1-2-3-4-5

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Dear Hoopers,
Do you know how many lines I have in my ceiling? 25. Curious how many books on my bookshelf? 110. I could go on but I’m sure you don’t really care. I never did before either. But I can’t help it. Or, better yet I feel like I shouldn’t help it. I have always been obsessed with numbers. As a kid I would see numbers everywhere:the number of desks in my classroom,he number of white cars we would pass as my parents drove me to school. But I could also let it go. I could go weeks and even months without counting. But lately it is really getting out of control. I can’t enter a room unless I enter on a multiple of 10. I make sure I lay down to sleep on an even number on the clock in order to get the best sleep. I could go on but I won’t bore you with the madness. I need help. Can I ever stop this crazy counting?
-1-2-3-4-5

Dear 1-2-3-4-5,
It seems like the counting is cutting into the real you. It’s making you someone you don’t want to be. While you have been able to manage it in the past, now it’s getting in the way of your life and enough is becoming enough. You are likely experiencing symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a mental health struggle comprised of someone experiencing Obsessions and/or Compulsions.

Obsessions are defined as recurrent and unwanted thoughts that cause distress, while compulsions, are defined as repetitive behavior aimed at reducing distress or some dreaded outcome. It sounds like your actions are becoming increasingly defined by numbers and you hope that by following certain rules such as multiples of 10 that you can avoid a bad outcome, or maybe even just bad luck. Many times OCD can be in response to a lack of control or unpredictability in your environment and may be an effort to regain control of yourself.


The important thing to know about OCD is that symptoms often do not improve without treatment, as 80% continue to experience symptoms when treatment is not received.

-Dr. Ryan

The important thing to know about OCD is that symptoms often do not improve without treatment, as 80% continue to experience symptoms when treatment is not received.

The good news is that OCD does respond well to treatment, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approaches such as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and medications including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). There are good online resources to search for therapists trained in treating OCD. Believe you can do it. Believe others can help.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear 1-2-3-4-5,
This is crippling. I cannot relate to being compulsive about numbers, but I can relate to having experienced compulsive tendencies around food. It’s a horrible feeling, but it does not have to control you. There are individuals that are walking into classrooms counting desks, just like you. And there are individuals who WERE walking into classrooms counting desks obsessively, who decided they no longer wanted to be dominated by the urge. You can stop this.


If a family member or friend came to me with obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms, I would love them, ask them how I could be of help and then highly encourage them to discuss the problem with a family doctor or qualified mental health professional. Because your day-to-day functioning has become more impaired by this compulsion, I would take the action step of seeking help now especially if you have never been formally diagnosed.


It’s a horrible feeling, but it does not have to control you.

-Kate

You stated having gone weeks and months without counting. What were you doing in that time to make it stop? OCD is a treatable disorder and it sounds like you have already initiated remedies to break the ritual routines for periods in the past. Think back to that time and focus on what was working. Can you reestablish those coping skills? You can put this crazy counting in the past and gain control back. Know that you are not alone, that this disorder does not have to control you, and that there are people who want to help you.
-Kate

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