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The OCD Contract

(Thank you Jenny Peetoom, R.Psych for creating this article for the Alberta OCD Foundation to share with the OCD community. This is a very creative way to see how OCD can create an enforceable agreement (contract) with a sufferer).

Contracts or service agreements often come with fine print. If you have gotten a new credit card or cell phone recently you have entered into a contract. Many contracts come with simple statements outlining what you are agreeing to, followed by small, often complicated text that provides the details and limitations of each aspect of the agreement. Many, if not most of us, make an assumption that this “fine print” is standard stuff. We skim it over and sign that we have read it. We place our confidence in the companies that create the contracts - assuming they have followed the legal requirements expected of them and that contracts generally protect the consumer and company both.

OCD is like a contract between you and a part of your mind. The general agreement is simple enough. Here it is:

OCD (service provider) commits to providing relief from the anxiety you (customer) experience when you (customer) encounter uncertainty. You (customer) agree to follow the rules OCD (service provider) sets out for you (customer) in order to experience relief from anxiety.

And then comes the fine print:

1.0 Service Provider: nature and specifics of how the service provider shows up can shift and change without notice

  • 1.1 At times there may be more than one version of the service provider at any given time

  • 1.2 The service provider holds control over when and how to provide service

  • 1.3 At times the service provider will dispense rules even in the absence of anxiety

  • 1.4 The service provider is not responsible for loss of quality of life, time, or energy of the customer

2.0 Relief: The relief provided is temporary

  • 2.1 Long term costs of drawing on relief will vastly outweigh the temporary relief provided

  • 2.2 Initially the relief provided by the service provider will be sufficient and soothing. As time progresses, the sufficiency and soothing nature of the relief will decrease exponentially.

  • 2.3 Any attempt by the customer to obtain reassurance for sources other than by following the rules will result in the act of seeking reassurance itself becoming an OCD rule and will likely result in increasing frustration and (sometimes) strained interpersonal relationships on the part of the customer

3.0 Anxiety: Anxiety is a normal human experience that all humans can tolerate without the help of this contract.

  • 3.1 There are alternate ways to cope with anxiety that are less time consuming, energy depleting and life limiting.

4.0 Uncertainty: Uncertainty is a normal human experience that all humans experience on a daily basis

  • 4.1 The service provider will create enough rules for the contractee to follow, that the customer will no longer notice that she/he already effectively tolerates a variety of types and times of uncertainty outside the bounds of this contract.

5.0 Customer: a person who experiences a lower tolerance to uncertainty than average due to a genetic predisposition, a glitch in brain systems communication, and/or a life stressor from which the person is attempting to find relief

6.0 Rules: are established solely by the service provider in such a way that the customer will perceive he/she must follow them.

  • 6.1 Initial rules will be simple and subtle and seem harmless.

  • 6.2 Rules will become more complex, varied, and time consuming.

  • 6.3 Customer will have moderate to significant insight into the illogical nature of the rules but will never the less feel compelled to follow them

  • 6.4 Over time the rules will likely result in shame, loss of time and freedom, and an ever increasing feeling of being stuck on the part of the customer.

The nastiest part of the OCD contract is that you are not provided with the fine print until well after you have entered into the contract. And by then the anxiety associated with not following the “rules” is often greater than the anxiety that you originally felt when encountering uncertainty.

But there is one last line of the contract that is the finest print of all, yet the most important.

7.0 Termination. This contract can be terminated at any time by the customer.

  • 7.1 If the customer struggles to terminate this contract on their own, they can enlist the help of a doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or counsellor.

  • 7.2 Many thousands of people have successfully terminated this contract

  • 7.3 You can too!

Jenny Peetoom

Registered Psychologist

Southport Psychology

#830 10201 Southport Road SW

Calgary AB

T2W 4X9

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