Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Community
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3159640 tn?1430910900

Tips to Resist Checking for "Needles"

Hi, I joined this site a day ago.  I am an OCD sufferer.  Much of it centers around irrational fear of HIV.  Today I sat on a wooden slatted bench and felt something poky.  I stood up and looked very briefly, noticed there may have been splinters.  Also very briefly, scanned ground underneath the bench looking for a syringe, but not thoroughly, as there were other folks around I did not want to look crazy.  So I left with my children.

Of course the OCD tells me it was an HIV syringe that poked me.  I did not return to search the area again.  Which part of me feels good about because I resisted a double checking ritual.  However, I still feel anxious because I did not check thoroughly and I sit here at home wondering if I have been infected with HIV.

Anyone out there with comments about how to resist checking?  And what in the world to do with these scary thoughts that everything that pricks or pokes is a HIV syringe and that if I don't check I am going to die?

I am on zoloft for OCD and have already have had years of CBT, but this fear was resistant to the therapy, and frankly I was a bad patient because of my fears.

9 Responses
Avatar universal
I ve the same fear as you,it *****
2083175 tn?1336085912
Hello and welcome to the forum :)

I'd like to say good for you, for not going back and checking again. That is step one to overcoming OCD. You are feel anxious becuase you avoided going back and double checking, and by avoiding the compulsion the anxiety is hightened. This is why we do the compulsions to alliveiate the anxiety. At the beginning there is no way to accomplish this with the anxiety associated with it. But again, I would like to say good for you, for not double checking.

The trick for me, is to identify the thought as an OCD thought. This makes it illogical, unreliable and once I have established that, it is easier not to feed it.

In your situation I could tell you what I would do:

I feel something picky on the bench.
Immediatelty my mind goes straight to the OCD thought, the worst case scenario. It is an HIV infected syringe that has just infected me.
I get panicky inside, I feel stress coming on.
I stop, Take a deep breath,
Stand up and take a look around.
I see that I am on a wooden bench. Wood has splinters. It is a thousand times more likely that the poke was in fact from wood on the wooden bench.
I then think what are the chances that a syringe is here at the park, on the bench, in the exact spot where I am going to sit... the chances are that my OCD is again getting the better of me.
Then I think what are the chances that the syringe that I already established has little to no actual risk of being there, is there and is infected with HIV.
Then I think, what are the chances of actually getting HIV from this syringe that is infected, that I have already established has almost no possible risk factor of being there. Needle stick injuries with HIV infected syringes is 0.03% so 3 in 1000.
So I have a 3 in 1000 chance of contracting HIV from a syringe that I have already decided has little to no risk of being there in the first place.
This leaves me no choice but to realize what I knew in the first place, this is an OCD fear.
I am not going to give this fear anymore thought because by doing that I am feeding it and giving it strength and I need to give myself mor strength than the OCD has, and therefore I am thinking about me, and no longer about the irrational thought.
Yes, it will come back throughout the day and possibly the week, but since I have not given it strength, I can easily say good-bye to the thought and carry on.

I understand that this is easier said than done in most cases, but we CAN do it.
3159640 tn?1430910900
Excellent.  Thank you.  I am trying soooo hard.  But OCD is a tricky opponent for sure, one that must be battled frequently.  I don't even want to think about how much of my life I have spent worrying about what the OCD tells me to worry about.........
1699033 tn?1514116733
I really have nothing to add to Lola's excellent post other than to say that I'm really surprised that after years of CBT and taking zoloft that you have a "resistant" thought that you cannot get rid of.  I'm curious as to what is the psychologist's take on this?  You said you were a bad patient because of the fears...does that mean you couldn't get CBT to work for you  regarding this thought?  Do you think the Zoloft is working?  Sorry for bugging you with questions.  
3159640 tn?1430910900
I think part of the problem with my therapy is that my therapist would do things like put fake blood all over the office bathroom, have me touch it, go to the bathroom and wipe, and then sit with the anxiety.  However, it failed to raise my anxiety because I knew that it was not real.  I wish, looking back, that she had spent time with me out in the community, going to places that would truly raise my anxiety, helping me to deal with that red spot, or that poky thing, or that person who looks unwell.  I don't know why we did not do that.  Frankly, I think she was content to take my $100 each week and let me sit in a bathroom with fake blood and then ask me how I felt.  I should have spoken up more.  I spent thousands of dollars.  And she was affiliated with one of the top psychiatric hospitals and OCD programs in Massachusetts.  A lot of it is my own fault.

So presently I am on zoloft, but not in therapy, however I remain in touch with my psychiatrist.  I have read a few OCD books.  Some days I am just fine, and I often go weeks without any HIV concerns.  But then all of a sudden.......

I used to have a horrible timing with driving anxiety.  I would spent hours retracing my routes.  It was so awful.  Thankfully through consistent refusal to turn around and check I am almost 100% free of that.  It took so much work, the resisting.
1699033 tn?1514116733
I agree...fake blood...I mean really our minds may think up really stupid scenarios but fake blood isn't going to get our anxiety up.  

For myself, I sat in an AIDS clinic.  I work for the university side of a hospital and I was seeing a psychologist at work and so my exposure therapy was to sit in the AIDS clinic for several weeks during my lunch hour.  She had to go with me at first but then I just went on over there and sat.  After a while I realized that nothing bad was going to happen to me even if I was in a room full of AIDS patients.  Not touching the magazines, sitting in the same chairs, being in the vacinity of somebody coughing or sneezing...nothing.  That cured me of my HIV problem and honestly after a while I kind of felt like a fraud.  

The times when the flare ups occur, try to see if there has been some sort of stressor in your life.  That is usually what sets my OCD off.  I'm glad that you have gotten your "checking" under control.  There are a few CBT things I use the most...first and foremost is controlled breathing because let's face it, when we are hyperventilating it is kind of hard to think straight.  Once I get my heartrate back down, I then start on the self-coaching....talking to myself with positive statements of fact or even just saying "ENOUGH" or "NOPE, NOT GOING THERE."  And I also do what you are doing...I don't give in.  I wouldn't go back just like when I panic in the car when driving...I refuse to ever pull over.  We need to master our minds and not have it the other way around.  

And about the zoloft...do you think it is still working for you?  
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