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Opinion : Are we all susceptible to obsessive compulsive behavior?

Forget what psychology has to say about obsessive-compulsive disorder and the labels of ‘mental’ and ‘behaviour disorder’ commonly used to describe the syndrome. Now, can you deny the existence of obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors in your daily routine?

By Suzy Fontes

Friday, January 26, 2024

One in ten people are neurotic. That was what the college psychology professor shared during a lecture on the topic of neurosis, long years ago, before roving her eyes around the roomful of students staring at her and concluded: “That makes at least 6 in this room of 60 people, including me.”

Whether that “including me” meant she was one of those six potential neurotics, was not revealed. What it did infer was that disorders such as neurosis are common and require only a simple introspection and acknowledgement to resolve any residues they may have left.

Taking that thought process a notch higher, the psychology lecturer shifted her lesson to obsessive-compulsive disorders with a story of a woodcutter who couldn’t shake away the mental image of his axe chopping the head of his son. Those uncontrollable recurring thoughts haunted him, making him worry about his parenting style, his love for his child, she narrated.

And then she posed a question to the class: Do any of you have such negative thoughts?

Students replied ‘No’.

“What about harmless recurring thoughts? Fears that you have left the main door unlocked? Or that you may get contaminated by germs?”

The answer, this time, was a soft ‘yes’ from more than six students – six who, perhaps, were slowly getting acclimatized to their neurosis.

I wasn’t one of those six in that classroom of 60, but I am inclined to believe that it is OCD that makes me tuck the bed sheet in a way that it holds no wrinkles. That it is the freaky need to have things placed in order that makes me scan the room the minute I enter it. 

That it was the recurring thought of road accident that made me cause one, some years ago.

I have made peace with such negative recurring thoughts and have learned to consciously avoid them. As for the rest, I am willing to obsess over clean and tidy thoughts and open to new ones that define my personality.