. Or something to that effect.

  5. ^This. I like all of these points. With my physical attraction problem, it is incredibly conflicting. It’s not that we’ve aged or become less attractive. Sometimes I find her very attractive. I think the problem is whenever I am not recognizing it, I convince myself I must think she is hideous. So it just goes back and forth. I’ve just been stuck in this way of thought even though I recognize how absurd it is.

    I’ve been trying to disarm it by accepting it and realizing physical attraction is not nearly as important as the actual connection of a relationship. I am trying to face my fears head on.

    My psychologist suggested writing them down and reading them out loud until eventually they don’t seem threatening, so we’ll see if that works. Also I’ve taken that idea and gone a slightly different direction. Whenever I am obsessing over her features (usually her face), I start drawing them, completely exaggerated. They look ridiculous! But I tell myself even if these drawings were real, I would accept all of the “imperfections” she has.
    BTW I’m starting to realize that imperfections aren’t real. There are people who are exceptionally normal, people who are exceptionally unique, and all that are between, and that is it.

    When it comes to perfection…I had a thought the other day.
    There is no one out there who is perfect for you, but there is someone who makes you want to be perfect for them.

    1. Hi Will,

      really nice quote at the end.Thanks for sharing. “Sometimes I find her very attractive”. Yep, sometimes you do. And I bet that this will most likely happen when you are not actively looking for justifying things/ruminating or processing ROCD information in your brain. The times that you do not have this feeling, then your brain will recognise it as a danger signal and all trigger some anxiety. It takes a lot of hard work to come out of this cycle and be OK with the triggers (habituation). Looks like you are already doing a lot of work there!

  6. Hi!
    You talk about it and I’ve read it before too, about how ROCD sufferers alarm goes on when the infatuation goes away. One of my biggest triggers is that my ROCD has been present from the beginning of the relationship. It make me worry about that maybe I never even fell in love etc. in my first relationship (13 years ago) I started to get these issues after a couple of months but in my next three relationship it’s been there from the start. It’s very hard when you feel you should be crazy in love and instead you get all these doubts. Another thing that I had to deal with today is that when I have moments with my husband that are really happy or romantic the ROCD easily shows up. “Do I really feel this good? Am I being fake?” And so on.

    Any thoughts about this?
    Also, I’m not sure if I’m actually just trying to “solve the problem” by posting this….hehe tricky thing this little monster.

    1. Hi,
      You bring up a very interesting point. I would make two comments on it:

      1) OCD is a very personal disease. What triggers it and how soon it manifests itself vary greatly from individual to individual. I guess your experience is very valid as second time “ROCD’ers” would be primed from the start of the relationship. And maybe that is why, ROCD took longer to manifest itself in your first relationship.

      2) If you already suffer from an anxiety disorder such as OCD it would be much easier for ROCD to manifest itself. There are plenty of stories of people that interchange their OCD’s – from POCD to HOCD and ROCD, etc…And this is why I say that we need to fix the “O” not the “R”.

      In regards to those happy moments, yes I think it is normal as well for ROCD to manifest itself. It happened to me too. Something like “is this really real?” thoughts or alike. My understanding is that the brain is in a state of high alert and looking for signs of danger. One of the possible signs of danger is that what you are feeling might not be real. So it gets flagged up. The brain will make any innocent situation seem like a possible danger. This is why I continues to say that we need to sort out the “O”. We cannot win against a brain in a high state of alertness…yes tricky little thing!

      1. Thank you for your reply! Yes the fact that we can not win against our brain when it’s in that state makes sense. I try not to engage with the thoughts and ignore the anxiety that is coming up.
        This blog is reminding me over and over again that there’s no quick fix. But with hard work and patience we can move forward. Thank you!

  7. Hello,
    Your blog has really helped me in my recovery with rocd(I’ve had it for 2 years) I turn to this blog when I’m having really bad days just to have an extra bit of encouragement. I really thank you for doing what you’re doing, I don’t know if you understand how much you are helping many sufferers!! This was a very strong step to take and I appreciate it!

    I have a couple questions and hopefully you’d be able to help me,
    The other day I decided to talk to one of my co workers about my rocd, and I don’t think she really understood it because she said “now a days people like to label everything” this really spiked my anxiety and rocd and truly made me doubt that I have rocd. You can probably imagine how hard it was to hear that because rocd is already telling you it’s not ocd so hearing someone say it made my rocd spike very high.
    I sometimes have a hard time truly believing its rocd even though I’ve been suffering through it for 2 years(also had it in my past with my mother) what do you suggest I do to deal with the doubt that it’s actually rocd and not in denial?

    Also, I find my rocd and anxiety cause a lot of fights between me and my significant other because I’m so stuck in my head and end up just feeling so anxious. How do I prevent this from happening or atleast less frequent?

    Do you or any other rocd sufferers sometimes find it hard to express your feelings of love for your partner when you’re feeling anxious?

    I thought I’d tell you the method I have been using to recover through rocd, I have done a lot of soul searching and read a lot of blogs and self help books and the best advice was to do the opposite of what your anxiety is saying. And it honestly works, as well as just letting thoughts be. I find I have good and bad days with letting thoughts be is this normal through the recovery stage?

    This is the last question I promise! Can you explain more about focusing on the part of the relationship with no emotions, how would one go about that? Also the thing you mentioned about “O” and the “R”, which one should I focus more on?

    I have been gotten a lot better this past year but it just takes a lot of work and some encouragement! I know everyone can get through it you just need a lot of will power and remember you wouldn’t be trying to recover if you didn’t love your partner.

    1. I was writing to someone today about this. It is true that people like to label things a lot more these days. And that this can have positive and negative consequences. But this is also the result of scientific progress, the more we understand the more we are able to subdivide and label things. It is how use the information that will make a big difference. Labelling things as ROCD for me, as enabled me to treat my disease and to move forward in my life. I am now married and enjoy a very good relationship. I suspect that if I didn’t have the ROCD label I would be jumping to one relationship to the other without really knowing what is wrong and finding fault on the other person as an excuse.

      I think that doing the opposite does help – it is a form of exposure therapy. Let me reply to your questions in a different post as I think they are very relevant!

      1. Thanks again for these great tips!
        I would like to ask about the flaws ROCD sufferer can find in their significant other.
        My ROCD started for me obsessing about my boyfriend’s physical appearance.first when he looked good,I wasn’t anxious but as soon as I saw him ugly I got totally anxious and both of these thing coul happen in 5 minutes. After this felt bit better I started to question his values…then I realize that this wont stop ,I will always find flaws in him.
        Is this because we are anxious or depressed and we think that the reason is our partner?
        Is it also normal to feel that I would not have anxiety if I broke up or was with someone else?
        Do you find ROCD sufferers having similar backgrounds or is there as many reasons that there are suffers?

        Did you use to feel irritated with your partner?im all the time and its horrible!

      2. Hi Roosa, these are all valid questions but as you said in your story once you find an answer you will start questioning other things. Many ROCD sufferers go through what you are going through – the endless questioning. I always say that this endless questioning is part of disease and not a way to solve any problems. I think that in your case (as you recently had a baby) a lot of this anxiety might also be related to post-partum depression. So you have to go easy on you and your partner. I am not sure if you have any medical or psychological support but it would be important to get some, specially as a young mum. Do not be too hard on yourself, take one day at a time and be patient. Drop me an email if you want to discuss things further pingfrance@hotmail.com

  8. this is happening to me and it literally makes me sick, i dont know if i love my boyf, is he the right one for me? y am i feeling anxious is my body trying to tell me something subconsciously?
    he is amazing but i still hav these doubts all the time i dream that people tell me to leav him or that i realise his not the one.
    we fyt lots cos i pick fyts over little things that i think reassure that his not the one!
    he knows about my feelings and it hurts him wen i say i dont want to do this anymore, but cant go thru with it, as im scared im losing something great, because as a post before said my mind is sick.
    when i can deal with the anxiety im soo inlove with him but i get periods wen it just is to overwhelming i cant do anything!
    before i dated my present boyf i dated a drug addict for 8 years and had continous anxiety with him but because i was always scared he was going to relapse. could this hav trained my brain to think like this is this why?
    i also question if i have rocd as iv just heard about this a couple of days ago and iv been looking for a reason i feel like this for almost a yr now getting different conclusions on why but never goes away.
    please can some1 give me some light on this.
    thank you

    1. Hi Kitty

      Persistent high anxiety is a pretty good indicator that something is wrong with YOU. It might be OCD or might be just stress or something else. I would advise you to read the previous posts and see if you can get some sense out of them and if it helps understand what you might have. Maybe you might need some counselling and/or medication depending on your symptoms and their severity.

  9. Hey Roosa! I’m starting to realize maybe I’m on here too much but maybe I can relate and help. For me personally, it’s good to see what good ROCD may do in the long run. For instance, I think I’m on my way to getting passed the importance I always placed on outward beauty. But with these physical flaws, maybe try what I talked about a few comments up, and just accept the existence and image of these ridiculous perceptions that come up. Your boyfriend will look bad and look good at times, no one will always look great. I am kind of the opposite with my anxieties about her appearance. When I know she looks good, I obsess about knowing that, and if I find a flaw when she is at her best, then I feel bad. However, when she just wakes up, hair in a mess, no makeup on, I guess there is no pressure, and I just see the most derpy and beautiful person ever. Point is, commit to doing what this blog talks about, and accepting that attraction and infatuation come and go. I’m sure we all have some reasons for feeling this way, and OCD can create one hell of a backstory. I’m starting to realize that I have a big issue with self-worth, and I’ve been afraid this whole time that I will screw things up, that I’m not good enough. So, you and me, and everyone else here, needs to stand up to these fears, look them in the eye, and say “Come on in, there is nothing you can do that will make me budge.” We’re not fighting these thoughts, we’re co-existing with them.

    1. I really like your last two sentences Will. If I could only say two things to help people, it would be that. Really good insight. And yes, we need to be careful about how much time we spend on blogs – even this one!

  10. Co-existing just means living together without conflict. So essentially, allowing the thoughts to exist with you. The goal is not to get rid of them, but to understand they are not harmful in themselves.

  11. Hmm it’s difficult for me because this is my first and only relationship and we’re engaged (I am 22, I have been with him since I was 20). I sometimes feel that I want to go off and try other people before I settle down, but at the same time I don’t want to because I am happy with my current partner. I feel that if I don’t experience new people these thoughts won’t go away. Even when I decide to stay I argue with myself over WHY I want to stay: Is it out of love? Is it out of fear, either of hurting him or fear of being without him? It’s difficult because I feel that the wanting to have experienced/ go and experience other people is a true/ plausible thought.

  12. Hi,

    I do not even know where to begin this subject. I have an inkling that I have suffered from obsessions in the past…. more recently doubts regardign my sexuality, fears that I might be a paedophile (and consequently not wanting to go near children), harming others ( old people or loved ones)….once or twice I had severe intrusive thoughts and I could not even write my exam paper ! These obsessions have cropped up and in due course gone away on their own.

    I am also a bit insecure and obsessed with my own looks…particularly my hair.

    Now, why am I writing in this blog about ROCD? I am not entirely sure whether it is ROCD or just a figment of my imagination (desire to preserve my relationship with my fiance).

    Here’s the problem. My fiance is not particularly good looking….he has acne scars on his face. On most days I do not mind looking at him at all, and sometimes I find him cute and sweet (mostly because he is a gem of a person). I never chose my fiance because of his looks….I liked him because of the person he is. His good and kind nature won me over. But now….whenever I see him, all i notice are his scars. When I go out, all I do is see other people’s acne scars….and I wonder whether his are as bad as theirs.

    Today I skyped with him, and when I saw his scars in the daylight I literally went nuts. I thought he was most unattractive and that it was unfair of me to stay in this relationship with him. He deserves someone better. I unwittingly also talked about acne problems….and then I went to the bathroom and cried because I felt i might have hurt him.

    I really really do not know what to do! My emotions are yo-yoing so much….some days I just want to be with him, and other days I am so repelled by his scars that I want to end it all. Right now I can’t think straight, I am so preoccupied with these thoughts. PLEASE HELP !

  13. Hey guys,

    I have been suffering from anxiety for the past 6 months. It started when I began seeing my current girlfriend again after finishing with her a year earlier in December. During that time I was in a relationship with another girl for 3 months, but it ended on my behalf as for the first time in my life I felt as though I didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore; and this was a very strange feeling for me personally – as i had always been the one who was turned down etc. During this relationship I lost my virginity and didn’t perform at all in terms of having sex; probably performance anxiety. My current girlfriend is amazing and I generally have a good time with her. However, this anxiety I have been suffering seems to have been triggered when I started to see my current girlfriend. During this time I have been suffering from HOCD and ROCD; with HOCD dominating. But ROCD does seem to appear when I make some ground in terms of letting the HOCD thoughts be. It kills me to think that my current girlfriend is the reason for my anxiety and OCD like thoughts; and that thought alone makes me spike so bad it is unbelievable. When i was in a relationship with her previously – none of this was apparent and I honestly had the best time of my life and I was very content; however she ended it – but of course we are back together at present. So, it makes no sense as to why all this is going on in my head, when it was perfectly fine back then.

    Just want to understand whether I’m not actually going crazy and that this will go away. Also, to mention that I am soon to get University september; and i have discussed this as a possible trigger with my therapist; who i have been seeing since January.

    Thanks, Henry

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