There are many different types of OCD, focusing on the types of intrusive thoughts the sufferer obsesses over. These categories can range from a large swath of life (cleanliness, for example) to very specific. Those with OCD often have a mix of these types (as well, don’t at all have certain intrusive thoughts others may.)
This is why “OCD” is more than just a single entity that one suffers from. It has many dimensions, and I like to explore the most specific ones to give a look into the inner workings of the disorder.
I have a very irrational relationship with food. I happen to not be picky about what I eat (yes, there are some things I don’t like. Broccoli.) But I would consider myself an adventurous eater.
I also have a strange emotional relationship with food. Wasted food depresses me immensely. This is not a complex emotional reaction at all, at least not in my brain. Just the thought or sight of food that will go to waste very literally brings about a hint of depression. It has nothing to do with the starving people in the world or anything altruistic. No, it is as simple as I see it, I get depressed, the end.
At the same time, I have an obsession over food spoiling. For most of my life, I refused to eat leftovers at all. In fact, I still do other than very specific foods I’ll get into in a bit. This coupled with my emotional reaction to wasted food created a compulsion that is almost oxymoronic.
I rarely throw away leftovers. I put them in the fridge, sealed in zip-top bags. I feel the need to make sure they’re sealed off from the air as much as possible. I don’t want the emotional reaction I’ll get from throwing away the leftovers.
Then, the leftovers will sit in the fridge. I’ll look at them with an odd feeling every time I open the fridge. Why? Because I know I will not eat them. Once the original packaging to the food—whatever it may be—is opened, my brain immediately thinks of the contamination the food is being exposed to. I know rationally that all food does spoil, but my rational brain’s clock to when this spoilage is to happen, compared to the irrational brain’s that I have to listed to conflicts. My irrational brain assumes the spoilage is happening much sooner. As in the next day.
As an aside, for some reason, this doesn’t happen with only two types of food I can think of: fried chicken and pizza. My irrational brain thinks these items never spoil. I don’t understand it, but I go with it. Because, well, leftover fried chicken and pizza are good.
Actually, a lot of leftovers are rationally good. But I can’t think about anything other than their instant spoilage. So I let those leftovers sit in the fridge for a few days. To make things more complicated, I have a horrible gag reflex from actual spoiled food. So I do throw the food away before that.
While throwing away the food depresses me, I’ve learned to compartmentalize the actions of throwing away food into the area of my brain that gets pleasure from organizing. I’m no longer throwing away food (depressing), I am putting it away where it belongs (which happens to be the garbage, and not depressing unless I think too much about it.)
So this is interesting to me: I can think of food in terms of when it will rationally spoil and act on that (by throwing it away before this happens), as well I act on my irrational thoughts of spoilage by not throwing it away, but not eating it.
OCD is quite complex. It is often not a black-and-white thing. And for me with food and leftovers, it is a web of rational and irrational thoughts and actions.
And food is something, as a human, I have to deal with every single day. Thus this is a big part of my OCD. However, as you can see, I have a coping strategy for the compulsions:
Package the leftovers to not spoil or create a feeling of depression, throw away the leftovers before they make me gag under the auspices of organization.
That’s me and food.