I am a 19-year-old male and for about two months I have been, to varying degrees, obsessed with the fear that I am fundamentally different from others, namely that I lack empathy; I am generally quiet at first around people I don’t know, so sometimes people say jokingly that I am like a ‘serial killer,’ and it is this idea specifically that I have become obsessed with. It has gotten to the point where I make connections between myself and other famous killers, arbitrary things like birthdays and a fondness for writing, and I cannot let them go. It has gotten bad enough that I am no longer able to write creatively as well as I once did for fear that it will somehow make me “turn into” one of them. The fear and the specific thoughts that come from it are also hurting me socially even among my best friends, which, of course, is a positive feedback and only making the anxiety worse.
I have had signs (though not medically diagnosed) of mild OCD since I was 5. Countless embarrassing habits have come and gone, but it seems like I always have at least 3 or 4 that I repeat several times a day. Currently, I do ritual blinks, twitch/tense my muscles, pretend to type out my thoughts on an imaginary keyboard (not completely, just sort of twitch the finger that I would use), and silently translate the things I hear or think into as many languages as I can. These do not seem to affect my life too much though, and the urges to do the habits themselves have not gotten noticeably worse since they began. But could the obsessive and persistent fear be a sign that the OCD is in fact getting worse? Or could it be completely unrelated? Could my mind just be inventing things out of boredom? (I was a rather hard working student but have since been out of school for about 6 months.)
If you think you have had mild OCD since the age of 5, I would consider getting help for it if I were you. Sometimes medication alone is very effective (it was in my case), and sometimes a combination of cognitive therapy (if you can afford that) and meds work best. It sounds to me that your obsessive fear that you are "not as empathetic" because others have jokingly referred to you as a serial killer because you are quiet when first meeting them could very well be due to your OCD. Do you think you have no empathy for others? You know yourself best and can answer that better than anyone (and even if you *don't* have any empathy for others it doesn't make you a "serial killer!"). My guess is that you are probably very empathetic but place too much meaning on what others say about you and then your OCD "goes to work," turning it into something that it is not.
I have read about/seen people on TV with OCD that have particularly upsetting obsessions. They think something (have a horrible obtrusive thought) and then they fear that means they will act on that awful thought. For instance I saw one girl-about 17 or so-on the Dr. Phil show (of all places) that had a fear she would molest a child. It was clear there was no way in hell this girl would ever do or want to do such a thing (she was educated, a nice person), but she couldn't get this fear out of her head that somehow it would happen. She also washed her hands a thousand times a day, etc. The difference between people with OCD and those who don't have it is that outside visual and auditory images/words/stimulation get "stuck" in the brain. It has nothing to do with what you want to do or plan to do or who you are. It's like a record that has a scratch in it and can't get past the scratch (you might not be familiar with records being 19 :) It doesn't mean you have any more tendency to act on an obtrusive thought than anyone else, and it doesn't mean you want to do it, either. By the way, I also type out words (not thoughts) on an imaginary keyboard using the same fingers I would use on a real one. It is amazing how similar the compulsions and obsessions are of all people who have OCD. I really think this obsession you have is from your OCD, but I am not a psychiatrist/psychologist, so if you can you really should talk to a mental health professional just to ease your mind and maybe get on some medication for OCD--it has the potential to help considerably. I would also get a book on it and you will see how similar your obsessions and compulsions are to others with OCD-and that should ease your mind some as well.
Annie, thank you so much for taking time to reply, your advice was very helpful and comforting. I will talk to my doctor soon about trying out some OCD meds...by the way, what was the name of the one that worked for you?
Medications like SSRI's can help tremendously with obsessive compulsive problems.
Your doctor would decide which one is right for you...if it doesn't help, he can prescribe something different.
There are some things you can do yourself.
Do a search for magnesium + depression, or magnesium + anxiety, or magnesium + OCD.
If you decide to supplement magnesium, you should be aware that many forms are not well absorbed in the intestines.
You need to read the list of ingredients. Mag glycinate is better absorbed, mag oxide is not, but is cheap and often used.
This one has several of the more absorbable forms.
Another thing that helps with mental health issues is Essential Fatty Acids, or EFA's.
Pharmaceutical quality fish oil is good, as it doesn't have mercury or rancid fishy burps.
Again, you can do a search for OCD + fish oil, or EFA.
Researchers have noticed that people can develop OCD after a strep infection, or when they are infected with Borrellia burgdorferi.
You are welome. The drug I was on was Anafranil (one of the older ones), but there are a lot of new drugs as well that might be tried. Everyone is different and what works for one might not work for another person. Also, Carol is right; pediatric-onset OCD, at least, has been linked to the strep bacteria and is now thought to be an autoimmune disease. If you have been suffering from OCD since the age of 5 that might be the case with you. I have had OCD since my earliest memories of being alive (about age 3) and always thought I was born with it, but now I think it was probably acquired after a bacterial infection and an autoimmune process was set off (especially since I have another autoimmune disease). Anyway, if you are interested in learning more about your OCD, type in pediatric OCD autoimmune and see what you come up with. Good luck to you.
I am a psychologist, and while I cannot reliably make a diagnosis without talking with you in person, I strongly believe that your current fear about "turning into" a serial killer and other related thoughts are obsessions, and the behaviors you mentioned are compulsions that you perform in an attempt to keep your fear at bay. And yes, I believe that this could be another aspect of your OCD.
Logically, I do not think you would be so worried about what your friends have teased you about if it were actually true! A lot of people are very quiet at first around people they don't know. That often has more to do with social anxiety or a shy temperament.
I'm glad you plan to talk with your doctor about medication. The SSRI's are often very helpful. Some examples of SSRI's are Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. There are also newer medications on the market. Your doctor will decide what is best for you. You might also consider cognitive-behavioral therapy along with medication, which is also very effective in treating OCD.
I wish you the best, and let us know how things turn out, okay?
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