Tag Archives: OCD

Man with OCD Breaks Hearts in Viral Poem

Neil Hilborn has to make sure he locked the door 18 times before goes to bed. He organizes his food by color before he can eat it. Neil Hilborn has OCD.

He has also been in love and his poem about falling for someone while battling obsessive compulsive ticks is powerful, hauntingly honest, and we’re willing to bet the most touching thing you’ll watch today. You may have already seen this video circulating your Facebook feed (in which case, you already know it is worth watching again), but if this is the first you’ve heard of Neil make a few minutes to watch.

The video made it to the top of Reddit last week, helping to propel Neil to internet stardom. He even popped into the thread to reveal the poem was written two years ago, and yes the girl in question has seen it. Despite them not being able to make it work, Neil’s testimony in the poem has been breaking hearts around the internet. While those with OCD have more obvious physical and mental boundaries that make it more difficult to build lasting relationships, everyone can relate to the terrifying feeling of finding someone that makes us feel safe and the devastating loss of losing them.

If you’re interested in more of Neil’s work you can check out his poem “The Mating Habits of North American Hipsters” below. It was the only poem at the 2013 Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam Invitation in Minneapolis to receive a perfect score. It is also a good pick me up after “OCD.”


What did you think of Neil’s poem? Share your thoughts in comments!

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist – Top 10 Reasons to Chill Out

Not That PerfectionistIt was the end of a typical weekday at my house: a moving and shaking day at the office, home for some giggles and play with my young daughters, dinner, baths and bed. Finally, I get some time to myself – hooray! Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a massive pile of clean laundry that has been waiting to be put away for a whole week now. Momentarily, I consider putting it away, but … naah! Instead, I decide to grab my laptop, prop my feet up and work on some writing. I giggled to myself realizing that previously in my life I would have never been able to do that. That tiny bit of clutter would have gnawed away at me, making me super-uneasy and totally unable to relax in-the-moment.

You see, I am a recovering perfectionist. And, boy, I had it bad! Aside from my obsession with cleanliness and everything in its place, I would usually have multiple projects going on at any given point in time, agonizing over every detail, which, of course, needed to be executed juuuust right. Upon completion I would say in one long breath, “Woo-hoo, that was great, finally did it, okay, what’s next?” I used to pour over blog posts editing and re-editing them in the quest for perfect arrangement of the exact right words until they were finally worthy to be released (maybe). I used to work out 6 or 7 days a week and it would take an act of God for me to actually skip a workout!

For years, I would brush my neurosis off as, “I am just built that way. It’s in my DNA.” And, to some extent, this is true. I have a lot of passion and energy eager to pour out. But, what is different these days is my self-talk around this energy. The story I tell myself. I am enough, already. I still have high ambition and put tremendous amounts of love in what I do, but I give myself a break. I have loosened my grasp on expected outcomes and value peace and harmony waaaay more than flawlessness.

So, what was the wake-up call that helped me make the switch from high-strung to mellowed-out? These are the top 10 realizations that I made about perfectionism that helped me along in my journey to become easy like Sunday morning:

  1. “Perfect” is an illusion. It’s striving for the impossible. Even if this high-level of excellence can be met in a particular moment, don’t blink because it is a fleeting ideal. Perfection has an insatiable appetite, and the constant expectation of it sets you up for a whole lot of disappointment, stress, and unhappiness. All the while, the fun of life whizzes right by.

  2. Perfectionism stifles creativity and blocks the birth of fresh ideas. Sometimes we just need to throw the paint on the canvas, allow the notes to be strummed, or let the words pour out. When you mix intense worry into the equation, self-confidence erodes and the artistic flow becomes suppressed. Is everything just right? How it will be perceived by others? This type of thinking takes us out of alignment with our creative source and smothers the flames of imagination into submission.

  3. The ever-present quest for perfection is merely a shield from vulnerability. When we do everything perfectly, then we cannot be judged or criticized. It’s an excuse not to be vulnerable. Just as staying busy in the process of constantly trying to achieve the unachievable is a good way to avoid having to look at and deal with our “stuff.” (And we all have “stuff”). Unfortunately, the only way to heal is to deal (as in facing things head on). The shielding of perfectionism is merely a coping mechanism, which works temporarily, but meanwhile, whatever we’re suppressing only continues to gain more power over us.

  4. Vulnerability shielding inhibits connection. For me, I realized that if I really wanted to be a great writer, coach, mother, and friend who really connects with others then I’d have no other choice but to let down my shield and allow my authentic self to be fully exposed. This means being perfectly imperfect at times, owning it, and granting others permission to do the same.

  5. There is a big difference between striving for excellence and perfectionism. It’s called actually enjoying what you are doing! It’s okay (great, even) to have high aspirations. Shoot for the stars. Go nuts! But, go easy on yourself along the way. Enjoy the journey. Don’t get so tripped up in the outcome that it sucks every ounce of joy out of the process

  6. Perfection is to life what those plastic covers are too a really nice sofa.  Sure, it keeps the dirt off, but what’s the point?? The guitar whose notes are strum slightly off at times is better than the untouched guitar collecting dust on the wall. The laughed in, played in, loved in, house is better than the spotlessly clean one where you can eat off the kitchen floor. The published, yet slightly imperfect, blog or book that allows somebody else to have an “a-ha” moment or inspiration is way better than the “almost perfect” one that is still hiding away, never to be experienced by another soul. Don’t miss the point of life in pursuit of way-too-high standards.

  7. Self-worth is not determined by any outward measurement. This goes for any number on a scale, how clean the house is, how many feathers are in our cap, etc. It’s what’s on the inside that matters most. And, it starts with loving self-talk, not the “I’m not good enough’s” associated with striving for perfect.

  8. It’s even scarier. Yes, it can be scary sharing your passion with the world (whatever the medium). But, what’s even scarier is not sharing your passion with the world because you felt it didn’t meet your own ridiculously high standards. The reality is that nobody’s opinion of your work is going to be quite as critical as your own, anyway. And, even if it is. So what? It’s just somebody else’s opinion. Be passionate, create, love, share — this is living!

  9. Because what perfectionism really is: Throwing an amazing party and forgetting to have a good time because you are worried about some silly little details that nobody else even noticed or actually cares about! (Yes, I might have actually done this before *whistles*).

  10. Perfectionist parents create perfectionist kids. And, I want my girls to grow up knowing unconditional self-love, acceptance of what it is, and enjoyment of life. ‘Nuff said.

Perfectionism is a way of closing off and controlling things. It may look pretty on the outside but in reality it’s cold, isolated and dark. It’s the cracks that let the light in, anyway. So, go on and ease up a bit. Let some light in and shine on!

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The Illusion of “Another One Under My Belt” Thinking

 Humans are imbued with a competitive spirit. And as a result, we like to count our victories. There are an infinite number of possibilities in human experience. And when the possibility of death looms over us, the sudden fear that we might not have done everything we might have creates immense distress. This "range" or "number" idea rarely has the effect it is supposed to have. Every kind of sex, every kind of position, every kind of lover, every kind of drug-almost never leads to a feeling of satisfaction. If anything, in my experience, the most positive response I’ve had from people who pursue this kind of life is "been there, done that" suggesting that the experience is really not worth repeating, and in fact, does little to assuage the fear of dying. I am writing this to remind us that when we are victims of "another one under my belt" thinking, we may be missing out on more important dimensions of life and a growth process that will be too late to start after that 100th pseudo-victory. I call this "pseudo-victory collection" psychological hoarding and contend that it arises from an anxiety about "meaning" and mortality.


Who are the usual victims of psychological hoarding?


Continue reading on Psychology Today

Fine Print On Perfectionism

Perfectionism is the central feature of OCPD (obsessive compulsive personality disorder), not to be confused with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder, think Tony Shalhoub in TV series “Monk” or Jack Nicholson’s character in “As Good As It Gets”).  Perfectionism, as part of OCPD,  is also characterized by such traits as an over-concern with details, excessive devotion to work and productivity (at the expense of leisure), excessive conscientiousness, scrupulousness, thriftiness, inflexibility and rigidity in the issues of morality and ethics, reluctance to delegate tasks and reluctance to relinquish control (Pfohl & Blum, 1991).

Perfectionism is mostly a result of learning, programming and conditioning.  I see it as an ingenious adaptation to a hyper-critical, high-pressure, invalidating environment, a psychological self-defense strategy that unfortunately creates more problems than it solves.  Most of the perfectionists I have worked with had perfectionistic or narcissistic parents.  Aside from parental influence, the extent of perfectionism depends on the culture you live in.  Some societies are more culturally perfectionistic than others.   The so-called “developed societies,” for example, tend to emphasize “efficiency, punctuality, a willingness to work hard, and orientation to detail,” i.e. the very traits that may accompany perfectionism and OCPD (Millon et al., 2000, p. 174).

Perfectionism can be directed at oneself and/or at others (Flett & Hewitt, 2002).  Self-directed (inwardly-oriented) perfectionists are notoriously hard on themselves: if they make a mistake they shred themselves to pieces in ruminating bouts of merciless self-scrutiny.  Whereas self-directed perfectionists are their own worst critics, other-directed (outwardly-focused) perfectionists are tough on others and are easily frustrated by others’ imperfections.  The literature on perfectionism also distinguishes between generalized (or “extreme”) perfectionism (in which perfectionists pursue “extreme standards across a variety of life domains”) and situational perfectionism (in which perfectionism is limited to specific areas of life) (Flett & Hewitt, 2002, p. 16).  Situational perfectionism is, up to a point, adaptive.  Indeed, some jobs have extremely narrow margins of error and require high level technical precision (e.g. surgeon) and protocol compliance (e.g. Secretary of State). When, however, perfectionism becomes a way of living (rather than a way of earning a living) then you have a case of generalized or “extreme” perfectionism.

If you are recognizing yourself in any of this, worry not: chances are your prognosis is good!  How can I assert that without knowing you?  My work with perfectionists has taught me that perfectionists are a highly motivated lot, perfectly positioned for a self-help approach.  There’s one speed-bump, however:  a perfectionist in treatment/therapy – just like anywhere else – wishes to excel.  That, of course, boomerangs because the relentless striving to stop being perfectionistic  reinforces the very perfectionism that a perfectionist is trying to overcome.  The intuitive strategies (of, say, banning perfectionistic thoughts) tend to fall short which calls for more paradoxical, out-of-the-left-field, lateral (pattern-interrupting), and experiential interventions.  In sum, the trick is not to fight your perfectionism but to let go of it.  As for the know-how of this elusive “letting go” process, it is too long of a story to describe in a blog post.  We (your mind and mine) will have to meet on the pages of my upcoming book (Present Perfect) to take this discussion to another level.

Additional reading (on the motives behind perfectionism): 3 Types of Perfectionistic Hunger http://www.eatingthemoment.com/ordinary-perfection/2009/11/10/3-types-of-perfectionistic-hunger.html

Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is the author of "Eating the Moment" (New Harbinger, 2008), "Present Perfect" (NH, 2010), and "The Lotus Effect" (NH, 2010). He is in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information visit http://www.eatingthemoment.com and sign up for Pavel Somov’s (free) blog feed Sapience/formerly Mindful-not-Mouthful

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