Yesterday, my roommate got some very scary news. She has cancer. When I got home that evening, she told me she felt fine. She was happy because had finally reorganized the kitchen. Anyone who messed with her arrangement was in danger of a painful death. She couldn't sit still for more then five minutes, and said that her OCD was really acting up on her.

After an hour or so of watching her run around 'fixing' things, I asked her, 'Do you know what OCD is?'

She looked at me like I had three heads, 'Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.'

'No,' I said, 'I didn't ask what the letters stand for, I asked if you know what it is.'

'Well, it means that I obsess over stuff and act compulsively and -'

I cut her off before she could obsessively list all the ways in which she obsesses. 'That's the symptoms they base the diagnosis on. That's not what it is.'

'Alright, what is it then!'

I told her, 'In the fewest words possible, OCD is when something big and bad and scary is happening in your life, and you mind says, "I can't deal with this right now, so I'm going to obsess over this other little thing that I CAN control." '

The look of revelation on her face was impressive, to say the least.

* * *

Many peopole who suffer from OCD experience anxiety and panic when they can't act on their obsessions or compulsions. For anyone whose seen the movie 'As Good As It Gets', Jack Nicholson's character has a compulsion: he must eat the same breakfast everyday, sitting at the same table, in the same diner, with the same waitress. The extreme to which he goes to fulfill his compulsion when the waitress in question takes a day off (forcing his way into her home and making her cook for him) is a strong indication of how panicked he was.

What is easy to miss or forget, however, is that the panic and anxiety is not caused by the compulsion. it has always been there. Acting on the compulsions and obsessions allows the panic and anxiety to be kept under control.

Unfortunately, the best way to deal with the panic and anxiety is also the hardest. When something prevents a compulsion from being acted on, stop trying. Instead, sit down, and take a good hard look at what the cause of the panic is. Commit yourself to dealing with the core problem, or accept that it's something out of your control. Then tell the panic, 'I got the message, thanks. I'll take it from here.' And let the panic and anxiety go.

Author's Bio: 

Jessica is a holistic healer living in eastern Pennsylvania. Her practice, with her partner Christopher Cina who specializes in metaphysical studies, is built the philosphy that the more people understand their minds and bodies, the less they will need healers and doctors. That said, Jessica does not believe in 'one size fits all' healing. Anyone who is dealing with a serious medical or psychological condition and finds her articles, ideas, and advise of interest is urged to discuss it with their own medical professional.