Get it all out of my head.
June 20, 2011 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Morbid curiousity is taking over my mind. Help me stop.

Ever since I was a kid, I would have streaks of morbid curiousity about various disasters (Titanic), murders (Jack the Ripper) or other unpleasant topics. More recently, it's been Marie Antoinette and the Tate-Labianca murders.

It's been particularly bad with the Tate-Labianca murders. Part of this is because there is so much information (and photos) available online at the click of the mouse. It takes no more than .3 seconds of effort to get just about any piece of information. The other part is that I can't get over the senselessness of it all and how these were normal people who did nothing wrong except be at the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a terrible tragedy, but somehow I keep wanting to make it my tragedy and to relive it all of the time. It always makes me feel so sad to think about what happened to them, especially Sharon Tate. I have a young son and to think of dying when I was pregnant with him and not ever knowing him as she did makes me terribly sad. It's almost as if I'm over-empathizing with her. How do I stop? How do I let them go and just enjoy my life?

FWIW - I have OCD and obsessive thoughts have been one of my main issues. I'm not really seeking advice on the obsessive thoughts part of the equation, but rather how I stop thinking about THIS particular thing. Or, do they go hand in hand?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't be so quick to separate your other obsessive thoughts from these particular obsessive thoughts. To solve any problem you have to get to the root, and it sounds like you're already working on that. If you have OCD, you have an actual, serious problem and this is part of it. You can't just decide to stop or decide to do certain things to stop (or at least it's really hard to...), as I'm sure you already know. Have you discussed this with whoever is helping you with your OCD?

I don't have any particular suggestions but your end note there seemed strange to me so I wanted to point that out.
posted by bleep at 4:11 PM on June 20, 2011

The two questions are identical. It's not that you're doing it out of interest but out of fear. If I knew how to drop an unwelcome obsession I'd tell you, but all I can suggest is to get a new one.

One thing that could be constructive, but ONLY IF IT APPLIES TO YOU, is if you're fixating on edge cases in order to avoid management of actual dangers. For example I had a friend, and I'm sorry to pick such an annoying example and am not suggesting you are this way, who said that before she had a child she used to lie awake nights worrying about spontaneous human combustion, but now she had a child she could see to the edges of the universe and had attained enlightenment and was sorry for people who didn't have children. When we drove to an event with a spot check where you're legally required to have a first aid kit in the car and I offered to buy one and was turned down, she preferred to lie about it rather than carry an unobtrusive item in the trunk. And as for actually learning first aid to protect her precious cheeild? Oh no, that would make her think about having an accident.

Who looks like the compulsive one here? Me probably. OTOH I'm *less* worried about accidents than my dumb ex-friend. (On my last first aid refresher, which I attend regularly, I got this neato coagulant powder that can stop arterial spray and everything.)

But that's only if any of that applies to you and you won't end up checking the stove 22 times, etc.
posted by tel3path at 4:19 PM on June 20, 2011

I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but as someone who also has a shit ton of morbid curiosity, all I can say is: it's OK. Here's why:

(1) You're not alone. Good god you're not alone. You probably don't need me to tell you that the briefest google will take you to entire sites devoted to the most morbid, awful things imaginable. Hell, check out the past couple of days worth of Metafilter and you'll find stuff a lot worse than the Tate-Labiance murders. You're not weird or OCD or abnormal for being interested in this stuff - you're just like a lot of us.

(2) You're not crazy for thinking about this stuff. Death, pain, suffering, and the senselessness of it all are part of life, as is facing up to all of these things. Shakespeare didn't write plays about fluffy bunnies and candy cane hearts, he wrote plays - great plays, plays that are universally recognized as classic explorations of the human condition - about tragic, senseless deaths, unspeakable betrayals, and profound disasters. If it's weird and wrong to think about these things - even to "obsess" about them (what a peculiarly modern pathology!) - then a great deal of the classics of Western literature, music, film, and the visual arts are weird and wrong.

(3) Accept the fact that this may be your way of working through some of the Big Questions that life throws at you: Why do we die? Will it hurt? Is there a reason or is it just random? Some people ignore these questions altogether; some turn to religion or philosophy to give them neat and tidy answers. You're exploring in your on way, and that's neither good nor bad; it's just how you're grappling with the Big Questions.

I'm not trying to minimize the fact that this morbid curiosity makes you uncomfortable or feels icky. I understand. But it's OK, and it doesn't make you a bad person. Maybe it's just part of who you are.
posted by googly at 4:31 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

Your description of the curiosity "taking over your mind" is kind of the textbook description of obsessions/compulsions. You have an obsession-a thought that makes you feel anxious for whatever reason, then you have a compulsion that you perform to try to beat back some of that anxiety. it sounds like your obsessions here are something along the lines of "terrible things happen to people unpredictably" then look up information to help feel more in control. I'd definitely bring it up with your therapist who can help pinpoint exactly how to address this. Exposure and response prevention is a really effective way to stop obsessions and rituals.
posted by goggie at 6:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

You should try and revector the impulse to something more interesting, educational and productive. start here for an example that is still in the sort-of-squicky category but worth knowing.
posted by rr at 7:03 PM on June 20, 2011

So, if you're aware of having OCD, are you aware, through therapy and/or reading, that obsessions and compulsions are ways of attempting to deal with anxiety (that don't work very well)?

So -- have you discussed/explored what you're really anxious about? It seems that whatever you're obsessed with would have some measure of meaningful connection to your actual anxieties ("actual" = the anxieties about your own life and the people in it). You mention that the fate of Sharon Tate and her unborn baby have particular meaning for you.

Why is that? If I were you, that's a question I'd want to think more about. That is, what kind of experiences/thoughts/fantasies do you have in relation to babies/mothers/pregnancy/abandonment/a mother-child relationship that was never fulfilled/the extreme intimacy of mothers and babies juxtaposed with the ultimate severing of closeness that death implies?

This is what I'd want to explore. It's not random that your mind keeps going back to this content. I'd try to suspend judgment (e.g. calling it "morbid") and work with the material your mind generates, allowing it to develop with an attitude of curiosity and exploration, to see what comes up for you. Rather than just try to make it go away, you could see yourself more as a poet or writer, and this is what you are composing (you might say, "but a writer CHOOSES her material" -- oh yeah? really?), and nothing bad is actually happening to you, so why not "go with it" and ask yourself how your mind arrived at these themes.

You may not want to do this, because you might think that this will increase your obsessive thoughts and compulsions to look at this material, but actually, understanding is a road toward extinguishing of the compulsions.
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:08 PM on June 20, 2011

As goggle says, this is a direct manifestation of your OCD.

However, I would go farther, and say that your OCD has settled on morbid things because you don't want to think about them, and because you are highly motivated not to think about them (as this very existence of this question attests).

This strong reluctance has the effect of making it easier for your brain to break out of the cage of the OCD.

In essence, you think obsessively about the things you least like thinking about in the first place because that helps you not think obsessively.

It does that by adding the force of your revulsion and the force of your will to the resources that don't reach consciousness which your brain is already bringing to bear to prevent obsessive thought.

Yes, I am saying you think about morbid things because it's good for you to do that; more specifically, it's good for your brain.

If you want to stop thinking morbid thoughts, I believe you'll have to beef up your brain's non-conscious arsenal, with something like medication.

Otherwise, your brain is not going to be willing to let go of those so-useful morbid thoughts.
posted by jamjam at 7:11 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

My obsession is with people who attempt to clime Everest and fail (or die). That, and sad songs. As googly says, just know that you're not alone.
posted by Gilbert at 8:34 PM on June 20, 2011

*d'oh* I meant climb!
posted by Gilbert at 8:35 PM on June 20, 2011

I fixate on animal maulings and serial killers. I don't know if this necessarily pairs with OCD - I don't exhibit any OCD traits.

When you have streaks of interest, do you mean that you do a mini research project on particularly gory cases? Or do you feel like you cannot control how interested you are or that it negatively impacts your life / social relationships / work habits? If it's the first, you definitely aren't alone and I don't think it's particularly uncommon to begin with. For the second, that leads to being more of a problem.
posted by amicamentis at 9:17 AM on June 21, 2011

I went through this about a year ago when a friend had a serious car accident. I could NOT stop reliving it and imagining all of the horrible details. I want to nth that this sounds like a manifestation of your OCD and you should be working with your mental healthcare providers on resolving it. BUT in the short term, one thing that really helped me was to start recognizing when I was beginning the cycle of imagining the accident and literally saying, "Stop," either out loud or mentally. It helped me to halt the vicious cycle.
posted by Polyhymnia at 10:17 AM on June 21, 2011

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