|What The Heck Is "Obsessive Slowness?"|
|Written by Administrator|
|Friday, 15 April 2011 15:43|
What The Heck Is
by Fred Penzel, Ph.D.
Everybody has pet peeves. Mine happen to include technical terms that are commonly used but don't really mean anything. Within the field of OCD, one particular term that I really wish should go away is "obsessive slowness." Researchers and practitioners generally use it to describe the behavior of people who carry out everyday activities in an extremely slow manner. Examples would include someone taking thirty minutes to wash their face, ten minutes to put on one shoe, or two hours to decide what brand of detergent to buy.
The term covering all of these behaviors doesn't really tell you about what is actually happening. There are a great many subtypes of OCD, and many of them cause sufferers to do things slowly or tediously. OCD usually makes sufferers inefficient because of all the extra steps and activities it adds to their lives. However, lumping them all together under the heading of "slowness" makes anxiety caused by the obsessions. When we say "obsessive slowness," it sounds as if we are literally describing the slow-motion thinking of obsessive thoughts. This is obviously meaningless. What we are really talking about is not a thought, but an observable behavior or set of behaviors. To accurately describe what is happening, it would make a lot more sense to call it "compulsive slowness," but even this term is inadequate. It still doesn't really tell us much about what is going on.
There are many reasons why some OCD sufferers do things in what appear to be painfully slow ways. If an OCD sufferer who carries out particular behaviors slowly is to be treated properly, the reason behind their slowness must be identified. Only than can there be a proper intervention. Here are several reasons why this type of behavior is likely to occur. It is to these that we should really be paying attention, rather than coming up with meaningless labels.
Another form of perfectionism involves the need for closure. If a sufferer with this problem starts something, they must stay with it or wait around until it is absolutely and completely finished. This can apply to both mental and physical activities. They cannot start or do anything else in the meantime, as this would cause them considerable distraction and discomfort. Being able to do or think of only one thing at a time (no matter how long it takes) can also slow a sufferer down.
The need to make "perfect" decisions as a way of combating doubtfulness (mentioned earlier) would also come under the heading of perfectionism, and is another cause of slowness.
As can be seen, there are many reasons why an OCD sufferer may appear to be moving very slowly, and they really cannot be adequately described by a single term. I suggest that we drop the term "obsessive slowness," and stick to describing the causes of the individual's slowness using the more specific terms we already have. What I am doing here, is making an appeal for more precision in the terms that we use to describe the experience of OCD. Accurate descriptions are more likely to lead to the most appropriate treatments, and thus to a lot more recoveries.
If you would like to read more about what Dr. Penzel has to say about OCD, take a look at his self-help book, "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide to Getting Well and Staying Well," (Oxford University Press, 2000). You can learn more about it at www.ocdbook.com