My struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder have confused me recently.
I have struggled with OCD thoughts and behaviours for many years and have defined my actions to be a direct result of this. However, for the past 8 months or so, new and intense feelings have overcome me that I presumed to be resulting from my OCD.
I believe that I may have been wrong in making that assumption.
You see, my psychological world has recently become divided into two polar opposites, a yin and a yang, where the yin represents my internal focus and the yang represents my external focus. It is only in the last week that I have come to realise that there is a big difference in my yin and yang behaviours, and from that understanding I have gained a certain amount of clarity that may help me to fight back against the way I have been feeling.
My yang, or my external focus, has been the central point of reference for defining my condition. It is OCD. It is my thoughts, feelings and anxieties. It is the condition that makes me act in the way that has become familiar, and distressing, throughout the course of my life so far.
Up until a week ago, I assumed my OCD was also the cause of my particular distress where my psychological focus became fixated on internal things.
I should say here that through my OCD I have adopted certain behaviour compulsions to prevent 'bad' things happening to those who are close to me, to those who I love and cherish and would do whatever it takes to keep from harm.
But also, when my focus becomes internal, I fixate on things that might happen to me, primarily, the thoughts and fear of cancer. I check my body and my breathing continuously during these phases, freaking out at the slightest thing that I deem to be different. I attach significance to things that I would not previously notice because I micro-analyse myself, I obsess, and cause myself an enormous amount of anxiety because of it.
I related this obsessing to my already recognised OCD behaviours but something never quite sat right about it. I was never 100% convinced that OCD covered exactly why I behaved the way I did when my focus looked inwards.
I stumbled across an article about hypochondria and was surprised that the definition described exactly how I was behaving.
I have often heard the word and took it to have a negative connotation. It seemed the phrase to be popularly used to aim at people who acted excessively when suffering from a cold, or those who sought sympathy when experiencing the most minor of ailments.
That was my mistake.
It seems that hypochondria is intricately related to OCD and is a recognised psychological condition. The sufferer is convinced that they might have a particular illness or at least obsessed that they may be showing symptoms of that illness, even though doctors, or anyone else for that matter, cannot find anything wrong with them. Cancer is one of the illnesses mentioned by name that is related to those who suffer from hypochondria.
It also states that media coverage and wide-spread attention to the particular illness, in this case cancer, are one of the primary causes that can cause a person to suffer from hypochondriac.
My problems began when I felt that I could not escape the torrent of press articles, television and radio advertisements, printed media, discarded cigarette packs (that in the
I can now understand why my obsessive thoughts began and assign blame for them. I can now remove some of the guilt that I have experienced that those intrusive thoughts and images were from my own doing, from my own mind, and designate blame elsewhere for feeling the way I have.
Like all mental health conditions, hypochondria needs to be understood for what it is, just like obsessive compulsive disorder does, as it is a disorder that causes an enormous amount of distress to the sufferer. I can state that with true, first-hand knowledge and understanding. I will never use the term lightly again.
But for me, the important thing is that I now know what my internal focus is, my yin, and why it is happening. I will bear it in mind if my brain continues to tell me to check and obsess about one particular bodily thing, and recognise that it is a result of my hypochondria, just as my external intrusive thoughts and feelings are due to my OCD.
I feel that I am still a long way from full mental health recovery but understanding why things happen in the way that they do is helping me to fight back, to refocus, and to strengthen my determined effort to become my full self once again.
(Continued on my blog post, 'Mental health and the media')