Is the door locked, the garage door shut, the stove off, the sink not dripping?
An estimated five to seven million Americans are struggling with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and anxiety disorders. These are people that you wouldn’t necessarily suspect, unless you saw them in action. Anyone from the common Joe to executive officers within organizations deals with the dynamic duo. Those that have learned how to cope with either of the two disorders can sometimes use them to their advantage, as a motivating force. For instance, individuals in roles surrounding tasks that require a great deal of detail may use their obsessive personality to be thorough, complete, accurate. Nevertheless, when OCD or anxiety, two conditions that are often found together in individuals, are out of the individual’s control, disrupting life and hindering productivity, it is always a good idea to seek the help of a professional.
There are many triggers surrounding OCD and anxiety disorder. Public places such as restaurants can cause a variety of issues for the person with OCD, from worry that others will notice their indulgent behaviors, to concern about the cleanliness of the food and those that prepared it. Individuals, for instance, at a buffet may need to go wash their hands after every item they retrieve for fear of germs. Perhaps upon arrival the individual with OCD feels the need to repeatedly check to make sure the car brake is on. Even worse, the individual with OCD may need to drive all the way home to ensure that the door is locked, the garage door shut, the stove and oven are off, and or the sink is not dripping.
Obviously, there are a variety of objects and situations that the person with OCD can become obsessed with. Some with OCD may focus on germs, another symmetry, and another may obsess about not hurting others. According to Dr. Micheal Jenike, medical director of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorders Institute, “The common thread, I think, has something to do with certainty… If you have O.C.D., whatever form, there seems to be some problem with being certain about things — whether they’re safe or whether they’ve been done right.” The following is an excerpt of an enjoyable article from the New York Times that paints a picture of the disorder(s) in a restaurant setting:
If Carole Johnson, a retired school administrator who lives near Sacramento, Calif., happens to have a distressing thought while passing through a doorway, she needs to “clear” the thought by passing through the door twice more, doing it precisely three times.
My own challenge is fighting the urge to return to my parked car and check yet again that the parking brake is secure. If I don’t, how can I be sure my car won’t roll into something — or worse, someone?
Ms. Johnson and I are but two of the estimated five to seven million Americans battling obsessive-compulsive disorder, an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive distressing thoughts and repetitive rituals aimed at dislodging those thoughts. We are an eclectic bunch spanning every imaginable cross-section of society, and we battle an equally eclectic mix of obsessions and compulsions. Some of us obsess about contamination, others about hurting people, and still others about symmetry. Almost all of us can find something to obsess about at a restaurant.
Sometimes the trouble is the element of public theater in the dining room, meaning we have to indulge in our often-embarrassing rituals under the eyes of so many strangers while trying not to get caught. Or it might be worrying about the safety of the food and the people who serve it.