1. MsNitric
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    MsNitric New Member

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    Writing OCD Properly

    Discussion in 'Research' started by MsNitric, Apr 19, 2014.

    I'm working on a short horror story in which the main character has extreme paranoia about the people close to them dying/being hurt. They have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and deal with these fears using some common behaviors, such as "Checking" (they call their loved ones often and sometimes just drop by randomly to make sure they are safe), and probably some rituals (like making sure all the lights are off but one before they leave their house or else something bad may happen, still not too sure about what things I have in mind for that).
    As they seem to be getting better, the things they fear start actually coming true. This is probably going to lead them into a state of confusion and guilt seeing as they believe these things were their fault (like someone they love suddenly getting into a car accident) even though they know it's impossible.
    There's a twist which I'm not planning to directly give away in the story, but they are actually a prophet and it manifests in their disorder. There's going to be a subtle hint to this, the character being introduced as a man named John who lives in Patmos, Arkansas (like the Greek John of Patmos from the Book of Revelation). I'm not trying to glorify anything, this story is going to be of the horror genre for a reason, one of them being it's pretty much a nightmare for anyone with an anxiety disorder such as OCD.
    I've seen countless stories with OCD written in a very cliche and almost parodying way, usually with reviews from actual people who have or know about it that aren't happy with the way it's portrayed. I want to keep from writing a terrible stereotype in hopes of it feeling more real and I would also perhaps like some first hand accounts from anyone on this website that has a similar type of OCD to my character?
    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    For some reason the part about calling the loved ones seems vaguely "wrong", I think because it has an actual rational connection to what they're worried about, and therefore doesn't feel like OCD.

    I think I'm wrong--for example, checking that the door is locked or iron is unplugged or water is turned off is related to the worry. But I'm wondering if it seems wrong to anyone else and if they have a better idea why than I do.
     
  3. MsNitric
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    MsNitric New Member

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    Could you specify that "wrong" feeling a bit?
    http://www.ocdtypes.com/checking-ocd.php
    It's kind of like the example given on this webpage for checking relating to harming others. The person is afraid of hitting someone, even though there is no sounds of screaming or visible body, they look around and check anyway.
    It's elaborated on a bit more here
    http://www.ocdtypes.com/harm-ocd.php
    Their OCD greatly relates to the fear of harming others, seeing as they believe that once they worry about something happening to a person, it will actual happen, even though it's obviously irrational that they have control over it, they check to make sure the person is okay.
    If you're paranoid about your house burning down, checking the stove also has a rational connection to what you are worried about.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    As I think of it, maybe my issue is that the "calling the loved ones" checking would require the cooperation of the loved one, and that doesn't seem all that likely. A loved one is unlikely to tolerate the frequency of calls that would be involved. I'd find it more likely for them to drive by the loved one's house to be sure it's still standing, obsess over whether the loved one's car has moved (thus proving that the loved one is alive to drive it), and so on.

    Edited to add: Also, people with OCD know that the compulsions don't make sense. That is, as I understand it, one of the big differences between OCD and OCPD. So I'm not sure if the person really would blame themselves for the horrible things happening. I have a rule that when The Guy is out of town I don't use his pillow or his side of the bed or steal his tee shirts; I even once found myself fictionalizing it as the idea that if his guardian angel comes back after a coffee break and finds him gone and me using his stuff, he would conclude, "Oh. Must be dead. I'll go protect somebody else now."

    But there is no level at which I actually believe that--if I had a laundry emergency and wore his tee shirt, and heard that something bad had happened to him, I wouldn't actually blame myself. For the person to start actually blaming themselves, I think that the match between the fears and the bad things would have to be very close, and be repeated.

    (Edited to clarify: And, yes, I do consider the rule that I describe above to be OCD-triggered. I think that I have a modest problem with OCD, which I judge based on comparing myself with my mother's more extreme problem, and Mom was formally diagnosed.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2014
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @MsNitric : Your story idea sounds really good, it's a fresh take on OCD and it's bound to be scary. Your understanding of the illness also seems quite good too. It might be helpful, when you are ready, to post an excerpt for critique, to see if your character sounds authentic on paper. I don't have OCD but I treated many people who do, so I can help with more specific questions. Good luck with your novel!
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2014
  6. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I was going to suggest you watch the series 'Monk' but considering you already did a fair bit of research you probably know about it. But 'Monk' is what got OCD into the mainstream from what I remember.

    I have OCD and I'd say that fearing people would die is pretty accurate, especially if you're like me and experienced death of close relatives at a very young age. However, in my case, it was a thought related to certain movements, like, I had to turn the lights on and off until the thought of people dying was eliminated.
     
  7. Oddmentem
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    Oddmentem New Member

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    I have had OCD all my life and I don't think there are enough stories about what its like to live with it. I love horror and think your idea is genius. If you have any questions, I have four decades of experience.
     
  8. MsNitric
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    MsNitric New Member

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    So sorry for being offline for so long, orchestra and other obligations. I'm considering a scenario in John's (main character) past where he predicted the death of a family member at a young age and that being what their doctors and family think triggered his paranoia.
    I was thinking about giving him an older/younger sister (not sure yet, probably younger) and them going off to a sleepover or class trip or something of the sort, John being young at the time would be worried about his sibling being away from home which his parents just chalked up to him missing her, but then the next morning his grandparents wake him up to tell him that his parents are at the hospital with his sister who's been in some sort of accident. (Or possibly had an allergic reaction? Giving her a severe allergy feels a bit less cliche than a sudden untimely freak accident but I'm still deciding).
    Forgot to mention this but the story will most likely be in a journal format, his therapist recommended he keep one to help have a place to vent about his anxieties and see his own progress and such, he'd probably start off by "introducing" himself to the journal ans such, he'd probably be encouraged to write about his feelings about what happened to his sister.
    I was thinking the entries would start out as being dated at around the exact same time every day, but as he begins to get more comfortable and seem to be recovering they're more sporadic and become more cheerful as he gets more outgoing and the ocd rituals and paranoias start to consume less of his daily life, only to have a person he wrote about worrying for an earlier entry actually die/become hurt.
     
  9. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    If that's the case, then don't make his OCD the main theme of your story. Make the main theme of your story his inner struggle and worry, and allow OCD to be a by-product of that.
     
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  10. MsNitric
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    MsNitric New Member

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    That's a good idea. I'll try to "show" rather than "tell", displaying his traits as a character and his struggles and such would definitely sound smoother than mentioning the fact that he has a disorder ten times per page, heh. Thank you!
     
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  11. mom42terrificgirls
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    mom42terrificgirls Member

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    I have OCD and have actually called people before to check on them, but I tried my hardest not to because I KNEW my thoughts were irrational. I was lucky because the people I was obsessed with were very supportive but set boundaries with me. My protagonist in my novel also has OCD but has more rituals than she does intrusive thoughts, whereas, I'm the other way around.
     
  12. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    I am enrolled in a Master's of mental health counseling program. From your description, your character would have both OCD and generalized anxiety disorder. This is a common comorbidity as OCD is on the anxiety spectrum.
     
  13. D-Doc
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    D-Doc Active Member

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    I dealt with moderate to severe OCD as a young teen. The symptoms aren't nearly as severe anymore, but I still experience a few lingering issues.

    First off, don't exaggerate it. We all know Howard Hughes suffered from OCD in real life, but his portrayal in The Aviator was over the top. Namely, the scene in which he runs out of hangar while stammering phrases repeatedly and covering his mouth in an attempt to stop.

    Anyway, the ritual aspect of the condition is true and can vary in ways you wouldn't imagine. For example, when I moved for the first time I developed a bizarre ritual where I refused to swallow my saliva. I believed that if I swallowed my spit while in our new state, I was taking in the essence of the place and infusing it in myself. I only swallowed my saliva if I was looking west (toward home, as we moved from the West), and if I swallowed my spit accidentally while facing another direction I would gag myself until I knew that every drop of that saliva was gone from my body.

    My actions certainly weren't guided by logic. That's one of the most frustrating parts of OCD, because I knew what I was doing made no sense, but I did it anyway. I actually felt like I couldn't stop.

    I don't experience any more wacky rituals like that, but I still experience some troubling and intrusive thoughts from time to time, and they generally come at the most inappropriate times. The symptoms lessen, however, as one gains self-confidence and contentedness in life.

    Consider that for you story, and I encourage you to research the topic more as well.
     

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