Is it ego-dystonic? (Inconsistent with one’s personality and/or fundamental beliefs.)
It’s called the “Doubting Disease” for a reason.
When a person begins to doubt visibly and experientially something that they seem to know, this is something to pay attention to.
Did you lock the door?
[10 minutes later]
Well, maybe I should go back and check. I remember doing so, I think, but I can’t be certain.
But I thought you said you did?
I don’t know, I thought I did, but maybe I didn’t.
Most of the time when I’m working with those who don’t have OCD, their doubts are transient, or focused on real-to-life concerns (even if their level of doubt is problematic). The first part of the above example happens to all of us in one way or another. In OCD, clients will re-state, update, clarify, and then doubt themselves frequently, and across multiple examples and domains. It’s called the “Doubting Disease” for a reason.
I started to see early on with OCD sufferers that they would commonly contradict themselves, circle back and state, “well, maybe” or “I don’t know” with things they seemed to grasp or possess rationality around.
Example: OCD sufferers commonly give me a statement only to contradict their “certainty” (confidence) that it’s true within a matter of seconds or minutes. Some will go so far as to say, no, I didn’t say that (when I wrote it down as an exact quote in my notes). Most of the time the person is not trying to be deceptive- quite the contrary- their brains are deceiving them.
Clients can literally be staring at a door and knowing it’s closed/locked but feeling uncertainty that it’s not locked. If you’re not a professional who specializes in OCD, you might misinterpret severe doubt as “delusional” or psychosis. For potentially millennia OCD has been often misdiagnosed as “crazy”- or psychotic. Most who have OCD feel this intense incongruence because their mind logically grasps what they are seeing while simultaneously doubting it. Talk about being mentally painful.
“Anxiety is the disease of needing to know, OCD is the disease of the inability to know for certain.”
It’s Not Personal
Whether you or a loved one suffers with severe doubt as a result of OCD, it’s not personal at its base. It’s really not about you. It’s about the doubt that OCD produces, and to get ahead of it, you have to be able to develop responses in the middle of feeling severe doubt that help you break the OCD cycle.
“To get stronger, you gotta do stuff you don’t think you can do, and you gotta do that stuff while simultaneously you doubt you can do it.”
~ Reid Wilson
1 Simple Observation
Though we all doubt from time to time, and questioning oneself is not proof in and of itself that a person has OCD, it is a “yellow flag” to spot and at least ask some questions. It could reveal a disorder like OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Depression, Eating Disorders, Body Dysmorphia, or maybe just a sub-clinical problem to address.
The more you hear someone doubt themselves in ways that are incongruent with their personality and beliefs, it is a clue. If you’ve already been diagnosed with OCD, use this as one of your many tools to quickly catch OCD in its antics (check out my other article, “Time-Saving OCD Shortcuts” for more. Catch these types of questions::
- “Did I?”
- “I’m not really sure.”
- “Maybe I did?”
- “What if _____?”
- “Could I do_____?”
Now What Do I Do?
Now that you know, you can always reach out to a clinician (Scroll down to “Specially Curated Resources”) who specializes in helping in these ways (scroll down to “Resources. I summarize the first 10 key steps in most therapy with me through my guide, “Get Unstuck,” which is your free gift by following the link. I wish you the best on your journey.