The worst thing that can happen to someone with OCD is to have fears that manifest themselves as wholly irrational in importance and scope turn out to have some merit. The scale of everything is important here.
It is not just about matching fears to reality. That happens to everyone at some point—it is actually why humans have fears. Rational fears are based on eventualities actually happening on a chance percentage relative to the impact of said things happening. That is to say: a normal person is rational when they have a fear about something small that has a very good chance of happening, as well something big that has a still-frightening but a smaller chance of happening. Enough of a chance to consider the fear valid. That is being human.
Someone with OCD has fears that do not track the percentage chance of things actually happening. As well, the degree of impact that would be felt by these things happening is often overblown in a mind of someone with OCD.
There are therapies out there for people who have a problem with anxiety (essentially fear run amok across many vectors.) The structure of these therapies is beyond the scope of this article, but it usually boils down to realizing how irrational the scale is that one is putting on the eventuality they fear. Basically, understanding how good of a chance there is of this—whatever—feared not happening.
I have an irrational fear of fire. There is no historical basis for this in my life—I have never been affected by a fire. The fear is irrational because of the calculations mentioned above. I see the likelihood of a fire happening with safe enough, everyday actions. I personally refuse to ever use an oven. I only allow candles that are contained in very well-footed, very solid glass. Or, to be more honest: I don’t allow candles. I essentially have a way I’d let lit candles be around me, but I happen to not go there.
Turning on an oven is a very common thing people do. They do it all the time. It is normal. The sheer majority—as in near one-hundred percent—of ovens are safe when turned on. Even if left on accidentally, they’re actually pretty safe.
There have been rare times though that I have walked in on something burning in the oven. This is the worst thing that can happen to me, as it takes all of the calculations the rational part of my brain knows and stuffs them behind my irrational brain. My constant checking to see if the oven is off is totally validated at this moment. Heck, at this point my checking is no longer OCD… it is no longer a disorder in my mind. It is right! I was right! The irrational parts of my brain win the day.
This all seems obvious: facing fears and losing. That’s really what this amounts to. And even with rational fears, there is a percentage chance of the thing feared manifesting. That is normal. That what a normal person fears happening, actually happening, is part of life.
However, when one has OCD, there is a whole subset of irrational rituals that becomes reinforced as correct and not a disorder. When it comes to my OCD, it leaves the world of Primarily Obsessional OCD (Pure-O) and becomes a compulsion… that I expect others to have!
I quite literally do not understand why people around me do not check the oven obsessively. Why wouldn’t you? It makes me angry just thinking about it. If the people responsible for the burning food had OCD like me, we wouldn’t have come so close to burning down the house!
Now, it is to be noted at this point the percentage chance of jumping from burning food to an entire burning house is completely askew in my mind. The house burning down was of course on track to happen, because my OCD can only fathom entities I fear manifesting themselves in the worst case.
And I am right! At least I fully believe I am in the moment. And those around me are wrong. They’re the ones with the disorder—my OCD is the proper way to live.
Yes, it gets this feverous in my mind. Rants become the compulsion.
So where does this leave me? Absolutely exhausted. Oh, the burning food will have long since been taken care of. And the house remains intact. But the mental work I’ll have been through makes me near comatose. I don’t want to think anymore because that which I am thinking I know is irrational, but I cannot stop myself from presenting it as rational. Heck, it is exhausting just to write these words.
Being prone to obsession is hell. Being right about the eventualities of that obsession—that is an even deeper ring of hell.