Oops, I Did It Again! – Brief Essay For The Day #3


The palette of OCD-related symptoms in any single patient usually is not limited to one, and precisely one, form of thought and a single resulting compulsion. Numerous thought patterns, and methods to find a bit of peace of mind can be at work, not necessarily on a given day. I myself found that when my medication took away some of the sharp edges of my compulsions, other, relatively new behavioural strategies presented themselves – I mean: I also had them earlier on in life, but now they became more prominent, appeared on the surface.

The trouble with these things is (and the reason why this brief text is titled as it is, is) that one mainly realizes only afterwards that one ‘fell into the trap’, so to speak.

Examples: after having a new PC, I could spend quite some time on frequently researching if there already were newer models on the market, what their price point was, and if my PC was still competitive. This is not really weird behaviour, it’s known to occur with people who recently purchased a new car (always men…); but if one doesn’t really need a glitzy new machine for one’s tasks, and if one’s not remotely interested in buying one, and if one spends too much time on that activity, it is troubling.

Also, I had a fascination with ‘starting things anew and fresh’. Is an attractive proposal, often. But not when you’re in the middle of a review article on a scientific topic, and you’re really moving ahead. I fear that this is a side of mine that has given me much trouble: perfectionism, up to the point that you place totally unrealistic demands on yourself. The main result of stopping in the middle, and starting again, is that it is time consuming, the storyline got interrupted, it is frustrating, one tends to forget new knowledge just acquired (the old stuff must be treated all over again), boredom sets in, and the improvements attained are of a very minor nature.

These are, for me, prime examples of the ‘oops, I did it again!’ side of OCD. At the point I fell into the traps I set for myself, it seemed very natural, positive, and logic behaviour. However, after having spent some time on the new routine, the repeated endeavour had lost all of its charm, and I felt just like muddling through, and very frustrated.

Not good, this.

But, in the long run, I am working on these aspects now. Before medication, they were more or less hidden under the extreme compulsions I had to fulfill. Now I can see them for what they are. And that makes them identifiable.


4 responses to “Oops, I Did It Again! – Brief Essay For The Day #3

  1. Hi there,

    Are you speaking of once more prominent obsessions/compulsions are “masked” by medication new often less severe ones often emerge?


  2. Hi niki –

    yes, that is what I meant. Initially, I had wanted to call these habits ‘patterns’, because they are acted out according to a sort of program, and the feelings that accompany the acting out also happen in the form of a predictable program. It was only after the medication became active, that (gradually) the patterns emerged. Well, I had to learn that the patterns had a constant script, of course, that happened not in one single day. And, I was happy that I could leave my apartment, and that feeling also hid that there were these scripts ahead.

    I find it intriguing that the programs have now entered my consciousness in full, and that I can predict what will happen if I fall into such a trap again.

    But, I have to be cautious. OCD is linked to how stimuli are evaluated in our brains (e.g. as rewarding, or punishing), and how motor programs are selected to display behaviour that is connected to our evaluations (see article referred to below, a really good primer). Reward has an alluring quality; not for nothing are prescription and illicit drugs, alcohol, good food, sex, and other stimuli all active in the same brain areas: the Nucleus accumbens and the Ventral tegmental area. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rewarding element in an OCD pattern acts in a comparable way.

    I am now working on making an abstract of an article for personal use. I could stop this work right now, fall into my ‘trap’, feel great and fresh initially, and then, after two hours, experience boredom and anger at myself.

    For me it is a gain that I finally could perceive what is happening here.

    Hope this was informative, and as ever, thanks for contributing,

    Ciao, Frank.

    (article: Graybiel, A.M. and S.L. Rauch (2010): Toward a Neurobiology of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
    Neuron, 28: 343-347.

  3. Frank,

    Thanks, I definitely can relate to what you are talking about. I never looked at this phenomenon in-depth before, but when I am taking meds my “main symptoms” subside and a new sub-group of symptoms emerge which may have only been playing the role of “background music” prior to the medication.

    Thanks again for your insight


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