"I swear, the cheescake tastes better with *this* fork..."
December 9, 2010 10:31 PM   Subscribe

Am I exhibiting obsessive compulsive behavior? One example: I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time selecting the "perfect" fork, spoon, etc. for the particular dish I'm eating. Of course, that's not the extent of it.

Utensils are a big thing, in fact that's what prompted me to ask this -- I ran to the kitchen for a "quick" snack, and noticed that I spent something on the order of two or three minutes searching the drawers, dish rack, and cupboards for just the right fork with which to eat my cheescake.

This is something I've done for years, and I do it pretty much every time I eat at home where I have access to my selection. I'll have a certain identifiable utensil that is "best" for a particular type of food, because of its certain shape, number of tines, angle of handle, etc. Even though I know it's kind of irrational, and the drawer is filled with a dozen forks that are nearly indistinguishable, I spent much more time hunting around for this one fork, as if it made some sort of difference.

Same goes for plates, bowls, cups -- if, for example, it's a sandwich, I've got to use the white plate with the blue rim, unless I'm going to be having a side, in which case I've got to use this *other* plate that's ovular, because it sets off the presentation nicely... I'll forego an entire stack of plates or cupboard full of mugs and pull a dirty dish out of the sink if it's *the* dish that I'm thinking of and need for that occasion, when in reality it's not like I couldn't just use another of the same size that's sitting right there.

Keep in mind, it's not like there's anything really different about the plate/fork/whatever that makes it objectively more appropriate, like I need a big plate and this is the only one. It's usually something like I like the particular design on the handle, or the color of the chopsticks, or the feel of the glaze, and I don't even notice that I've somehow decided that it's a must that I use that one specific item.

I've noticed that I do this with many things in other areas of my life. When I'm getting dressed, I'll usually only wear the same few outfits, and will often pull wrinkled, maybe *slightly* grubby shirt/pants out of the hamper and iron and febreeze it so that I can wear it again, rather than wear another shirt or whatever. If I am forced to wear a shirt that I don't like, I get very uncomfortable and feel subconscious, even though it looks fine objectively speaking. It's like I've decided in my mind that one particular shirt/pair of pants/shoes are the only ones that will work.

So, I know YANA_, but it struck me this evening that this feels unhealthy. It's been going on for a long time, though it waxes and wanes. It's not crippling or anything, and when I eat at a restaurant it's not like I get anxious about having to use a restaurant fork, but I do wonder if this is abnormal behavior.

Thanks, any thoughts are appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I am not just not your medical professional, I am not a medical professional at all.

But this doesn't sound pathological to me. You sound fastidious, perhaps, or anal...maybe the way you approach this is a bit obsessive (note: I am not trying to diagnose you). But I've done similar things, and I am pretty healthy. I just have to make sure I'm not pushing the same trip on others and I'm golden.

If you think it's preventing you from living your life properly, then go see a licensed mental health professional. But otherwise, I wouldn't worry too much about it; there's no reason to turn it into an issue if it isn't one. Don't self-diagnose (and, most importantly, be skeptical of what people say on the internet).

It's nice to have "just the right fork," isn't it?
posted by dubitable at 10:45 PM on December 9, 2010

I've had various problems with OCD related issues, and one thing that's helped me is to view the processes that generate imperfection as a complete, perfect process in its own way. For example, I used to not be able to deal with things that were out of alignment or scratched, because they felt wrong and almost dirty. But if you look at the state of the world as a the cumulative events that have happened, where we live in a universe where the specific molecules of an object just happen to come together at this point in time, those same dirty or misaligned or "wrong" things can start to feel right. The object's blemishes or problems of the object merely refers to it's placement in usage in time, which is no less real or pure than the usage of another object. A scratch in silverware captures an event, almost like the fork is recording history onto itself. The world is full of ugly things that exist along side what we find beautiful, and the two are one and same.
posted by null terminated at 10:46 PM on December 9, 2010 [13 favorites]

If you have OCD, so do I. I don't do the specific utensil-related thing that you do, but I have similar quirks. Sometimes I will even forgo having a snack at all if the correct kitchenware isn't available. My first month in my current apartment was miserable because there were only plastic plates (NOT AN OPTION) and clear glass plates (also sub-optimal). One of the reason I can't stand my one roommate is that she continues to CURSE US with her UNDESIRABLE plastic dishware.

And on clothes - god, yes! Right now I'm spending a month with family, living out of a 45 litre backpack. I brought a good assortment of clothes (and spent an OCD-ish amount of time figuring out the precise formula of items to pack). And yet, I can't wear my navy blazer with my navy-and-red striped shirt, but I can't wear it with any of the black tops I brought, either. Which then makes me anxious about the fact that I lugged a blazer across the county when it only goes with a couple of the other things I packed. Let us not even discuss the calculus of which shoes go with which pants/skirts and the ways that curtails my total number of outfits.

So either we're both normal, yet insufferably quirky, or we both have raging cases of OCD.
posted by Sara C. at 10:49 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Everything exists along a continuum. For most psychological questions, the threshold is, "is it causing problems in your life?"

It doesn't sound like it is, but you could still work to change it if it's more than you want.
posted by salvia at 10:51 PM on December 9, 2010 [12 favorites]

I don't have a good answer to your question, but I will say that I do this too. Both the silverware/cups/utensils thing and the clothing thing, though in my case, reusing dirty clothing when I do have clean options just because I want to is probably a once-or-twice-a-month-thing, maybe. But I sure am picky about my forks and spoons! Mugs, glasses, and bowls, too. I never thought of this as weird. Sometimes you just want certain things.

I agree with the threshold of "is it causing problems in your life?" Or, perhaps, "is it getting in the way of living your life?" So... Spending a few minutes thinking about forks: who cares? Being late for work because you spend so much time in the morning picking out dishware: problem.
posted by mandanza at 10:59 PM on December 9, 2010

Possibly not totally normal, but there are certainly bits of it in what I do. I finally started buying multiple pairs of identical jeans periodically and just switching completely to them because I noticed that, if the jeans I had were different in any way, I'd usually pick one favorite pair and avoid wearing the others completely. I own a lot of almost identical polo and t-shirts, ditto. I have attributed part of this to long-standing sensory issues--I will reject things that fit poorly or itch or have weird tags in favor of things that are softer and don't have tags and fit better. But sometimes something is just right for right then.

So, there's that. Again with the bit above about how the thing is whether or not it's working for you. But if it's not, yeah, I would consider switching to new and simpler dishes and clothing. I find it much happier now to know that I've got a *lot* of leeway before I hit a point where the clothes I have left are not ones I'm willing to wear on a given day. I might, if I was more like this with dishes, go out to Target or somewhere and come home with one brand new box of silverware and one brand new box of plates and bowls and one of glasses, and then box up all of the stuff that was different. Then, maybe you would have a big plate and a little plate, but you wouldn't have to think about whether or not you really wanted the big plate with the decoration on the rim or the big plate without. They would all be the same, as with your forks, etc. (Just don't put any of them down the garbage disposal, they stop being the same pretty fast after that.)
posted by gracedissolved at 11:04 PM on December 9, 2010

Am I exhibiting obsessive compulsive behavior?

posted by zippy at 11:05 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

For most psychological questions, the threshold is, "is it causing problems in your life?"
That's what I've read too (and from what I've heard Dr Drew say it's also a definition for addiction).

I suppose a problem with applying that to OCD is that most people can afford to spend 30 minutes preparing to leave the house even if it's unnecessary. Taking 10 minutes to prepare dining utensils would be a waste of time but it might not meet a threshold of "causing problems".

Generally speaking I don't like my subconscious preferences overriding what I know is logical. I have some slight OCD tendancies but I think of them as funny quirks of my subconscious that I've got to keep in line by teaching them how I'm going to live my life. I had certain shirts I prefer on certain days but after choosing otherwise for a month the preference went away. It's a nice feeling not to be beholden to illogical whims.

Perhaps you could try demonstrating to yourself that your preferences aren't going to control what you do, and simply try doing something else? That might be a way of seeing how in control you are.
posted by holloway at 11:08 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

My OCD is a coping-mechanism. It is triggered by certain things like disorder and discomfort, and goes away once I have been sufficiently soothed either by fixing something externally, or by determining that the stimuli that triggered me in the first place are fixed or manageable. In other situations where I'm not under duress, my OCD is aesthetic only -- I prefer to use just the right fork, have all my books organized exactly right, and those computers in the Apple retail store need to be aligned just like they're supposed to be according to the store schematic. I am that person who, after someone has just made a desk area disheveled, absolutely has to go clean it up in some way or another or it just bugs me for an hour. Is this true OCD? I don't know. My therapist hasn't quite decided yet.

Honestly, if you were at a point where you categorically could not get past a situation or action without completing a certain behavior or ritual, then yes, I'd say you were in compulsion-zone. To me it just sounds like you're particular. Monitor yourself for a few days. Write down when you find you're doing particular behaviors. Are they spurred by out-of-control events? Or do they just happen throughout the day like any other situation?
posted by patronuscharms at 11:33 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

A question along with the "is it causing problems in your life?" (which is a good question) - what would happen if you don't use that fork or plate? Or wear that particular outfit? The key to this is to not ask that question now, but at the moment that you're deciding that you need to use that fork or wear that outfit. If your answer is "nothing," then try not using that fork or wearing that outfit. You say that you get very uncomfortable and self-conscious, but can you go on and still have a fairly normal day? Like, without (a) having a panic attack, (b) worrying about what will happen because of your decision (which, really, means that although you know that "nothing" is the right answer, you don't really get that on a deep level), or (c) thinking "Hey, this isn't so bad" and then three hours later suddenly finding yourself in the middle of (a) or (b)?

That's the line between quirky and OCD, as far as I've ever been able to tell. I have the "checking" form of OCD (and there are lots of different forms), and I know people who are able to wonder "Hey, did I turn my coffeemaker off?" and then think "Oh, I probably did. I always do. And anyway, nothing's going to happen." and then go about their day. Maybe they'll think about it again, but they'll shrug it off and go on. That's not OCD. OCD is having to go home, even though your house is an hour and a half away, because you have to make sure, because if you don't, the coffeemaker will actually be on, the hot plate will catch something on fire, and then your house will burn down. And maybe taking five extra minutes next time to look at the coffeemaker, just to make sure it's actually off. And then probably unplugging it. And then finally saying "Screw it" and taking the coffeemaker along with you. And the hairdryer. And your bedside lamp.

tl;dr version: check out Stop Obsessing! and see if it resonates with you. When I first picked it up (thanks to the first good psychiatrist I saw), it was like someone was narrating what was going on in my head.
posted by Madame Psychosis at 11:44 PM on December 9, 2010 [9 favorites]

From the DSM you do not seem to meet either of these requirements:
recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress

the behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive
In other words, you don't feel crippled by it, and don't think someone will die if you eat cheesecake with the wrong fork.
posted by TheSlate at 11:51 PM on December 9, 2010

You're quirky. Quirky is okay (although it might get a bit annoying for those living/working with you). Other than that, you should consider getting rid of your mismatched dinnerware and get a set that you love (yes, every single piece of it) that won't leave you searching for that one plate with the blue rim. After-Christmas sales are an excellent time to do so.
posted by halogen at 12:31 AM on December 10, 2010

As others have said you sound quirky and maybe mildly OCD, but it doesn't sound like something you need to be majorly concerned about as it doesn't seem to affect your external life much. As you say you can eat in restaurants just fine.

I have this thing where when I eat Ice Cream at home I can only use one of my orange plastic bowls and a certain spoon. But if I'm at a restaurant or someone else's house I can eat ice cream with no troubles out of whatever they serve it in.

Just a note about the clothing situation though, Febreze probably doesn't work nearly as well as you think it does at covering up the smell of dirty clothes, especially ones that have lain in the hamper for a few days. I suggest just doing laundry more often. Your co-workers will probably silently thank you for it.
posted by katyggls at 1:28 AM on December 10, 2010

I am not a psychiatrist or ventriloquist or anything like that, but we would refer to behavior like that as pretty fucked up or something to that effect. Or maybe just mildly fucked up.

No one in his right mind spends more than two or three seconds searching for just the right fork to eat his cheesecake, but if it's not hurting you or others, it's mild. You can be mildly fucked up, or even pretty fucked up, and get by in life.

The question is how much satisfaction this stuff gives you. If you're hunting for just the right cheesecake forks and sandwich plates because finding the right forks and plates makes you super happy and doesn't get in the way of an otherwise satisfying life, knock yourself out. People waste their time on all sorts of shit that only they could find entertaining and satisfying. Knitting, for Christ's sake. Nascar. If fork-finding does it for you, make yourself happy.

But if you need to do this stuff just to stay above water -- if doing it doesn't make you happy but not doing it makes you hear the neighbor's gerbil telling you to kill kill kill -- then you ought to work on cutting this pointless shit out. If that means talking to people trained in talking sense to mildly fucked up people, pay the money and get the talk. If it means a little prescription and the side effects aren't bad, get whatever the doctor orders. Take care of yourself and lose the wacky compulsions if they're hurting you.
posted by pracowity at 1:54 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you wrote the exact same question, but about cocktails you'd be saying "I only want to drink martinis out of a traditional cocktail glass, but I like old fashioneds in an old fashioned glass." And everyone would praise you. Many would be horrified to suggest otherwise.

Glass shapes affect drinks. I have roommates, and over time we have a lot of different silverware, some of which matches. There are different forks that work better with different foods. For example, pasta comes in many shapes. Why would you pretend that a fork with different tine spacing has no effect on how that pasta is reaching your mouth?

and when I eat at a restaurant it's not like I get anxious about having to use a restaurant fork

You are perfectly fine.
posted by oreofuchi at 3:05 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

In my layman's perspective, you don't seem mentally unwell, you seem like you need to donate your hodgepodge tableware to charity and hit up the pre-Christmas housewares sales. Get yourself a bunch of matching things! My life is better because my plates and mugs and bowls all compliment each other (in four different colors. Fiestaware is the best.) It sounds silly to some, but it's true. So, too, should you go through and get rid of any clothes of yours that you dislike enough that they make you feel self-conscious. Other people would appreciate them, and you can get away with wearing the same things far more often than the fashion industry would have you believe.

Like everyone above seems to be saying, it's a quality of life issue. If your actions aren't harming yourself or others, and you can otherwise lead a satisfactory life, take steps to streamline your quirks, instead of erasing them. If you forgo eating because you can't find the right plate, however, you should probably talk to a pro about it.
posted by Mizu at 3:11 AM on December 10, 2010

Full disclosure: OCD sufferer here *waves*

The main thing to remember about OCD is that it is an anxiety disorder, so if your behaviour is not making you anxious or distressing you in any way, then it would be unlikely you'd be diagnosed as having OCD.

Everybody has obsessive traits, OCD or not - there's certain things I do that I'd definitely say we're obsessive, but aren't related to my OCD, because I don't feel anxious about whether I do them or not. Rituals - as the actions OCD sufferers carry out are referred to - are performed to try to reduce the level of anxiety, often because there is a worry if that the ritual isn't carried out, something untoward may happen. When I make me and the missus a cuppa, I *always* put hers on the right hand side. No reason, just feels right, but I won't lose sleep over it.

To avoid rambling on, in short: If it's not causing you quality-of-life issues, then you're fine... if a little quirky - but hey, who isn't?
posted by robzster1977 at 5:21 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

sigh... s/we're/are/
posted by robzster1977 at 5:22 AM on December 10, 2010

Yes, your behavior sounds mildly OCD. If you have other psychological issues or concerns, see a doctor. Otherwise, it's useful to understand that if it starts to intefere with your life, you should seek help.
posted by theora55 at 5:48 AM on December 10, 2010

I agree about getting matching eatingware that you love! If you're searching for the right TYPE of fork I don't think that even qualifies as weird (salad vs. dinner vs. whatever else you have). Perhaps marginally weird if you have 16 mismatched forks and each one has a special role, but not that weird. If you're searching through 16 MATCHING forks for the "right" fork, then it's a little weird. But if it's not interfering in your life, I don't really see the problem beyond "weird."

I am making half a dozen cakes for a party this weekend. Each cake, I noticed as I pulled the recipes to make the ingredient lists and plan when to make each one, uses a DIFFERENT CAKE PAN. (Bundt, angel food, springform, 9" round, 8" square, mini-muffin, jelly roll pan ...) Nobody thinks that is REMOTELY WEIRD that I have all those pans, and more besides, because those all have specific functions. I have tongs I use to turn cooking meat with, and tongs I use to serve salad with, and tongs I use to fish things out of boiling water with ... it's also not that abnormal to change food ideas if you can't find a particular utensil; I've gone into the kitchen wanting cantaloupe, not been able to find the right sort of spoon for eating it "on the half-shell," and decided to have a banana instead. If I SUPER wanted cantaloupe, I could cut it up, but why go to all that trouble over a snack or spend half-an-hour hacking at it with a spoon that doesn't do the job right?

Anyway, you might be happier if you had dishware and utensils and so forth that you loved every piece of and that matched, and that you had ENOUGH of that you didn't typically have to go fishing for The Specific Fork. One of my criteria for buying utensils is that I'm able to purchase extra salad forks, because I like to use salad forks for my main meal 99% of the time (unless I'm having a formal dinner party) and it definitely improves my life to be able to have only 12 dinner forks but 24 salad forks. Not too many of the forks I don't need, but lots and lots and lots of the ones I use non-stop, so that I don't have to stop and clean dirty ones.

tl;dr ... a little weird, but not that weird, and if it doesn't interfere in your life I wouldn't worry.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:17 AM on December 10, 2010

I don't think you have OCD, yet. But you are on your way if a traumatic event hits you. Once it does, then your OCD kicks into effect. OCD is the most energy draining mental disorder you can have. Your brain is in overdrive for most of the time with few stops of actual calm in between the chaos. It affects your life in a horrifically negative way unless you get help for it. For now, you have quirks that you can live with. You'll know when it's OCD when you know what you want but your brain is putting out fearsome thoughts of irrationality. It also causes extreme anxiety if you don't get to perform rituals to ease the thoughts and compulsions. Again, quirky yes, OCD no.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 6:19 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

(I would also note there are three people in my household, one of whom eats in a high chair and is not allowed to have breakable dishes, and I have 12 place settings and am considering going up to 16 because sometimes I run out of bowls too fast. It's nice to have plenty of spares. I never have to hunt for the right plate -- I have twelve of them for two people! -- and I always run a full dishwasher without having run out of dishes!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:20 AM on December 10, 2010

A little rigid but no big deal. You're a little picky. If you would like to be less picky, you could work on it. If you don't really care other than to worry about it, as crosses to bear go it's not a particularly heavy one.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:37 AM on December 10, 2010

It's not you, it's them. How can people not notice the difference between one fork and another? Because they are Philistines.

I do both exact same things. Maybe not two to three minutes looking for silverware, but the same thing. And let's say I'm having someone eat over, casually so they go into the silverware drawer themselves, and they pick the fork I would have chosen... I feel a little twinge of resentment. And then I mostly forget about it, after the first couple of bites. It's just unpleasant. Like if you had to wear mismatched socks, that no one would even see. Doesn't really matter, but annoying.

I think everyone has little rituals that if we all stopped to examine would seem strange to us and certainly to others. I like to run my hand along the ridges of this chair in my living room when I walk by. Every time. It's just a habit. If I don't get to do it, because I'm carrying something or with someone else and they walk next to the chair instead of me, I'll feel the absence, but no big deal. I have eight pillows on my bed of varying firmness that I like to rearrange every night to find the perfect combination of comfort, like a dog circling and biting at the blankets. There are specific tables and sides of those tables in restaurants that I prefer.

But I just consider myself particular. I think it starts getting questionable when you put unreasonable consequences onto your "particulars," or they literally start to control you and your life. Like you are convinced that your grandmother will die if you don't choose the right fork. Or your infant is screaming and crying with hunger while you spend hours searching for the right spoon (yes, my silverware thing extends to other people's children while babysitting -- yellow-covered baby spoons look better with this green beans). Or you refuse to leave the hotel room because you didn't bring the right color shirt (this is not to say that you can't really really stress out and feel uncomfortable and petulantly consider not going, but eventually you suck it up).
posted by thebazilist at 6:58 AM on December 10, 2010

If you have read all this and you are still wondering if you have OCD or not, I want to point out that almost everyone who said "yes" just gave a quick little yes with no/hardly any explanation. But the people who said "no, don't worry about it" all have given detailed descriptions with some good questions to ask yourself and some examples to compare to. I would listen to the "no's".
posted by CathyG at 7:02 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

It just sounds fussy and childish to me, not necessarily pathological.

When we were little, my brother and I had this set of promotional plastic cups with the characters from Ducktales on them. One of them featured Webby. My brother refused to drink out of the Webby cup. He would throw crazy fits if something was served to him in the Webby cup. If all the other cups were dirty, he'd just refuse to drink until something other than the Webby cup was washed. As the years went on and the pictures on the cups (through many runs of the dishwasher) started wear off, he'd have to carefully study each one for traces of Webby before using it, which took a long time. (He could easily have selected another non-Ducktales cup to use, but he liked the Ducktales cups--just so long as it wasn't Webby.)

Similarly, I had a Little Mermaid plate that I could swear oreos tasted better on. It was totally inappropriate for sandwiches, though.

Your barometer for this should be when you think you have a problem, so this statement of yours might be a red flag:

So, I know YANA_, but it struck me this evening that this feels unhealthy.

If it's impacting your life in a way you're not happy with, it might be time to do something about it. Otherwise, keep on keepin' on.
posted by phunniemee at 7:30 AM on December 10, 2010

For most psychological questions, the threshold is, "is it causing problems in your life?"

And in this case, it doesn't sound like it does because the OP is living alone and what he does with his spare time (playing WoW, searching through the drawers for the "right" fork) is his business. If we're going to place this in the "quirky traits" category, then we all have something that seems off-the-wall strange and annoying if we described them. You should consider the fact that no one else is going to tolerate these eccentricities if they want to sit down and have a cheesecake with you, or bazilist's situation of leaving a crying baby because you have to find the right spoon for the green beans.

Instead of creating some intangible feelings about what's "right," I tend to just create/use a set of "rules"-- eg, wear brown shoes instead of black with more earth toned pants. Don't mix striped pants with a striped shirt. Plates are used according to the formality of the meal. A few simply rules short-circuits the potential to obsess over particularities.
posted by deanc at 7:34 AM on December 10, 2010

If you're dragging dirty clothes out of the laundry because you only really "like" part of your wardrobe, I'd argue that the problem is not with your brain, but with your wardrobe. The fact that other items may be "fine" doesn't matter if you don't want to wear them.

The solution to this problem is not trying to argue yourself into "liking" clothes you dislike wearing, but to supply yourself with an adequate wardrobe of clothes you DO like to wear.
posted by endless_forms at 8:00 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a favorite ice cream spoon, a stray we picked up somewhere. Strangely, it was Mr. SLC's favorite ice cream spoon, too. So we ought found the makers and model and bought a whole set of that table ware, and we are the happier for it.

If your habit is interfering with your happiness or ability to function, then you probably have a mild problem. Maybe you want to do something about that. Maybe not. Just make sure that you are in control of the habit, and the habit is not in control of you.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:14 AM on December 10, 2010

IANYourPsychologist (or a licensed clinical practitioner, but I am a psychologist).

You're fine. This is most definitely not OCD. Yes, this is obsessive behavior, but we ALL do that. One of the things I emphasize in my abnormal psychology class is that the behavior we talk about as symptoms of disorders is often quite normal, and things that everyone does to some degree. But that's the key--degree. It's when these behaviors are done to abnormal levels and begin causing dysfunction and distress in someone's life that it becomes a disorder. If anything, this could be approaching obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, but again, the levels you describe are within the realm of normality, nothing close to what we would see in someone with that particular disorder. We all like things the way we like them, there's absolutely nothing abnormal about that.
posted by Fuego at 8:30 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yes, this is obsessive behavior, but we ALL do that.

No, we don't; not on that level for such simple things. His behavior might not be pathological, but it's very uncommon.
posted by deanc at 8:48 AM on December 10, 2010

Yes, this is obsessive behavior, but we ALL do that.

No, we don't; not on that level for such simple things. His behavior might not be pathological, but it's very uncommon.

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. Not everyone does this behavior in particular, but we all have obsessive thoughts/behavior in some form. Ever get a song stuck in your head? Congratulations, you've had obsessive thoughts.
posted by Fuego at 8:58 AM on December 10, 2010

“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” -Paul Carvel

I work with writers and artists and creative types all day. I love them. I am these things myself. This kind of thing is not unusual in my social and professional circles. I despise the pathologizing of every single behavior that roams on the outskirts of normal.

Frankly, I kind of want to see your silverware collection. I like forks with long prongs and a particular weight in the handle. I have a few that have a quirky spiral flourish on the handle and the prongs are nice and long and very aesthetically pleasing. But there are only three prongs on each fork, and for some reason this bothers me. I think my mouth registers the unusual sensation; therefore I can only use these forks to eat appetizer-like foods. As for spoons... well don't even get me started.

There. Do you feel better?

P.S. I have a friend who picks out certain outfits to cook in, along with an apron. She sometimes spends hours on the selection. She's a fairly well-known and genuinely brilliant poet. If we pathologize her and "fix" her, I think we would "fix" her poetry as well. As in destroy it.
posted by madred at 10:20 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Probably borderline OCD at the very least. But so what? Everyone has their weirdnesses, believe me.

If you're starting to feel that your behavior is impacting your ability to live your life, or if it's making you feel like a freak compared to "normal people," then a therapist can really be helpful.

But if you're fine with it, then there's no objective reason to worry. You're not hurting anyone.
posted by ErikaB at 11:20 AM on December 10, 2010

Doesn't sound like OCD to me, either from my lay perspective or from my (highly uninformed) reading of the DSM-IV.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:17 PM on December 10, 2010

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