Monday, March 3, 2014

Counting All the Time

by Unknown

One,three, six, ten .... not being able to focus on anything but counting has really concerned me lately. Why do I do this, and what causes it? Counting has become an everyday, normal part of my life. I do not just count numbers, I also group them and add them up in my head. In school I usually count and add the numbers on a clock, or I group and add the number of people in my class. In a car, I count the numbers on license plates, the letters on billboards, even the white dashes on the interstate.

My problem became clear to me two years ago while watching"Dateline." I discovered I am not the only person with this problem,and that it has a name: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is an anxiety disorder that may have genetic origins and is believed to be caused by an imbalance of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that acts asa messenger between the orbital cortex (the front part of the brain) and the basal ganglia (deeper structures of the brain). When the serotonin levels are unbalanced, messages that go from one part of the brain to another get messed up,resulting in repetitive thoughts. These intrusive impulses are called obsessions,and they drive people with OCD to act out time-consuming rituals or habits known as compulsions.

My time-consuming rituals finally had a name and reason. My counting was not because I was insane, but because of a chemical imbalance in my brain. 

People suffer from different types of OCD. Obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again out of a person's control. They feel disturbing and intrusive, and a person usually recognizes that they do not make sense. Excessive worries about dirt and germs and being obsessed with the idea that they are contaminated, or may contaminate others, are major concerns of someone with OCD. They may also have obsessive fears of having accidentally harmed someone, even though they usually know this is not true.Obsessions are accompanied by uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, doubt or a sensation that things have to be done "just so." 

People with OCD typically try to make their obsessions go away by performing compulsions. About 90 percent of those with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions. Compulsions are acts a person performs over and over again, often according to certain "rules." Each person has their own set they follow. For example, someone with an obsession about contamination may wash their hands until they become raw or even bleed. A person may count objects over andover because of an obsession about losing them.

Counting is one compulsive disorder, others are washing, touching, arranging, hoarding, saving and praying.While my compulsive disorder, counting, seems to have a reason - an obsession - I am not sure what my obsession is, because the fear of losing something is not my problem.

Oh, wait - as I write this, my obsession has become clear to me! I have an obsession with even numbers. I count and add all the time to get even sums. To me, even numbers are the only ones that are "real." I cannot stand odd numbers; they almost terrify me. This is going to sound really weird, but odd numbers do not have friends, and even numbers do. At some time I must have felt I needed the comfort of knowing someone was always there for me.

This problem must have started with my parents' divorce; they split up when I was in first grade and I started counting soon after. It is estimated that one million children and adolescents in the United States suffer from OCD, which could mean three to five children with OCD per average-sized elementary school and about 20 teenagers in a large high school. 

Treatments for OCD vary. It can be treated with a mild anti-depressant, and behavior therapy is effective,too. A combination of these two helps most sufferers find relief.

When I first realized I had OCD, I did not think it was that bad, but then I started recalling everything I count. I amazed myself; not only do I count people,letters and numbers, but also pictures on the wall, windows in my house, chairs at a table, doors in a building, lights in a room, icons on a computer screen.The list goes on and on. You would think doing this must exhaust me, but the truth is I barely notice. I will be in the middle of counting something, and realize, Oh, I'm counting again. 

I'm debating treatment. It is scary to think that counting and adding are not normal. If I were to get treatment I would have a lot more time to concentrate on more important subjects. I guess I will just have to wait and see what feels right.

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