“…my Fight or Flight Response System, it is more or less like a very old, overdramatic, senile emergency dispatcher who can’t seem to remember all the facts and misinterprets the danger levels.”
In the beginning, I counted traffic lights, memorized traffic light patterns, and wasted gallons of gas driving back and forth to reassure myself that I had not caused any accidents with my car. This is how my brain decided to rewire itself after my stressful situation with a faulty blinker on the freeway. For me, it was the beginning of insanity…
Different Forms of OCD With One Common Theme
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. There are many different forms of OCD and not everyone experiences OCD the same. What is truly fascinating about OCD, is that a person can experience more than one form of OCD; however, each of those forms of OCD all tend to share a common theme. For me, I have been diagnosed with Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (no compulsive behaviors); yet, I also experience what is called “Hit & Run” OCD (with compulsive behaviors). For me, both forms of OCD share a common theme: The irrational fear of having harmed others through some form of negligence. Unfortunately, for me, my Pure “O” OCD amplifies my Hit & Run OCD, almost to the point I thought I was going insane.
Hit & Run OCD
Fortunately, there is nothing insane about my membranes, except for a little OCD bully brain. “Hit & Run” OCD is when the brain responds inappropriately to a stressful situation. Instead of recognizing and appropriately dealing with the true source of anxiety, the OCD brain twists thoughts and emotions around causing a person to doubt not only their true character but also events associated with their anxiety.
An example of a “Hit & Run” OCD episode would be like an OCD driver driving in an area crowded with pedestrians (like New York City). It is absolutely normal to feel nervous, because people are unpredictable. You never know who might run out into the street or step out of a parked car into passing traffic. It is truly a stressful situation. The purpose of anxiety is to keep the driver alert, but the driver’s OCD brain, kind of goes on double high alert and begins to misinterpret the situation. The driver runs over a pot hole that triggers an OCD episode where the driver begins to have irrational fears that he may have ran over a person. The bad case of “what if’s” begin to affect the driver’s self-doubt and then worst case scenarios cross his mind making him feel like a terrible person. To relieve his fears, compulsion sets in, where he may turn around to check for an accident, check his car for damage, or read the newspaper everyday looking for a report of an accident. A mix of guilt and paranoia could also set in from extreme anxiety. He might even think he has gone insane, because the thoughts and emotions feel so real, not only doubting reality, but also his true character. The driver is a good person, who in reality, would not drive away from a true accident. Unfortunately, OCD loves to mess with good-minded people and the driver with OCD endures a long period of extreme emotional suffering.
The good news is that those experiencing “Hit & Run” OCD or any form of OCD have not gone insane. OCD is all based on feelings and emotions and as I have been told a million times before, “the truly insane do not feel insanity.” It’s just a little faulty wiring with our Fight or Flight Response System causing false evidence to appear real.
F. E. A. R. The result of my faulty wiring
I often refer to my OCD episodes as “OCD fears,” because my OCD episodes generally focus on some kind of irrational fear about something. Thus, my favorite OCD acronym is F.E.A.R., in which cleverly means: “False Evidence Appearing Real.” At first, I didn’t really understand what it meant, because everything was too real to consider any of it as false. However, I know now that F.E.A.R. is the result of my faulty wiring in my OCD brain. So, what is going on with this faulty wiring?
The autonomic nervous system in our body controls all those amazing things our body does without the need of us having to think about it. This includes breathing (automatic), heart beating (automatic), digestive system (automatic), and hormone regulation (automatic). This system is broken down into two parts: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic. The faulty wiring lies within the sympathetic part of our autonomic nervous system; also known as the “Fight or Flight Response System.”
The Fight or Flight Response System is responsible for anxiety. Anxiety is actually a good thing when it functions properly. In stressful situations, anxiety tells the body something is up and to be on the look out for danger. Kind of like a safety alarm system, prompting us to immediately assess the situation. From there, we are forced to make the decision to either Fight (stay and deal with it) or Flight (run away from it). Below is a Caveman scenario from college about how our Fight or Flight Response System works:
My Cave Man Scenario: A hairy caveman comes out from his den to play with fire; something him and his friends have recently discovered by accident (funny story by the way)…anyways, while walking along the beautiful plains of the Palaeolithic era, he comes across a large saber-tooth tiger sleeping peacefully among the high grass. The caveman’s sympathetic nervous system is going off! His heart begins to beat faster, his palms start to sweat, and his body starts to shiver in fear. His body is screaming DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!
There are only two options: FIGHT or FLIGHT.
This caveman valued his life very much and of course FLIGHT took over. He quietly took a few steps back, turned, and quickly ran back to his den. Later, around the community bon-fire with his buddies, he told them about his encounter with a vicious saber-tooth tiger. Instead of telling them he had ran away; he told man’s first epic hero story of man vs. beast and man won. 🙂
Faulty Wiring In The Fight Or Flight Response System
OCD is an anxiety disorder, because the OCD brain has faulty wiring in the Fight or Flight Response System. Stressful situations trigger the Fight or Flight Response System; however, the OCD brain is like a rotten school kid who likes to pull the fire alarm when there is no fire. The Fight or Flight Response System is wired in such a way that it triggers on false alarms.
For me, stressful situations trigger anxiety, like it should, but my OCD has taken over the Fight or Flight Response Division of my brain and is now, more or less, like a very old, overdramatic, senile emergency dispatcher who can’t seem to remember all the facts and misinterprets the danger levels. Instead of appropriately responding to a stressful situation with normal Fight or Flight Response protocols, my OCD brain triggers an irrational fear creating self-doubt, extreme guilt and worry; forcing me to deal with F.E.A.R.: false evidence appearing real.
Detective of OCD Related Incidents
Over the years, I have become quite the Sherlock Holmes of OCD related incidents; especially those episodes pertaining to my “Hit & Run” OCD. To get over a major OCD episode, I have to write it all down. Basically, take down my own official statement of events. After recognizing the trigger, I can work on collecting all the false evidence that appears to be real. Then, logically prove such evidence is indeed false. I say, my dear Watson would be extremely proud.
Eventually, writing is no longer necessary when one begins to immediately recognize triggers, a powerful tool used to defuse OCD before it can even start. Today, I experience very little driving anxiety. In fact, I love to drive! Pedestrians and other drivers do make me slightly nervous, but that is completely normal. The important thing is that I do not allow my OCD to make it more than what it really is by being a confident driver. Also, if I drive with an anxious mind, OCD episodes are prone to happen. I also know I am good person and I refuse to let my OCD convince me otherwise.
For those suffering from Hit & Run OCD, please remember that you are not crazy or insane and that you are a good person despite how your OCD makes you feel. ❤