Personal Development

My Behavior Dramatically Changed — Then I Got This Diagnosis

I call OCD a grab bag of mental illness—mine also came with generalized anxiety and bouts of depression throughout my life. 

I don’t have a great memory of growing up, but from what I can recall, there was always a lot occupying my mind and I experienced many issues socially. I had very black-and-white thinking, especially when it comes to people’s actions, which made it challenging to interact with others. I also didn’t really have the ability to self-regulate in terms of what I was saying, so I would voice a lot of inappropriate things or compulsively say things I shouldn’t. 

Since then I’ve really worked on my social skills, learning what’s appropriate behavior and what’s not. I’ve also gotten a much better handle on my depression and anxiety over the years. 

There were some phases of my life when I was really adamant about ditching my medication—and I spent most of my 20s off the SSRIs. Even as recently as 2021, I experimented with going off my meds. However, these experiences solidified that, for me, medication is really necessary—it makes a big difference in my internal world. I’ve accepted that I’m perfectly happy and eager to stay on SSRIs long-term. Of course, it’s not necessarily the right option for everybody, and impacts individuals very differently. For some people, it works all of the time or part of the time—but I’ve embraced that I do need it all of the time. 

I’ve learned and grown so much over the years, and I have a very full life. I’m able to maintain relationships and friendships, plus pursue my career goals. 

To this day, the thing that interferes with my life the most is my contamination fear, which is a common subtype of OCD1. This means I’m moving through a lot of cleaning compulsions during the day and planning my life around the fear of contamination. 

My OCD contamination fluctuates in terms of how bad it is, and COVID-19 obviously didn’t help. I have a lot of new compulsions, and my OCD is overall worse than it was before the pandemic—which I think is true for a lot of people.

For example, before the pandemic, I was able to take my dog places, then go home without thinking about it. Now, if my dog lies on the ground when we’re outside, I feel like I need to wash her immediately when we get home.

I’m also having a harder time coming home after visiting certain public places. For instance, right now I’m in graduate school for psychology, and for whatever reason, my brain has decided that school is the dirtiest place on the planet. So when I get there, I need to wipe down my seat and desk, then shower when I get home. I’ll also leave my school bag in the car between the days I have class, because I believe it’s contaminated, and I don’t want to bring it into my house.

For some people with OCD, their compulsions take up 10 hours of the day, so in a lot of ways, I consider my current state as mild-to-moderate on the vast spectrum that is OCD. But it does impact my day-to-day life, every single day, multiple times a day.

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