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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jonathan Hoffman

For Those With OCD, It’s Hard to Do Nothing

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

People with OCD find it unusually hard to rest or relax. So little time: so many worries. Having to clean, check, arrange, or save things keeps them busy. Even when they look like they aren’t doing anything, they often are. They might be making mental lists, reviewing conversations for mistakes, planning their next activity in exacting detail, or engaging in another mental ritual.

Ask someone with OCD to try sitting still. Almost immediately, they will report that their bodies feel like they are moving in some way. It could be clenching or unclenching their hands, pushing their knees or feet together, or flexing their entire bodies like a bodybuilder trying to do the “most muscular” pose. They might mask these urges under the guise of scratching an itch. Sometimes they are aware of these processes; often, they are not. This is a big reason why individuals with OCD often feel fatigued. They are exhausted from constant physical and mental tension.

What comes of all their motions? If people with OCD are being honest with themselves: usually nothing.

Ironically, learning to do nothing is a meaningful goal for a person with OCD. That’s why practicing having unwanted urges or thoughts while refraining from actions is an important aspect of OCD treatment.

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