Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A-Z: Obsession Stinks - And I Ain't Talking About the Cologne

Magnificent Obsession (1935 film)Magnificent Obsession (1935 film)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As I blogged before, Obsession and Compulsion go together in many people's minds like peanut butter and jelly. Or better yet, Bonnie and Clyde - a couple who might not have been all that terrible when separated, but together, deadly.

For the purposes of this post though, I'm giving them a trial separation. (Sorry, Clyde.)

Obsession, all by itself, is a thought with no action. 

When we fall in love, we tend to think of the other person frequently, perhaps even obsessing over what s/he is doing, thinking, replaying everything s/he said or texted or the way s/he looked at us, in our minds. (When we text or call her/him 50 times a day, we've moved into action.)

We might obsess over something less pleasant. Am I going to be laid off? Did I remember to turn off the stove? It's a thought loop that we keep replaying, in our minds, like a NASCAR car running laps.

Excluding the cologne, I believe there are three kinds of obsessions.

Romantic/celebrity/hobby obsession.
George ClooneyGeorge Clooney
(Image via
Any action here can be mild, or it can be annoying, even life-threatening.  Let's say I create a Pinterest board containing every picture I can find of George Clooney. If it's something I spend an hour or two every day on... as long as I still carry on with my regular life, no harm, no foul. If I skip work,  meals, and baths to look for those pictures, I've gone too far.

Someone else could be equally devoted to finding the missing part for the classic car he is restoring, or the last Monkees lunchbox in a set.

Somewhere along the way, though, a line may be crossed. We frequently hear of celebrity stalkers, such as the woman who kept breaking into David Letterman's house, the man who attacked George Harrison, or the man who murdered actress Rebecca Schaeffer. Ordinary people may also have obsessed exes, sometimes someone they never married or even dated, simply an admirer, who pursues them.

I had somebody who I knew casually, that I met for a single lunch date. It was okay... but there was something a little off about him, especially towards the end of the date. I decided I didn't want to see him again. Told him so, clearly, at the end of the date, when he asked if we could go out again; you're a nice guy, but this isn't working for me. Closed with: Thank you, but I don't want to go out with you again. He continued to call me at work (I never gave him my work phone number; he told me he drove around until he spotted my car parked in the lot in front of the building) wanting to discuss "our relationship" until I threatened to call the police. Luckily, that was enough to make him leave me alone, but I admit, thinking about the guy still creeps me out.

Obsession as in OCD
This kind of obsession is obsessive thoughts that are intrusive, possibly even horrible.  Fantasizing about killing your children, say, or sex with ducks, that keep looping through one's mind. They might think about all the bacteria swarming all over a doorknob.

Someone with OCD may pair their obsession with a compulsive action; for instance, someone obsessed with whether the back door is locked may flip the lock back and forth exactly eight times, to be sure it's locked. They may engage in counting rituals. They may try to overpower or replace the obsessive thoughts through willpower. They may be so obsessed with germs and cleanliness that they wash their hands to the point of chapping and bleeding.

In any event, the OCD'r recognizes the obsession as obtrusive and unwanted. (ego-dystonic) It feels to them as if it's something that comes in from outside of themselves.

Obsession as in OCPD.
A person might obsess over a past event, running it over and over in his mind, replaying how wrong the other person was and how hurt and angry he feels about it. Or overanalyzing a future situation, like packing for a trip, making a list and checking it over and over again. 

For the OCPD'r, their obsessive thoughts are logical and rational. Everyone should devote as much time and care and energy to these things. (ego-systonic) OCPD'r think that theirs is The Right Way to think. Jeff Lewis, star of Bravo's Flipping Out, believes his disorder makes him successful (if not a candidate for Boss of the Year).

This difference in between attitudes is what makes those with OCPD very different from those with OCD (though there can be co-morbidity, that is, a person can have traits of more than one disorder).  Those with OCD will often seek out help, because they want their obsessive thoughts to go away. Those with romantic/hobby obsessions or OCPD, rarely seek help because they feel there is nothing wrong with the way they think, or how much "head space" they devote to their obsessions.

Unfortunately, because of their disorder, those with untreated obsessions may not recognize when their behavior crosses the line from harmless or helpful, to downright destructive. While most of those with mental disorders, including erotomania  and OCPD, are much more likely to be the victims of a physical assault than the perpetrators, some individuals with mental illness can be dangerous, to others and even themselves. David Letterman's stalker ended her own life a few years ago.

My A-Z theme is Issues related to Mental Health or Mental Illness.

Have you ever had an obsession 
that crossed the line to unhealthy behaviors?
Have you ever had someone obsessed with you?
If you have had OCD or OCPD, 
what is the most helpful tip or information?
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