• Dr. Jonathan Hoffman

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

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

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 very, very 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 out their next activity in exacting detail, or engaging in another kind of mental ritual.

Ask someone with OCD to try sitting still. Almost immediately, they will report that their bodies feel like moving in some way. It could be clenching or unclenching their hands, pushing their knees or feet together, or flexing their entire bodies as if they are a body builder 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 times 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 truly do nothing is a meaningful goal for a person with OCD. That’s why practicing having unwanted urges or thoughts while refraining from any actions is an important aspect of OCD treatment.

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