Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Explaining obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) to somebody who does not struggle with it is, I imagine, much like trying to explain color to the blind. There is a distinct difference between doing something because you want to as opposed to doing something because you have to.
Okay, full disclosure; I’ve never been diagnosed as obsessive compulsive, but I’m sure that I struggle with this condition. It goes hand in hand with my depression with which I have been diagnosed, albeit so long ago that they were still using the term “manic depression”.
Here’s the story that is inspiring this post. Yesterday, on a whim, I decided to download and try a zombie “strategy” game. I put strategy in quotation marks because these really have very little to do with strategy, and as far as I’m concerned, they barely qualify a game. They’re a distraction to be sure, but, well, this one has you build a base with training facilities and resources and such, and there is some fighting, although most of it is automated. You send your force up against another, and the computer basically decides who loses what. The cities can fight the undead, and even turn on each other for resources should they so desire. Basically, though, the “game” is to click where the program tells you to click, in the order that it wants you to. There are some minor modifications you can make, like decorations for your camp, but they have little impact on the “game” itself.
These games prey on people’s desire to feel accomplished. As I click on more and more of the requested links, my camp grows in strength, and the graphics look pretty cool. The goal of the game is to get the player to spend money, though. The “clicks” for resource gathering, rewards, and so forth are frequent and diverse enough to keep the player online continuously for fear of losing something.
The game is “free” to play, but, for example, buildings are constructed almost instantly in the beginning, but now that I’m at this level, they’re taking hours. Before long, it’ll take days for an upgrade, unless I choose to open my wallet and pay for boosters. Fortunately, I realize what the “game” is about and won’t spend money on it.
Here is what obsessive compulsive is. I started playing this game yesterday, I know what they are heading towards, and aside from the cool graphics and enjoying seeing my settlement grow, I’m really not enjoying it. In fact, I am becoming frustrated with it, and I know myself well enough to realize that I’ll get fed up sufficiently to delete it if not tonight, then probably tomorrow. None the less, knowing all of this, I’ve not been to bed in two days.
THAT is obsessive compulsive.
Right now, I’m training troops that will take nearly an hour, updating a building that will take two hours, and performing “research” to make my village and troops stronger that will take about five minutes from start to finish. So, in my mind, I’m thinking, “well, I’ll just do one more research…” The problem is that staying up to start just one more research project leads to staying up for the next, and the following forty or fifty following that. I mean, it’s just another twenty-five minutes.
These “games” thrive on idiots like me. It’s not that I don’t want to close the program, or that I don’t want to get some sleep, or that I don’t want to eat. But I can’t. My mind will literally not let me go until I finish just one last task or one more goal. The entire time, my logical side is telling me what it is doing, that there is no point to it, and trying desperately to pull me away from it. I cannot control this impulse any more than I can control my temperature when I suffer from a fever.
This obsessive-compulsive issue can be beneficial. When I was in graduate school, I leaned on it a lot, along with a complimentary personality disorder, specifically, stubbornness to power though the myriad of hoops necessary to complete research, write grants and papers, and actually finish the degree. For example, a good friend of mine, and an internationally known physicist for many years actually graduated after me. As it turns out, his degree was never conferred although he finished it before I was even born. As it turns out, one requirement was to provide a copy of the thesis to the library, which he didn’t know. When he found out, he gave a copy of his thesis to the library, and the university conferred his degree.
This stubbornness kept me up last night. I fought through my exhaustion and hunger to get that just one more building upgrade. When you have the stubbornness to power through your personal needs in favor of this “free” “game” it can be a dreadful combination. Fortunately, this same stubbornness will give me the will power to delete this program when I’ve decided that I’ve had enough, and I will have to delete it. If I keep it, I will go back to it too frequently for no good reason.
For those who have personality quirks that sounds like this, you may have OCD as well. And for my readers that DO suffer from it, please know that you don’t have to suffer alone. It’s not easy to beat, but you’re not alone. Reach out to those who love you and ask for help. Tell them how you need to break this habit that has been eating too much of your time and ask them if they can provide a distraction for you. Maybe they can work on a project in your house with you so you can enjoy their company and trade in this ridiculous habit for a healthier one. Or maybe they can bribe you with food.
I know I can be bribed with food!