Getting Unstuck: OCD
Have you ever felt stuck on a thought? Nagged by a worry you simply can’t seem to banish from your mind? Walked down the street with a difficult conversation constantly replaying in your head? Sometimes our busy brains play a scenario over and over again, without a solution.
Often, we imagine the worst.
With such a busy brain we can’t fall asleep, or we awaken in the middle of the night with the cracked record of worries playing over and over again. We’re stuck. And the image of being stuck, as it turns out, is a useful way of understanding what’s literally happening in our brain. Our brains are hardwired to detect mistakes.
We have error-detection circuits in the brain that constantly search for potential mistakes or dangers, orienting the organism to take steps to protect itself. This error-detection capacity, which happens automatically, is thus for a good reason: it optimizes our chances of survival.
Think of the antivirus program on your computer. It scans each website, download, and e-mail for threats. When the antivirus protection works well, it’s almost invisible—working in the background, holding things up just for just a few milliseconds as it scans for unwanted intruders. However, imagine that the antivirus program is not functioning well; in that case, it might flag nearly every website, e-mail, and document as being a potential threat, even when no threat is there. The flow of your work on the computer would be slowed down immensely.
Eventually, the computer might become paralyzed, and with it your ability to work. That’s what happens when the error-detection circuits in your brain are overactive. You become slowed, sometimes to the point of paralysis, needing to check and recheck and check again. Stuck—sometimes to the nth degree.
Error-checking matters. Our ancestors from many thousands of years ago needed to constantly scan for threats to their existence. Whether in matters of hygiene (think cleanliness and contamination obsessions such as repetitive and excessive hand washing) or the safety of one’s family and dwelling (think lock-checking compulsions), checking and even double-checking likely improved the chances of staying safe and secure, of surviving.
Obviously, survival behaviors have their place, and mild stuck-ness on these behaviors may be a good thing. Regular hand washing reduces the risk of contamination and the spread of infection.
However, more severe obsessions and compulsions are the mistake-detection circuitry run amok. The antivirus program flags every little thing, paralyzing the computer and blocking you from doing the work you need to accomplish.
We Can Help
OCD is an intricate and often misunderstood condition; Amen Clinics can help decipher the right treatments and protocols. If you would like to learn more, please visit us online or call 888-288-9834 today.