This summer I have been doing my psychiatric nursing rotation. Most patients stay for 6-8 weeks at the facility where I’m doing my clinical, and many types of disorders are treated. The first half of the summer I was on a unit for young adults; most of them were there for rehab. But the last two weeks and the rest of the summer I am on the OCD unit.
I am really enjoying this unit because the patients are a lot easier to talk to and the staff is much more engaging. My first week there, one of the nurses got me involved with the patients and challenged me to think about my understanding of the disorder. He did this through hands-on activities–literally. Example: because many of the patients have issues with contamination, he shook my hand long and tight, then asked me to lick my fingers. I did this. Later, he asked me if I could lick my shoe. I said that yes, I probably could. I got out of doing this (thankfully), but he did it himself.
He also asked me if I have noticed any OCD tendencies in myself. Now, I have loooooong known about my OCD traits. I am going to go ahead and tell you about some of them.
>My main issue is symmetry. Symmetry everywhere, but especially on my own body. I must have the same amount and consistency of food on either side of my mouth when I eat. My steps must be symmetrical, as in if I step on a crack with my right foot I must also step on a crack with my left. If I scuff my right foot on the ground I must scuff my left with the same amount of force. If I step on the carpet with my right foot I must step on the carpet with my left foot. If I touch something cold with my right hand I must touch something cold with my left hand. And so on!
>When I am driving, I notice the sections of grass that are outlined by roads, sidewalks, driveways, etc. For each one of these I see, I must blink.
>Speaking of blinking, I sometimes get stuck in a blinking ritual that I can’t stop until it “feels right.”
>There are other oddities that I think are related, such as my love for straight lines and my obsession with my planner, but I think these might be just more related to my personality.
When I told the nurse on the OCD unit about this, I became quite anxious. When I left that day I determined that I was going to try harder to resist my compulsions. They are not to the point where they disrupt my life, and I want to keep it that way.
Here are some examples of things I have run across so far in clinical:
>A young man is so afraid of germs, especially those from homosexuals and old people, that after shaking an elderly man’s hand he tried to sterilize his own hand by burning it. He also was in the habit of cleaning his nose and eyes with Ajax.
>I saw a guy today randomly picking up books from the table and putting them back down. When asked what he was doing, he said, “The table can’t breathe underneath there, I have to pick them up!”
>I worked with a girl who couldn’t step on cracks, corners, or thresholds or else she had thoughts that something terrible would happen to her family members. If she didn’t cross a threshold correctly she had to go back and do it again. It got to the point where she couldn’t make it out of her house for school. She also counted all her steps in groups of fives, and repeated many phrases and actions in groups of fives.
It’s a very interesting unit. I think I also like it much better because this is definitely the psychiatric disorder that I relate most closely to. Have any of you noticed any OCD tendencies in yourself?