Bed bugs and OCD(6 posts)
This is something I have been thinking about & struggling with for a while, and I thought perhaps it'd be worth starting a message stream for others to chime in about their own experiences.
Bed bugs seem like an issue that's absolutely tailor-made to obsessive-compulsive disorder, or at least my subset of OCD. I can't imagine I'm alone here. The important thing to note is that I have never had first-hand experience with bed bugs...never had them, never directly faced the problem. I do live in New York City, so of course it's a fairly common and omnipresent fear, but there's normal anxiety and then there's debilitating, awful, spending-way-too-much-time-fixating-on-a-bogeyman type anxiety.
Why would this be? A few factors, I think:
**Open door for doubt.
If OCD is 'the doubting disease', then bed bugs are an amazing thing to spend hours and hours ruminating on. Wouldn't it be simple if you could identify BBs by their obvious bites? But then you spend a bit of time Googling and learn that a huge percentage of people don't react at all; that bites don't really have a traditional appearance and aren't a way of confirming presence or absence of bugs at all. There's very little "100% confirmations" in the world of bed bug worry, which makes it perfect for OCD. You could spend money on a sniffing dog, but a bit more Googling and you'll see that they're often wrong, or that the community is divided about the use of dogs, etc etc etc. The closest I've come to tamping down this doubt has been to utilize the BB Alert Passive monitor, but even there, OCD does its damndest to use doubt to erode any confidence (i.e. Have I installed the monitors correctly? Maybe I put them on the wrong way and as a result they're not working, etc. Etc. Etc.)
My particular subset of OCD (and this is not uncommon whatsoever) has a strong theme of guilt and responsibility--a fixation on preventing accidents or harm from happening, a paranoia that one has accidentally caused harm. Again, bed bugs are almost designed to prey on this facet of OCD: If you have them, you could bring them to your friend's house/family's home/office environment...it'd be your fault...a big enough burden for anyone, let alone someone who's already obsessed with guilt issues.
**Accessibility of internet forums.
For someone with OCD, a site like bedbugger.com is both a blessing and a curse. In many ways it is terrific--you can post a high-res image of a suspect bug and pretty much have an expert answer within 30 minutes most days. But again, the OCD doubt cycle is merciless, and enough is never really 'enough.' Soon you might find yourself, present company very much included, photographing every odd mark or piece of crud you find anywhere near your bed or couch, in the off chance that it could be a "cast skin" or fecal marking: Just to be "100% sure."
I'd be curious what anyone else's experiences are, especially people with OCD who have become fixated on bed bugs despite not HAVING bed bugs in the past...
I think that this is an interesting post about something I myself have thought a lot about. I don't know what it is, but there is something about these creatures which feeds the psyches of people prone to a certain kind of paranoia. I think that it is separate from OCD but there definitely seems to be some kind of relationship between the two.
My interest comes from the fact that at least initially I would have put myself in the bedbug paranoia camp (and yes I have some minor OCD tendencies). In my own case, the psychological factors which drove me toward paranoia were outmatched by others (ie, lazyness, not generally bothered by bugs) which drove me in the other direction with the result that though I am still interested in the topic, the paranoia about contracting / having them was pretty short lived.
At this point, I think that I can predict, with a surprisingly high level of success, the likelihood that a new poster actually has an infestation just based on the narrative in their post and without having looked at any pictures they might have included. Here are some rules of thumb I've noticed.
(1) If a posters username includes any variation of 'paranoia' or 'OCD' they are very unlikely to have an infestation.
(2) If a posters narrative includes the information that they might be paranoid or might have OCD, then they are very unlikely to have an infestation.
(3) If a posters narrative includes the disclaimer that they aren't paranoid or don't have OCD, then they are very unlikely to have an infestation but are likely to be paranoid and / or have OCD.
(4) If a posters narrative includes the information that they have recently seen a television program about bed bugs or read an article on the subject they are very unlikely to have an infestation.
(5) If the first image that someone posts isn't a bed bug, it is very unlikely that the next 14 images will be either. (though I'm sure there have been examples, I personally don't ever recall having seen a thread where this test failed)
In any event, I have no doubt at all that if the actual number of instances of infestations increase as predicted and the media coverage with it, that it is only a matter of time before the psychological establishment codifies bedbug paranoia in the literature. If there happen to be any psychology graduate students on the board, this could be your chance to be at the forefront and get published! RS1971 alas, studied physics and math and works in software, so he'll have to leave it for someone else.
It is an interesting topic and has been alluded to before but I don't think anyone has approached it quite the way that either of you have. Try typing "OCD" in the search box and you should get some interesting results on the site.
I never want to assume anyone doesn't have bed bugs just because they find a spider beetle first, but rs1971's rules do seem to apply in a wide number of cases.
Hard to be sure sometimes. It's important to remember, too, that in some of those cases which aren't bed bug, the problem may be a real pest or health issue and not only OCD/paranoia.
And there's a weird thought process that goes on with OCD as well...you spend so much time dwelling on it, turning it over in your mind, obsessing, etc, that it's a definite 'boy who cried wolf' scenario. Your friends start to roll their eyes if you mention it. So actually GETTING bed bugs begins to feel both impossible ("it's just OCD!") and inevitable. A strange combo, to say the least.
Great post BrooklynScott
The whole scenario that you described has basically been my life for almost 3 weeks. Google, forums, flashlight, traps, magnifying glass, vaccuum, obsession!
OCD is difficult to live with (I have mild OCD/perfectionist tendencies), but most of the time you find it's just "you", or part of your personality, and you don't necessarily find anything strange about what you're doing until someone points it out to you. BBs/the thought of having BBs surely makes everyone a little obsessed and a little OCDish at some point while dealing with the problem, but with the people that actually have OCD, it can blow up into huge issues mentally, and physically.
I actually have a friend who is going into psychology and as she is the only friend that I've told about this problem, I should mention this post to her. She has OCD as well, and has posted about bug infestations in her house before. She really is a great candidate for studying this!
This is a good thread...
As someone who suffers from OCD as well, I see where you're coming from. You are constantly doubting where you have BB's or not and you're constantly worrying about giving someone the problem.
I'm sure if you've seen a psych they've talked to you about not responding to intrusive thoughts and not reassurance seeking. If you get an anxiety invoking thought you may attempt to reassurance seek by coming on the forums or check your monitors. That will only make the anxiety worse because it will give the thought you had "legitimacy," whether it's justified or not. Your brain will say, "This person responded to the thought so it must be important," and it will send out that thought more and more. The more you respond, the higher your anxiety will become. The best thing you can do is accept the thought as that, simply a thought, and understand that it may or may not be true, but you are just going to accept it and not react to it. Eventually the brain will accept this thought as unimportant and the obsession will stop.
Obviously you should check your monitors, but only once a month as David probably suggests so you're not obsessing. And obviously it there is some kind of serious concern that you might have a problem, investigate. The forums are a good place for knowledge, but obviously reading some of this stuff without all the context around it will drive anyone batty and scared. I am also trying to ween myself off the boards and lower my reassurance seeking.
I think slowly but surely, a person can pull away from this issue...you can be aware without being anxious. I'm hoping to get there to.
Disclaimer - I'm not a professional psych
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