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  1. #1

    Unhappy Scary Thoughts and Checking

    So lately Ive been having a relapse with anxiety and its been incredibly hard to deal with. I’m just taking it day by day but am experiencing new and frightening symptoms

    So Ive read on here that Intrusive thoughts, checking, etc are all fairly common for OCD, but I just need some help

    Here are a few examples of what’s happening:
    - I have a fear of bats (as my posts in the Rabies forum) and I’m constantly feeling sensations, sharp pains, feeling of something touching me, and this causes me to feel the compulsion to check the areas around me
    - Can’t go outside as much because I feel an urge to check odd looking leaves that look like bats (in the dark and to a racing mind, they look like it)
    - It’s gotten to the point where i feel the urge to take pictures of these odd looking things I find, even in public places (if I don't, my mind will think about it for days)

    - when preparing food, I feel the need to reassure myself that nothing contaminated my food, (for example if a cleaning product is nearby) my mind will visualize and make a false memory of me putting it in my food. I have no idea why but it scares me because I doubt myself constantly
    - I fear visualizations of hurting myself or others
    - When on a friends balcony, had the compulsion to jump off (not because I was suicidal) just fear heights but the urge was so strong I had to go inside

    - sometimes a random “voice” , not external, just an inner thought appears that would never be anything I would actually say or think about. For example, a random thought appeared about “selling my soul” and I freaked out, for weeks I thought for sure now that I’ve screwed myself over and now going to hell. And this thought keeps popping up, I tell myself that this is so irrational and it is something I would never do. This scares me beyond belief. Why would this occur

    - I constantly have to count to 5, have to skip songs on my Spotify that mention death or killing, etc.

    I feel like I have lost my mind, Is this just me being stressed? I dont know what to do,

    any help would be appreciated

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2019

    Re: Scary Thoughts and Checking

    I'm terrified of snakes. I see a rope in the grass or something and I freak out. Even those fake play snakes freak me out. I have been trying to face my fear of them by doing little things. Like not look away when they are on TV or I see a picture. Learn about them a little bit. So I understand the fear.
    Bats are harmless. They know exactly where you are when your outside and you have nothing they want so they stay away. Idk where you are but where I am they do fly around over head to eat bugs. Yes it's a bit creepy if you can hear them but I've NEVER had one even touch me. I suggest you try to get over your fear of them. Maybe do what I'm doing with snakes. Look at pictures, research what attracts them,what repels them, what they eat, how they use their senses for food etc
    what types you have in your area
    As for the rest I suggest you talk to a dr about the intrusive thoughts. They seem like they are interfering with your life and I'm sure a dr can help or refer you to a therapist

  3. #3

    Re: Scary Thoughts and Checking

    Here's a thread I posted a couple months ago regarding my own adventures with "bats," just so you can see we're on exactly the same page

    I've had OCD for over 35 years and recognize every symptom you've posted. They are all OCD and common among people with OCD. Twenty years ago I started medication (fluoxetine) and it took a lot of the edge off. I read self-help books and they helped. Then a few years ago I reduced my medication and started having minor relapses. This past autumn I had a major relapse that started with battery acid contamination and grew to involve other chemical contamination as well as zoonotic diseases.

    The seeds for my zoonotic disease obsessions started when I was bitten by a dog a few years ago and got the full rabies post-exposure shots. I figured I'd read up on rabies since I'm a curious person, and then I discovered all the terrifying information about bats biting people in their sleep or transmitting rabies by contact. It didn't bother me much at the time, but during this recent relapse it got almost debilitating. I love the outdoors, but I was really uncomfortable hiking and running trails because of the constant stimuli that my brain interpreted as possible bat contacts -- the leaves that look like bats, bits of bark that look like bats, little piles of dirt that look like bats, things brushing against my legs, arms, and neck that could be bats, things pricking me that could be bats. This has been a nightmare much of this past winter (I'm in the southeastern US, where it's been warm enough that on a couple days I've seen actual bats flying around, minding their own business) and I've spent a lot of time on my outings doubling back to check leaves, vegetation, etc to make sure I hadn't contacted a bat. I've also avoided camping and hiking at night, which stinks because I love sunrise/sunset photography.

    Of course this is no way to live, so I've gotten really proactive with my OCD. My doctor upped my medication again, I've started seeing an OCD therapist, I've attended a local support group, and I've reread lots of OCD books and listened to lots of podcasts. In the past few weeks, I've noticed overall improvement despite occasional setbacks. The medication really takes the edge off for me, without a lot of side effects, so if you've never tried it, I highly recommend that as a starting point. ERP (exposure and response prevention) has also been critical. With guidance from my therapist I've forced myself to continue my outdoor pursuits, and when I feel the urge to go back and check a leaf, or figure out why I just felt a pricking sensation, I try not to check. Sometimes this is too hard and I give in, but I am often surprised how many times I can resist checking if I just pause and force myself to try. Sometimes this means I stop moving but don't look back. I think about how I'll feel if I get back to my car and I haven't checked -- will I still believe I was exposed to a rabid bat, or will it just seem silly? After all, I'm wearing shoes, and I usually haven't even stepped on the "bat." Every single time I've felt a prick, it's turned out to be a twig, or a piece of kicked-up gravel, or my own hair. At the moment of being triggered, checking is easy, and my brain tells me "Why not make sure?" But often I really don't need to make sure, and every time I resist, I teach my brain that there's no threat. Over time, it's obsessive warnings have gotten quieter and less frequent. Conversely, when I give in and start checking, my brain sends even more warnings and "bats" are everywhere.

    It helps that by this point I've realized how often I feel a pricking sensation or something brushing me, often without any apparent explanation. When you're primed to expect bat exposures, every skin sensation and twitching hair feels like an attack. This helps convince me, in my rational moments, that my "alarm" has become way too sensitive, and that these sensations can be ignored. I also have to consider statistics. In the US, we have only a couple deaths from rabies every year, and those are usually people who had unquestionably interacted with an animal, they just didn't know the danger from rabies. Once in a while a person dies from the bat rabies strain and no one knows how they got it. Of course it's likely the person knew they were bitten and just didn't tell anyone, and was not lucid by the time doctors knew they had rabies. But for argument's sake, let's say that every few years somebody encounters a bat and really doesn't see the bat and gets rabies. This is the scenario that haunts people like us, but look at the odds: there are over 300,000,000 people in the US, and this happens to one person once every few years? (Scroll down this page for a fun way to envision 1 million, then multiply that by 300, and think about how unlikely being 1 in 300,000,000 is. I see you're in Canada, but I think rabies from bats is even less common there.)

    I had a recent trigger where I was walking through suburbia in the dark to have dinner with a group of people, and at one point I felt something brush the top of my head. At the time, I didn't even bother to find the cause, because I was with other people and the whole thing seemed silly. Later though my mind went into "what if" mode and I found myself using a webcam to check my scalp for bat scratches. (This was one of the setbacks I mentioned earlier...) Of course I found some marks -- not quite in the same place as I felt the brushing, and they looked more like eczema than scratches, but the OCD didn't care. I went through about 36 hours of awful anxiety, wondering if I should find a doctor and get checked out. But I resisted, mostly because I used my rational moments to ask myself which is more likely -- that while primed for a bat encounter I would falsely interpret the brushing sensation (which could have been an overhanging twig, gust of air, or whatever) and some unrelated marks as a bat encounter, or that I was that hypothetical 1 in 300 million person who actually was contacted by an unseen bat. My "rational" brain and my "alarm" brain battled it out for the next few days, but I tried to get on with my activities, and in the end I'm pretty comfortable that there never was a bat that night.

    That leads to one more thing that's really helped me: not seeking absolute certainty. That's the common denominator of all OCD, a total intolerance of uncertainty and need to be sure. Such a mindset leads to constant anxiety, because for so many things we can never be sure. I have had to accept that I will never know what brushed my head that night, so every minute I spend ruminating and trying to convince myself that it could not have been a bat, is wasted. A non-OCD person would not have thought twice about that sensation on their head, and as the statistics indicate, they would be just fine not thinking about it. Really, for over 40 years, I wouldn't have thought about it. I've explored the woods since childhood, getting pricked, camping alone in the dark, hiking at dusk, and until recently I never worried about bats and I never got rabies.

    Bottom line, the two steps that have worked best for me are 1) in my rational moments, considering what the real risks of my obsessive content are, and what a non-OCD person would do to avoid them, and 2) commit to acting like a non-OCD person in my irrational moments, ignoring as best I can all the false alarms that my malfunctioning brain sends me, knowing that the more I ignore the alarms the less intrusive they will be. I need to expect that I will have false alarms, and they will FEEL real, but I can be reasonably certain they are not. The price of seeking total certainty is giving up all enjoyment of the present, wondering if you're losing your mind, and not really being any safer in the end.

    Sorry to write a novella, but I'm happy to talk bats and contamination more if you like, since our current fears seem to be quite similar.

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