The Effort Involved in Starting a Conversation as Someone with OCD

Socially, I am a contradiction. I am quite outgoing, and have been since moving on from my teenage years—the time during and before that I will chalk up to normal growing up. I’m excessively friendly, and I don’t mind patting myself on the back for that. We need more of that. I am able to even engineer social situations in the realm of sales and business—which takes calculated risks along with being outgoing.

At the same time I have social anxiety, and when not in an outgoing place—I am very closed up. This is not normal, it is an extension of my OCD. You see, every conversation I engage in must have a purpose. Or I don’t feel comfortable in it. I will not go as far as admitting to an extreme selfishness—a sociopathy—in conversation where I am only in it for me. No, it is really a situation of the way my brain has to organize things according to function. Things must serve a function—event conversations—to be able to be organized. And, naturally, I must continue my obsession with organizing everything in my brain and the world outside it.

So let’s backtrack a little bit—it is more apt that I say I have the capability of being extremely outgoing and social. I don’t need to force it, I need it all to mean something that fits with the way I’ve organized the ongoing process of my life.

I am, by the definition I know, an introvert. Let me explain the definition I once read, and this may help lead into how my OCD and socialization work together. Simply put: an extrovert is one who gains energy from socializing with others. An introvert is one who expends energy socializing with others. I leave it at that, and do not classify my introversion as specifically being quiet, reserved, or unable to confront. However, I do fall into the category of one who spends energy to socialize. Thus it goes, I am willing to spend that energy… at times.

With my OCD, everything in life—even the intangible, like thoughts—must be organized in a way that works. “Works” is a big concept, but can be boiled down to having purpose in forwarding my life—and others’ lives as well. Socialization falls into this intangible container. And within it a set of containers as to what the socialization is about and where it is headed. And if it is not headed somewhere actively forward, I shy away from it.

So I want to talk. I need to communicate something. This happens a lot, being human and all.

I don’t start with, well, talking. Rather, I chart. Sometimes inside my head, sometimes I actually write out rather verbose notes as to what I want to talk about, what I want from the conversation, and where I would like it to end up. This is not an exercise in the manipulative—it often involves a fair balance between me and who I wish to converse with. I often want to do good by others more so than myself!

However, to start a conversation I must have a game plan. I’ve often discussed the concept of thinking of every eventuality in every action I take (and how much of a burden this can be.) This is absolutely part of the process before starting a conversation—I have to understand every way in which the conversation may go. And with my type of OCD, I often fixate on the negative. What is the worst that can happen? I have that written down with rebuttal.

I calculate not to manipulate, but to organize. If I go into a personal conversation extemporaneously, it will not end well. I will find myself speaking in loops, trying to organize every eventuality on the fly—which can lead to contradictions, complete blockages, and often times anger on the part of me or the other(s) involved in the conversation.

A perfect conversation for me is one where I have written out in notes and charts all of the things I wish to say, what I wish to have understood, what I wish the endgame to be, and a plan that steers the conversation toward that endgame as the path of least resistance1.

An example. I need to discuss my money and job situation with the person who is closest to me in life. This is a messy situation I happen to be in, and I need it to be understood—as this person is affected by such. I could take the alone time we have together and just start talking about it and see where it goes. That does not work. My OCD will activate, and I will be lost. My words will not be coming from figurative folders and containers inside my head. I need to set those up first, before starting the conversation. I need to prepare to expend energy in conversing. The crux of introversion, even though I have the ability to have this aforementioned conversation. If the setting is right. Making the setting right is my work.

Another example is guests at my home. I rarely see a reason as to why they are there. Yes, this seems harsh—but it is the part of my brain that I don’t really control that can’t organize the social situation into anything meaningful. I often come off as an ass. Not to those visiting—I know better than that. But after all is said and done, I pretty much end the encounter as the one who was aloof the whole time. Thing is—I cared. I cared about this guest or these guests. My brain just could not define a purpose for any of us to have a social encounter.

So let’s talk. I’m pretty nice. It just may take awhile for me to start. I am often silent for hours before starting a conversation I wish to have. I am thinking of every eventuality, every response, every… everything. Before.


1 Yeah, I’m fun at… ok, no clichés. I’m not fun in conversation, I get it.  [BACK]