Dealing With Crises

So I know I’ve been posting like, way too much today, but this seems to be the case with me — I post in clusters. Anyway, I commented on someone else’s blog and got to thinking about the concept of how people with anxiety disorders deal with crises. This article by Dr. Steven Phillipson makes the following point:

“In general, when real life delivers a crisis, persons with anxiety disorders, and specifically those with OCD, tend to manage these crises somewhat more effectively than the population at large. The very nature of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the mind’s relentless and endless effort to process and prepare for the most extreme nightmarish scenarios. The anxious mind compels people to mentally anticipate the worst possible scenario and not the negative outcomes which life typically delivers. Our usual world predominantly delivers circumstances to us which don’t come close to matching the level of negativity that people with OCD consistently prepare themselves for.

What do you all think?

It reminds me a lot of my mom, because everyone who knew her says how calm she was in an emergency. Yet, she had symptoms of classic OCD and believed herself to have it, though she was never officially diagnosed. Those of us with OCD are inherently plagued by worry and doubt. How could that possibly translate into us being calm in a true emergency? It seems counter-intuitive, but when you think about it, it starts to make sense, because…

Put me in front of a box of ant poison, and my anxiety skyrockets. I start thinking about how the box is sealed, but maybe it was manufactured improperly and the poison is leaking, or maybe someone who touched poison also touched the box, or maybe someone whose hands were just dirty in some other way with germs or something touched the box, and how maybe if I touch the sealed box I need to wash my hands lest I get poison on my hands and then later touch my eyes or mouth without thinking, and die.

Or put me in front of a parked car that might back up and hit me, and I start thinking about if the car hits me and I fall on the pavement and get my skin scraped off. It’s very violent, bloody imagery — even though nothing bad has happened. It’s just the worst possible thing that could happen, and my mind often goes straight for that.

Yet put me in a situation where someone is injured, or seriously needs my help, and I actually deal with that situation a lot better. I wouldn’t call myself exceptional in a crisis, but I don’t flip out the way I do in all those non-crisis situations which cause me the bulk of my anxiety. I don’t feel qualified to speculate on whether I’m good or bad in an emergency — it’s really up to my closest friends and loved ones to decide that, but I think it’s an interesting topic for discussion.

Those of us with OCD are plagued with false alarms, often feeling like serious danger is present when in fact, there is none or very little. Could it also be true that may sometimes work as a benefit, taking away that “alarm” when an emergency which is not as bad as the one we expected occurs? We were prepared for something much worse, and so our anxiety is not allowed to cloud our judgment — so we may navigate the crisis with a level head.

4 thoughts on “Dealing With Crises

  1. Very interesting. I excel in crises. I always attributed it to a crisis being one of the few times I can actually get my flighty brain to focus on one thing for a while, but Dr. Phillipson makes a good point about the anxiety preparing us for the worst.

  2. Interesting post, and I’ve also written about this topic. It has been my own observation that people with OCD handle tough situations extremely well…I guess I’m not the only one who believes that….thanks for your insight!

  3. josiahzero says:

    I often notice that objectively difficult situations are usually quite simple compared to the diffculties that I can invent for myself through trying to satisfy my compulsions. 🙂

  4. willitbeok says:

    Interesting that others share this viewpoint! Janet, I’ll have to look for your blog posts on this. I’m curious now about reading them. 🙂

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