Coping Day to Day · OCD

OCD and Hyper-Responsibility

Hyper-responsibility. Something many OCD sufferers will find themselves battling with at some stage. I often describe it as feeling as if you have the world’s weight on your shoulders. That impending feeling of heightened responsibility, that in turn makes you fear even the smallest of things. This responsibility however, should not be mistaken as something we’ve chosen to enforce upon ourselves. I really didn’t choose to start believing that my thoughts would affect people’s wellbeing and that it was up to me to protect those close to me from ill health. It just comes as a trait of OCD. Just like people don’t choose to carry out compulsions. Instead, they feel forced and compelled to carry them out as a result of being under a crippling mountain of anxiety. It’s not as simple as just a choice.

For me, hyper-responsibility always centred around family and those close to me. I felt like I was responsible for keeping them safe from illness. That my actions could negatively impact them if I wasn’t extremely careful. Of course, rationally I knew that my internal thoughts had no impact on the physical wellbeing of those around me, however rational thinking and OCD are two things that unfortunately don’t work in tandem! OCD pushes aside any rational thoughts and can make you think the most craziest of things. What makes it difficult is that hyper-responsibility can start off a negative loop. You have the fears created by hyper-responsibility, such as “what if my thoughts make my family ill, I must protect them”, which in turn will trigger off a wave of anxiety that will usually prompt a compulsion (mental or physical) in response to try and alleviate some of that heightened anxiety. However, as we know, carrying out compulsions only gives short term relief and before you know it those thoughts creep back in, the anxiety returns and the cycle starts again. This can be incredibly frustrating to the sufferer, as it feels like a never ending loop. However, what’s crucial in the process of breaking these negative cycles is the intervention before the thoughts take over, thus hopefully preventing the compulsion from coming into play. Of course, I know this is much easier said than done, but it really is the key.

Now there are many ways of going about trying to break this negative cycle. Some people would argue that one way is better than the other, however the most important thing is what way works best for you. Each persons OCD is individual to them and so techniques used to tackle their OCD will be too. From my experience, what I do to try and tackle the thought “what if my thoughts make my family ill, I must protect them”, would be to tackle it in stages. So for me, stage 1 is identifying the thought and when I feel that pang of anxiety spike, take a step back and try to talk back to the negative voice. Now, like I said earlier, OCD and rational thinking don’t really work together too well, so talking back to the negative OCD voice can be very tricky, but it is possible. I would then try and talk myself through the thought. “Do I really have any impact mentally on others wellbeing?” “Thoughts are just thoughts, nothing else,” and then I would challenge it and talk back (mentally or physically) to this controlling voice. If I then felt the urge to carry out a compulsion to ‘neutralise’ the thought, I would try and delay it. So I would wait a minute before carrying out the compulsion and then the next time I would try 5, then 10 ect, and depending on how confident/stable I felt at the time, build up until I was able to sit with the thought until the anxiety subsides, without carrying out the compulsion. This most definitely did not happen overnight, it takes time. OCD is one tough cookie and it will take some beating down, but just take the process slow and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to resist compulsions, or if a thought takes charge again. Stage 2 would commence after I am able to sit with the thought after challenging it and not carry out a compulsion. Now when I get the thought “what if my thoughts make my family ill, I must protect them,” instead of acknowledging it and challenging it, I ignore it. I try and allow to pass as just a thought, because that’s really what it is. Once I’ve given myself a better understanding of how my thoughts work and the rational side of them through stage 1, I then work on not letting them even get a word in. This is really the end goal in this particular process for me, because you will never be able to stop yourself from intrusive thoughts (intrusive thoughts being the powerhouse behind the hyper-responsibility) Everyone has them! It’s just what you do to deal with them that is key.

Hopefully this was somewhat helpful?! I find it quite difficult typing out mental processes, but hopefully this might have helped in some way. Also, I recently created a Facebook page, so feel free to visit if you’d like. Click for FB page. 🙂

-Ellen 🙂

13 thoughts on “OCD and Hyper-Responsibility

  1. You have a very important blog. Possibly some day you can publish your insights on OCD as a book.

    I’ve experienced hyper-responsibility for much of my life. Being the eldest of nine children automatically makes a person responsible. But OCD can make it much worse. I’ve often felt hyper-responsible about my work. I was an editor for many years, and I’d often get the sudden sense, at the worse times, that if some information was incorrect in an article I was editing, something terrible might happen. This was especially true when I was editing something involving health or medicine. In the area of health, the possible adverse effect of incorrect information is at least plausible. I think OCD often latches on to something that seems possible or plausible as a legitimate thing to obsess over.

    This would often slow my work as an editor down to a crawl. If I wasn’t near a deadline, it was easy for me to give in to the OCD. For many years, I worked at newspapers, and wouldn’t you know it, hyper-sensitivity would sometimes strike at five minutes to midnight, which was the deadline for the front page. Makes you want to scream. Of course, I usually recognized the hyper-sensitivity as OCD. I learned to say to myself: “This is my job, and if I’m going to do my job, I have to set aside the OCD.” I learned to calmly put the hyper-sensitivity out of my mind. Maybe it was really possible that someone was going to die because of some error in my copy editing??? But I told myself that it was OCD, an illness, and I gave myself permission to ignore the obsession and finish my editing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really would love to write a book some day. That would be a dream come true. I’m super glad that you were able to push the OCD thoughts aside. It’s such a difficult and draining thing to do, so I salute you for achieving it!


  2. I only got a good handle on my OCD recently. My compulsions began as the more traditional (read: the kind you see in movies) when I was a child and teen, but progressed to alcohol abuse in early adulthood. It was only when I sought treatment for alcoholism as a secondary problem that I began to take Luvox, and it has made all the difference. OCD is so much more than what folks see on TV. The obsessions, especially those having to do with hyper-responsibility, are absolutely overwhelming to the sufferer. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agree with the Editor. You have a very important blog and what you say is written and analysed with much insight. Your approach to problems presented to some of us by our thoughts is, although something I know deep down, somehow more manageable when seen in your writing, especially the point you make that such problems are not remedied by a quick fix. This makes it easier to cope with false starts and yet persevere. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can definitely relate to a lot of what you wrote! I’ve had OCD since I was 11, though it is MUCH better lately than it was when I was younger! I definitely still struggle with hyper-responsibility at times and delaying compulsions/eventually ignoring has helped me immensely. I love your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I relate to this so very much. I’ve never come across such an erudite young adult as you. I’m old enough to be your mum but you are far smarter than me. The depth and maturity of your posts is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Years of people telling me it’s not my job, not my responsibility . . . 1 week ago I was told I have OCD. I don’t even want people to know, and this blog makes sense where other things are a tragic misunderstanding of why I can’t calm down and let go of what isn’t my responsibility. Your words help as much as others have hurt


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