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OCD “An Emotional Chameleon”

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is very common, but it is not what it seems. It is an outward manifestation of an inward hidden problem of emotion and thinking… a kind of top layer over a hidden one. We might even call it the ‘cherry on top of the cake’ for many who prefer neuroses to living properly. (By ‘prefer’ I don’t mean it is an attractive option enjoyed by the sufferer, but he or she ‘prefers’ to stick to the anguish than to putting in the hard work needed to get rid of OCD, or any neurosis. Also, the sufferer can use the OCD as a ‘reason’ not to live normally, something they can hide behind when challenged).

It is an unfortunate socialist policy to allow this ‘mental diagnosis’ to be used to gain disability pensions and benefits, thus making it easier to stay off work and useful as a way to earn money. Perhaps you might think this is a rather harsh statement to make, but it was not made by me – it has been said by ‘patients’ with OCD and plain depression and anxiety.

A Change of focus

OCD is a chameleon because it can change from one focus/locus to another. Thus, someone ‘cured’ of one representation of OCD will simply shift the focus to another kind of representation. (I often wonder if this is the true reason behind Tourettes’ symptoms that include cursing or sexual expletives). In this way the underlying cause remains the same, but the way it is portrayed differs. Example; a person with a fear of touching surfaces (and so washes hands frequently; which is NOT why they wash their hands!) will revoke that fear; but will later show symptoms of a different fear – say, of walking outdoors. All that happens is one OCD manifestation is replaced by another one. This happens because OCD is simply a ‘coat’ worn by a sufferer to hide the anxiety that caused the OCD. To put it another way it is like covering a pile of poison with a mound of earth, so the poison can’t be seen… but, it continues to harm the earth above and surrounding it.

Anyone can have OCD, just as anyone can suffer anxiety and depression. However, getting rid of these problems depends on the spiritual state of the sufferer. It is my view that virtually all ‘mental’ problems in the neurotic range (and probably the psychotic range, too) are rooted in either an unsaved person, or, one who is saved but being sinful. That is, a rebellious spirit leads to an emotional void that is filled with sinful ideas and bad reactions to life. Or, the person has not had anyone to guide them in their confusion or distress. Also, when a child grows up in a neurotic environment (e.g. a parent with a neurosis), they learn how to act in the same way, but don’t realise they are doing it. It can be hard to get rid of this kind of background influence after so many years, especially when secular professionals are consulted. There tends to be no ‘quick fix’, because the one giving counsel must first demolish many years of ‘training’ a patient has in anxiety.

A veneer of Anxiety

In other words, an OCD is a veneer of anxiety that covers a bulk of underlying and influential ‘mental’ symptoms; really they are not mental at all, but emotional. But, the first noticeable image is that of one with an OCD, which is ‘front of house’ and a visible symptom; the real stuff, which urges OCD, is hidden underneath. Because the OCD is only a veneer or coat, the real underlying cause of OCD will not be touched. This is why, when ‘cured’ of one type of OCD, the person, either immediately or soon afterwards, will manifest a different OCD representation. They are like those sea creatures that swiftly cover themselves with sand so as not to be discovered by predators, or, to wait for prey.

People can be clinically ‘treated’ for their OCD symptoms, but I can guarantee that each one thus ‘treated’ will revert back to their old ways after a while, because they swap one manifestation/representation for another. Even if some do not show new evidence of OCD, they will show evidence of the old fashioned anxiety-based neuroses, because this is what drives OCD anyway, and it was not dealt with. So, if another type of OCD does not replace the old one, the person will be forced back to displaying the underlying neuroses – the earth has been removed from the poison underneath and the truth is made bare!

Just One Example

A nurse saw a doctor make a grave error in drawing up medication for a baby, who was (or could have been) harmed by the injection. The traumatic experience led the nurse to keep checking her own practices, to such an extent that her anxiety about it became unreasonable and even illogical. In the end, it was too much and she had to leave; her anxiety (of potentially making a mistake) dominated. Afterwards, once out of the medical environment she could not have a ‘medical’ manifestation, so instead of double and triple checking doses of medication, she began to wash her hands until they were raw (common) and triple or multi-checking doors, which are signs of intense, unresolved inner anxiety (which might have nothing to do with the trigger).

More signs came about until, later, the overall image was one of OCD and an inability to tolerate trauma of any kind, including in relationships. Thus, the original spur to anxiety was covered over by something else – OCD. Soon, she just could not put up with ANY upset for ANY reason. If one arose, she went back to all her symptoms. But, underneath, it was all initiated by that single fear – killing a child with the wrong medication. Though such an event was very unlikely to occur, even when she was nursing, it became her focus point and she couldn’t get out of the trap. So, after a while her symptoms drove her to resign.

When the first symptoms of fear arose I advised that the original fear-point needed attention quickly, because once the symptoms broadened out to a more obscure plethora, the habits of neuroses were well established.* Thus, the problem increases exponentially with every undealt-with symptom. This is a common pattern – anxiety starts with a known single problem, real or imagined. If not expunged the anxiety will broaden out to a general fear or depression, so the origin of the anxiety can no longer be identified. It is vital to identify the original cause, and to get rid of it, but this becomes very difficult once the symptoms are generalised. (*For example, by using a simple check procedure, e.g. having someone else to see the dose drawn up, to verify it is correct. This is normal procedure when giving dangerous drugs. However, it is very likely that the injection scenario only revealed an earlier underlying anxiety syndrome that was also undealt-with).

Sympathy Can be Wrong

In one of my major articles (on BPD) I said that anyone could have BPD (just as anyone can become neurotic). But, that does not mean we just give in to the malady or give it a medical persona as an excuse. The same applies to every neurosis and probably every psychosis. EVERY one of us can fall to these problems. However, we must still deal with them logically, using biblical logic and not human logic. And definitely not with emotion. Dealing with it emotionally will just make matters worse. As I once said to a colleague in the hospital I worked at, when a nurse or doctor sympathises with a patient, the nurse/doctor becomes useless. To be effective a nurse in a mental hospital must be professional but not emotional, because otherwise both the nurse and patient become side-tracked by their combined emotions! Emotions are notoriously labile and counter-productive. The nurse, then, must maintain a step-back so as not to fall into the same neurotic/psychotic trap. Empathy is okay, but sympathy is not.

What do I mean? I mean that if everyone cries bitter tears, they are useless at resolving an issue. To join one’s own emotions to those of someone whose emotions are caused by a refusal to respond properly to life’s trials, hinders a genuine attempt to help. That is why nurses and doctors should be empathetic instead – having emotions but not allowing them to hamper judgement and action, simply by keeping a distance. Most are able to do this, and it gives the sufferer more confidence in their ministrations. For these reasons, I never advise a patient/person to join a support group for ‘mental’ illnesses.

Single Focus

In a way an OCD appears to be simpler to deal with, because there is a declared fear or anxiety about a known object, situation, person, etc. Sometimes the anxiety will be projected onto something else, making that object/person/situation a kind of ‘comfort blanket’. Whatever the situation, an OCD is a misery to both the person who has it and everyone else around them.

As with the other neuroses (fear, anxiety, and depression) almost no-one wants to be around someone with rampant OCD, because they feel drained within; the one with OCD removes their sense of wellbeing, so others keep away, including family. Those who cannot escape their own OCD also become miserable and anxious; they KNOW their symptoms are invalid and irrational, but they cannot stop themselves… or so they think. The net result can be misery all round, leading at times to resentment and anger (depending on the situation) and, many divorces. So, many who continue on the path of OCD (like those with underlying neuroses) often end up literally isolated. They cannot see that their own reactions to life are the cause.

The Official Stance

Health services say that OCD interferes with normal life, but that “treatment can help you keep it under control” (NHS). My objection is… WHY ‘keep it under control’? The idea should be to get rid of it, not keep it in cotton wool. Even under ‘control’ the condition is detrimental to overall emotional health, and it gives the notion that OCD is a psychiatric ‘illness’ that requires psychiatric intervention! OCD is a problem of the emotions requiring the person to stop harbouring the symptoms. It is not a medico-psychiatric ‘illness’.

Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour are not necessarily permanent – it depends on the individual. Some admit to enjoying their OCD. Others bring it out of mothballs whenever they want relief from demands, including financial.

There are simple ways to stop obsessive thoughts, but ideally this needs to be done as soon as possible after they begin. The longer it is left the stronger the fixation remains. The same goes for compulsive behaviour. For example, I used to bite the inside of my right cheek when stressed. Obviously, this left my cheek very sore. But, once I realised I was doing it (after several years) I resolved NOT to do it, though it seemed ‘important’ to keep doing it to relieve stress. Over a short period I was able to stop doing it, by being alert to each incident, and physically NOT biting the cheek; instead, I simply did something else! Not doing a compulsive behaviour is really as simple as that, though many think it is not. What is not simple is acceptance that the behaviour needs to stop and a refusal to eliminate it because of the added anxiety by curtailing the behaviour. All people with OCD say their anxiety increases greatly if they stop performing a particular act that supposedly relieves the anxiety. Unfortunately, resorting to an OCD ritual does not actually relieve symptoms – it just makes it more difficult to get out of the activity, which then increases anxiety!

Interestingly, when I was under stress (real, not imagined) I used to have a long bath to relax. In a sense this was just as much compulsive as biting the cheek. The real answer is not to have a diversionary tactic, but to be rid of all such reactions to stress, which means strengthening one’s inner psychological and spiritual senses. Today, because of the annoying inabilities of older age, I cannot use a bath, so have no recourse to bathing as a means of stress reduction. In a way this is good, because it means I must resolve issues properly.

There are too many obsessions and compulsions to mention, but many are common and not called OCD. For example, checking a baby is still breathing throughout the night (anxiety over babies is very common, but stops proper functions), constantly checking and rechecking a locked door before leaving for work, making sure water taps are all turned off, and so on. They are all signs of anxiety, maybe at different levels of severity. What needs to be conquered is not the OCD symptoms but the underlying cause – unresolved psychological stress. But, as with having a bath, any actions taken to defeat OCD are themselves OCD by nature! That is why the core, the thing causing anxiety, must be cast out.

It should be noted that everyone requires a basic level of physical stress just to function as an human being. Without it no-one would get out of the way of a speeding car, check food is untainted, or see a doctor if a wound does not heal. Lack of stress would inhibit the normal ‘fight or flight’ response to danger.

Don’t Try to Hide It

Though I speak bluntly about these issues, there is nothing embarrassing or shameful about having OCD. Individuals should speak with someone suitable to get rid of it, and MUST take steps to get rid of the symptoms AND underlying anxieties. Otherwise, as has already been mentioned, the symptoms will invariably worsen, making both the sufferer and everyone else miserable. It is not unusual for someone with chronic OCD to develop unreasonable ‘house rules’, whether to do with cleanliness or actions or absurd demands, with annoying and debilitating ‘procedures’. If married, a spouse will suffer alongside the one with OCD, sometimes to an unbearable level. Any children learn to copy the OCD parent, so the sufferer is responsible for harming their own children with useless behaviour.

In a simple example – a mother was afraid of heights and therefore of bridges and sea-side piers where she could see below. This extended to a fear of lifts (elevators), so she had to walk up all flights of stairs even if the floor needed was very high up. This all passed on to the children, all of whom copied the behaviour without realising it, and without ever knowing why they feared heights, spaces or lifts; their lives were hampered greatly. If you like, this is an hidden or associated OCD, whereas an original OCD is usually traced back to a single fear or incident.

Treatment Strategies

The UK NHS advice is to contact the psychological therapy services, or, to ask your doctor to do so. I must admit that in the case of OCD, there can be a successful outcome from a secular service like this, because the desensitisation method used can effectively remove the manifestation of OCD (CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy). But, as the underlying anxiety etc., is not touched, the original manifestation might disappear, only to resurface as a different manifestation. This happens because the person wants something to relieve their anxiety. Often drugs may be used, but both treatments usually take a few months to take effect. If symptoms persist, specialists might take over.

When it comes to causation of OCD, I am not happy with the idea that genes are involved. This is because no emotional debilitation can be proved to be caused by genes. Another supposed cause is lack of serotonin. Again, there cannot be a direct association, because any brain research is difficult to validate; the closest we get is supposition. Also, once a person is told it is their genes or some other brain malfunction, they ‘hook’ onto it as an excuse to give in to their ‘illness’.

The next idea is that OCD comes after some kind of shock/traumatic life event. I have already talked about this, and it is most likely, especially in someone who has been bullied or abused, or just left alone. Again to refer to myself… at school I was just a skinny kid who enjoyed designing new things and painting. This didn’t suit most of the other kids, who liked to bully or just be nasty. I hated myself for allowing it to happen but I was certainly not a ‘fighter’, and it was a ‘scar’ that stayed with me for about ten years. But, when I became a psychiatric nurse and ignored the useless advice given by Christian elders, and fought back when attacked violently, I felt the load fall from my shoulders and gained in confidence. Before that my feelings about being bullied kept me ashamed of my apparent lack of manliness and ability to protect others. In that particular case the ‘counsel’ of well-meaning elders was more harmful than sound.

One seemingly unlikely possible cause is one’s personality. Those likely to fall to OCD have high and often unattainable standards for themselves and others. This affects everyone else around them, making them unfriendly and even fearful. So, those who are always neat, meticulous and methodical are likely candidates for OCD. This is because anything not neat or in order causes anxiety and then even breakdown.

I know several parents who were always anxious for their children to obey rules and their own standards, and were rigid and unyielding. This stress on the children meant they finally ran amok. Many Christian parents have this unfortunate expectation of their children – they expect their unsaved offspring to act like their saved selves. Clashes are bound to occur. And then the parents become even more anxious, perhaps to the point of having OCD. Christian parents are indeed responsible for their children, but they cannot force their own Christian ideals and beliefs onto unsaved youngsters. (Note: This is a normal situation. But, there are times when a child might go its own sinful way, no matter how loving or kind the parents are).

Of course, many churches have those unfortunate folks called ‘counsellors’, trained in ‘Christian’ therapies. (See my article on these). But, they should not be approached. My MA thesis compared secular and Christian therapies and found that there was literally little or no difference! Mainly, they were copies of secular ideals with a slight biblical twist. This is not how God works!

The Answer

The first answer is NOT to get into the medical/psychiatric system for anxiety/OCD. Once you are on their books everything you do or say after that will be put down to psychiatric imbalance, even if it is not. In other words, you place a label on yourself that cannot easily be shaken off. It suggests you are not really able to make rational decisions, or to act normally. So, if you are tempted to give yourself a label, beware of the lifelong consequences. I have known some who took this route of self-labelling, and lived to regret it… it is ultimately far better to put in the hard work to refuse OCD as a way of life.

OCD is an outward manifestation of inner anxiety, fear, depression, etc. Therefore, the real answer is to deal with the underlying cause. Otherwise you will be like a man who regularly paints his bedroom wall to cover mould caused by damp! Far better to deal with what is causing the damp than try to cover up the cause.

A Christian has a far better future and reason to live. We were not created to suffer bad reactions to life, but to live in harmony with Almighty God. If we do not, our judgments will be skewed and unwise. But, as we know, we are blighted by sin from our birth (because we are conceived in sin and sin is our ‘normal’ state). We grow up learning how to commit sin and to react wrongly to life’s troubles and twists. Thus, instead of responding rationally to events, we react, making rash emotional decisions. However, we have Someone far greater than troubles and secular guesswork used to deal with them. If we are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ (‘Someone’) He will have the Holy Spirit help us with every crisis. If we refuse this offer, we will make mistakes and may even sin.

Though I know my answer will drive some folks crazy, the answer to OCD is – stop doing it. Yes, some will jump up and down with anger, but it is really the true answer. If you put your hand too close to an open fire, what happens? Yes, you feel a nasty sensation. If you go even closer you will get scorched. And if you thrust your hand into the fire you will receive severe burns. So, it is rather obvious – don’t do it!! Even if every thought in your mind tries to force you to do it. It is as easy or as difficult as your resolve. Only you can come to a good conclusion. It is a secular delusion to think you must have a psychiatric label and take drugs or attend therapy.

With OCD, you just stop whatever tactic you use to alleviate your anxiety, whether it is not walking on cracked paving stones, washing your hands, rechecking you’ve locked the doors… or any other symptoms. JUST STOP DOING IT! But, you say, if I do not do the action I get even more anxious. My response is – yes, you will. But, you must still STOP. Almost ‘cold turkey’. But, with added diversions.

One of my brothers is trained in several forms of therapy and he gave me a great little hint some time back. He said that with any habit, if you resist it for thirty days you will usually be rid of the habit. And it works. He was not talking about OCD in particular, but I used it in the same way… stop your habit of OCD in its tracks. Yes, you will feel your anxiety increasing, but you must continue to resist. Don’t moan about it and watch your anxiety rise – do something more positive… paint a picture, read a book… and there is great help in going for a walk. Talk with others and don’t lock yourself away. I think you get the gist. The longer you resist and do something else, the easier it will get, and the weaker becomes the OCD.

One piece of advice I often give is to write down what you believe causes your anxiety. Everything. Then throw away what you wrote, and write again, maybe the next day. You should then exhaust the topic in your mind and this helps to guide your thoughts. Another method is to say ‘No!’ sternly in your mind whenever an OCD or anxiety thought comes into your mind. Both work.

Of course, this will not get rid of the underlying habit of being anxious or fearful or depressed. This requires something much deeper – trust in God. He can help you get rid of the OCD, too, because OCD and underlying anxiety are not good witnesses to God or to claimed faith.

I know from practical professional experience that when a Christian enters psychiatric therapies or premises, he is telling the team that God is not strong enough (or real) to bring you through a hard time. It is a counter-witness against His glory and lordship. Every time you take a pill for anxiety, or use secular therapy, you deny the power and existence of God, bit by bit. I know this because it is what professionals talk about amongst themselves. Some even snigger that a Christian resorts to psychiatry, because they think Christians are ignorant fools who believe in a fake God Who can do nothing for them. Is this what you want?

Christians – It’s Up To You

Yes, it can be hard to try to ignore your symptoms, especially if you’ve been used to giving in to them for years. But, they are symptoms not of disease or a supposed ‘mental illness’; they are symptoms of sin and a wrong attitude towards spiritual life. As I have said in previous articles on neuroses, we can all fall to occasional bouts of anxiety, etc. When those bouts get closer together and become a pattern THEN it is sin, and those who watch you are convinced there is no God. So, add this to your misery at having the OCD, and the misery everyone else around you feels, and the picture is not very appealing or pleasant. It is NOT up to everyone else to accommodate you and your emotional baggage – it is up to YOU as the sufferer to stop suffering. Stop putting your hand into the fire and you will not get burnt!

Those who take up smoking for some idiotic reason find it very hard to give up once they have developed the habit. Smoking is unnecessary and very silly, so why do it? Often, because of anxiety. Those who have other habits have the same underlying failure to respond to life, so they drink alcohol. Some even take drugs. And many today resort to sexual sin by looking at pornography (when it is longstanding it is a sign of anxiety rather than about sex). The thing is, they are all ‘bad habits’ that are a bad witness, and habits can be broken – IF the person with the habit wishes it. OCD is just a bad habit, too. It can be broken and got rid of. IF you want to get rid of it.

To walk we just put one foot before another. Then we get from A to B. Breaking a habit and OCD is exactly the same. Take the first step and you are on the way to ridding your life of a very bad habit. You might feel weak some days and fall back, but that’s okay if you then go forward again. If a person with OCD refuses to do anything and gets worse there is only one conclusion observers can come to – he or she doesn’t mean it, and prefers sin to truth, wrong reactions to living righteously.

The key to it all is to simply TRY. If there is no evidence of trying to get rid of OCD or neurosis it shows others you have no intention of living as a believer. This has ramifications, because those around you, though themselves believers, will not want to associate with you. Then, your circle of friendly supporters will disappear, when, all along, you need them for you to function as a Christian. If you do not allow them to help and show the opposite, by being angry when they speak truth, you fall deeper into sin and malfunction.

There is far more to be said, but this introduction is sufficient to get you started.

© March 2021

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