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When you lose perspective...

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One problem I think everyone seems to have with this illness is losing perspective of what a "normal" person would do.  But asking someone about that is reassurance...  So how can we know what to do?  How can I know whether my impulse not to do something is avoidance or common sense?   

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You don't need to ask what a non-sufferer person would do. 

Think of such persons whom you know well. 

Consider how you think they would respond? 

Then you will have your answer. 

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That's something I've definitely done. I'm trying to keep my brain grounded in reality and on real issues, not the false ones in my head. I get it's hard and I know ti can be otugh to tell the difference. 

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3 hours ago, raven said:

But asking someone about that is reassurance...  So how can we know what to do?  How can I know whether my impulse not to do something is avoidance or common sense?

What Taurean recommends is the best approach, to try and use the knowledge you have of people around you and gauge your response based on that.  Chances are you can already get a pretty good idea on what a normal response would be.  That should be your go to approach in most situations.  

However if you find yourself in a particularly challenging situation, perhaps its a very personal issue which you can't easily observe other peoples behavior about, or you have tried your hardest and just can't seem to figure it out, asking a trusted family member,  friend, or medical professional for advice can be ok to.

Isn't that reassurance?  You ask.  Well yes it is, but reassurance itself isn't inherently bad, COMPULSIVE reassurance seeking is.  Just like washing your hands isn't bad, but compulsive hand washing is.  Asking for advice is a normal and healthy part of life, so long as its done in moderation.  So how can you tell the difference?  Its all about frequency.

If you find yourself facing an OCD question, you are struggling to know what a "normal" level of reaction is and you can't seem to estimate it from observing others, then it would be ok to ask your friend what they would do, provided you go by the following guidelines:

  1. Don't ask them repeatedly about the same or similar issues, particularly repeatedly on the same day.  Once should be enough, even if you still feel doubt (because duh, OCD :)
  2. Don't go around asking lots of people the same question. Pick one or two trusted people, ask once (see point 1) and then go with that, even when you feel 'doubt'.
  3. Don't start asking about different situations repeatedly (especially situations that are only SLIGHTLY different), you should use people for advice very sparingly, otherwise its a compulsion.
  4. Don't go to your friend as a first resort, try figuring it out yourself first, and taking some time to do so.  If you run to someone for advice at the first sign of anxiety, thats a good indication that its a compulsion.
  5. If at all possible, let the person know why you are asking, that its because of your OCD.  Its best if they have some knowledge of OCD, either prior knowledge or you give them information from this forum or other places.  If they are well informed of OCD it will help them notice compulsive reassurance seeking and they will be able to respond to you better.  When I am really struggling I go to my mother because I know she is well informed about OCD and knows how to help me by answering questions only sometimes, and reminding me i am reassurance seeking at other times.
  6. If you are struggling to meet someone who matches the criteria in number 5, this forum is also a good place to turn to for advice.  While nearly all of us have OCD, we don't all share the same anxieties.  As an example I don't suffer contamination related intrusive thoughts, so my behavior in that area (hand washing, bathing, etc.) is "normal".  I can give advice on what constitutes normal in that area.  Others can do the same in areas where they don't have obsessions/compulsions, and we are all quite aware of the dangers of compulsions so we are better able than the average non-OCD person to let you know when you are reassurance seeking vs when a little advice can help.  But again, like all the above, the key is to avoid it becoming a frequent behavior, aka a compulsion.

This list is not exhaustive, others may have additions or suggestions to it, but the general idea is to avoid allowing a healthy behavior to turn in to an unhealthy one.  In principle the best way to do this is to avoid reassurance seeking as much as possible, but we are not perfect, and sometimes you just need a little help to get through the day.  Moderation is the key, just as it is in a health diet.  Best of luck!

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