No Doubt

In my opinion, this is one of the best articles I’ve come across to offer support for those with OCD. Why? It makes a simple, but very powerful point. It discusses doubt, and how OCD is, at its core, a disease of doubt; the specific doubt in question varies from person to person, of course.

From the article:

“Coexistence [with doubt] is possible, and it’s probably happening right now. You just haven’t realized it.

When we drive to the grocery store, are we guaranteed that we will arrive? Of course not. And yet many of us undertake that risk without even thinking about it. Chances are, if you really think about it, you can identify many examples in which you set aside your doubt and take risks.

Why is this so powerful? I can’t speak for everyone, but this is one of the few kinds of therapy that actually works for me. I need to know that someone believes in me. If I tell you I’m worried about something, and all you do is tell me how silly that seems to you, that does not help me. In fact, it makes my doubt worse. Instead, try actually acknowledging my fear and doubt by saying something like: “Hey, you know what? I see what you’re saying. But there are lots of other things you could worry about, that you’re not right now. Maybe you should try dealing with this in the same way.” It’s surprising how much of a difference that mere acknowledgement and acceptance makes. By saying something to this effect, what you’re doing for the person with OCD is letting them know you believe in their ability to accept and live with doubt, just like everyone else. You’re not telling them you think they worry too much, that they’re high-strung, crazy, or anything else insulting. Instead, you’re looking at their situation objectively and observing: “Although they do seem really stressed about this one insignificant thing, I also see that they dismiss lots of other insignificant things they could be worrying about, so I’m going to remind them they have that ability.

It’s easy to look at a person with OCD and think “They should just stop worrying” or “They’re being silly.” It takes a truly open-minded person to see: “This person is disproportionately worried about this one thing, but I know they have the ability to live with doubt in general because I can think of examples of other doubts that they are probably dismissing.

If we truly took the time to examine every doubt we have, we’d never have time to do anything else. Deep down, if you remind us of that… we probably know.

People with OCD are not crazy. We’re not delusional, and most of the time, we’re pretty rational people; we simply give in to doubt. What we need is understanding and acceptance. If simply saying “Don’t worry” were good enough, there wouldn’t be such a thing as OCD.

And yes, I had to title this post after my childhood favorite band.

7 thoughts on “No Doubt

  1. Matt Marinello says:

    I’ve been getting disturbed by a doubt today. No matter how many times I try to answer the question, “Am I a Schizophrenic?” I get farther from an answer. I know I was truly psychotic once in my life and suffered from Schizophrenic delusions…. But I don’t anymore. I still have delusions of persecution I just don’t believe them anymore. I don’t know if it’s Schiz-OCD or Schizophrenia. I don’t know if I just had OCD so severe I became psychotic or if I have Schizophrenia and OCD at the same time. I can’t answer the question, it’s like a whirlwind of doubt, I want the answer but I can’t get it. I’m getting bothered by the question right now. I feel I need to know because you deal with Schizophrenia differently than you deal with OCD. I want to deal with the problem correctly. I don’t know if I have Schizophrenia and OCD or just OCD. My mom is Schizophrenic and told me she thinks I’m Schizophrenic when I got bothered by the question but that didn’t give me certainty. Answers don’t help. Nothing helps. I’ll never know, and I HAVE to know. Am I Schizo? The doctor’s can’t even make up their minds.

    • willitbeok says:

      Well, full disclosure first, I know very little about schizophrenia. But the fact that you tell me that every time you try to answer the question you get farther from an answer, tells me this might be an OCD problem. You say that you have to know, but you’ll never know — why do you think you will never know? Just because the doctors you’ve currently seen can’t make up their minds, doesn’t mean that no doctor will be able to. When you were psychotic, what were your delusions like? What are your delusions of persecution like? I sometimes feel like people are out to get me, and when I was a child I heard a crinkling noise over and over in my head sometimes — but it seemed very distinctly to be the memory of a noise I’d heard in the past, rather than a new noise that I was hallucinating — plus, I knew it wasn’t real. From what I know (which is admittedly little), from a very elementary understanding of schizophrenia, the problem is when you have persistent hallucinations when you are insisting that they are actually real. (Similar to how the average person will have strange thoughts or worries about contamination or harm but instead of obsessing, will dismiss them, and will not get them very often.)

      • Matt Marinello says:

        I thought the satelites were watching me from the sky. I thought microscopic cameras were planted in my room. I thought the new Star Trek movie had code in it that was meant for me to decypher. I don’t believe any of that stuff now and never will. It only happened for one month than it went away. I still get delusions but I effortlessly don’t believe them instantly. I worry that my thoughts are being read at times nowadays. It’s always by people nearby. I don’t believe they can be read really I know the brain is just an organ that doesn’t receive or transmit thoughts from or to the outside. The question got resolved. I don’t think I’m Schizophrenic, because I’m not deluded really and I’ve never hallucinated. I think it’s Schizophrenia OCD where you worry obsessively that you are a Schizophrenic and get fake delusions and fake hallucinations. It causes me a lot of anxiety too so I think it’s definitely an anxiety disorder which Schizophrenia is not. Schizophrenia is a thought disorder. My logic is working too which is evidence I’m not Schizo. I’ll probably get bothered by the question again but next time I’ll try to deal with the question without trying to answer it. Just let the question enter and leave my mind.

  2. willitbeok says:

    It sounds like you have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on. It can be hard, differentiating symptoms of different disorders, especially when we do have comorbid conditions (like when I struggle figuring out whether something is a compulsion or a tic.) It sounds like Schizophrenia OCD to me too. Occasionally I actually do worry about having hallucinations because I’ll have a momentary confusion about something — like the other day our family dog startled me and for a second, just a split second I thought she was a monster or something… it was such a small moment, but I keep worrying what if that was a hallucination.

    I would guess that maybe someone who’s truly schizophrenic wouldn’t think they are because they truly believe their hallucinations are real? For instance I think the Unabomber was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but doesn’t believe that he has it. Of course, there has also been speculation about the Unabomber having autism too and who knows, really? Anyway my point is that it’s a very good sign if you are at least recognizing problems.

    That’s a good idea about letting the question enter and leave your mind. That’s what I try to do with a lot of my doubts, too. It sounds simple but it can be so hard to do when you get that feeling of “just having” to figure something out.

    • Matt Marinello says:

      Yeah. Sometimes the OCD tricks you into thinking that doing what it wants is sensible! Like it’s important to answer meaningless questions that wouldn’t bother anybody else. No one else cares about if their Schizo, mentally disabled, a drug addict, or a man without legs. They don’t worry about the stuff we worry about. It just bothered me because my mom is Schizo and I thought maybe I inherited it plus I know that Schizophrenia can occur with OCD and does a lot of the time. I wish things would “click” like they used to. I think if you stop doing the compulsions that give you certainty your brain will get desensitized to doubt and you’ll feel less doubt and maybe have a mind that works like a normal brain. I’m already working on doing that. Little things… Cutting down on checking compulsions. Stopping repeating phrases in my head too much. The little things that perpetuate the doubt problem. I’m not brave enough to work on my more scarier OCD symptoms yet though. That was a good article.

  3. I think this is an excellent post and I like your suggestions for conversation when a loved one with OCD expresses doubts. Parents (I’m one) of OCD sufferers often minimize their child’s concerns, saying, “Oh, I do that too,” or “Don’t worry, it’s fine,” as a way of trying to make their child feel better. But it doesn’t work. As you say, OCD sufferers need to be taken seriously, accepted and understood.

    • willitbeok says:

      Thank you. And yes, loved ones mean well and are usually trying to help. For a normal person, “Don’t worry, it’s fine” would probably work. But for a person with OCD, it’s as if (and I know I over-use this analogy) you’re telling someone the house is not on fire when they see and hear flames right before their eyes. We get stuck in that loop of doubt and worry because our brain continues sending the false alarm even after we should know that it’s false. So I respond a lot better to things like “You might be right, but maybe this is your OCD” or “You have a valid concern, but you can’t possibly stop and worry about everything” rather than an immediate dismissal. I think the key is to find ways to force the person with OCD to recognize for themselves that the alarm is false, rather than bombarding them with outright declarations that the alarm is false. This is what my brother did when I would worry about washing my hands at a restaurant, and he would remind me that the cooks probably didn’t wash their hands and the plates might not be clean either. His point was not to make me paranoid about everything, but rather to give me the power to realize I was ALREADY putting away some doubts in my head, without thinking of doing so.

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