What kind of freak are you?

So what it is then, go on, confess… is it bathing in baked beans, sucking  on a dummy or collecting belly button hair?  

We all have them,  some harmful, others harmless, some a predilection, others an obession but vices or habits are generally just part of who we are.   I too have my vices, some of which are probably best hidden from the thousands of you that read this blog.  Oh okay then, I don’ t have any particularly unusual vices, or do I?

Whilst I may think that my ‘habits’ aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they may well appear  somewhat ‘freaky’ to others. I haven’t seen it but the BBC  has even made a series about about some of our very unusual habits,  proving that all sorts of ‘freakishness’ takes places daily up and down the country.   So what kind of freakish habits do you have? (Remember, to the pure all is pure).

I’m finding, that my ‘rituals’ appear to be getting worse as I get older.  And today may be a special red letter day for religious reasons but there’s another reason why you should mark your calendars because this author is going to, ‘live on this blog’, reveal  one of his own ‘freakish’ rituals.

Are you ready for it?

I ‘prefer’ to work in a clean study. There, I’ve done it. I’ve confessed to everybody. Bet you’re all horrified, aren’t you? What? You aren’t? How about if I add the fact  that I believe that I’m much more productive if my desk is polished. Still nothing? How about, I feel I’m unable to work in my study unless it’s been hoovered, polished and the glass on my desk is smudge/ dust free and there’s a nice fragrance in the air (e.g. scented candle). Still not weird enough? How about the fact that when the room is clean, I don’t like being in it unless I’m freshly showered also and that the clothes I’m wearing also smell fresh. Starting to get freakier now, right?

“Everybody is somebody else’s weirdo”.

The thing is, I recognise this trait and don’t exactly shy away from it or try to change it because I like it. It’s my preference, my predilection and if I didn’t sucumbe to it, well, things just wouldn’t ‘feel’ right.  So I do, and thus this has now become my ritual, my compulsion, maybe even my obsession but not necessarily my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).  Apparently, these ritualistic traits are typical of somebody like me, somebody with a tendency to take control of a situation, a leader, a master, a person who who attempts to dictate how everything around them is done, otherwise known as a control freak!  Apparently, my compulsions are a bi-product of me trying to ‘control’ my environment.

Whilst there’s ‘some’ truth to that last statement, the above are just quirks of my character which ultimately define me, and I’m not alone. Each and everyone of us has, over time, developed a ritual or rituals of some form  or another without evening knowing it.  Be that a leg twitch or deriving pleasure from plucking one’s pubic hair. Yes, I did write ‘pubic’ and I did write ‘hair’. It seems that there are people out there who actually get a lot of pleasure from ‘plucking’ their pubic hair. Yep, I can almost see you creasing your face in disgust and perhaps even, self conciously, crossing your legs. Apparently a young, attractive ( because that’s relevant) 20 year old man from Sheffield enjoys nothing more than coming home after  a hard day’s work and locking himself away in his ‘plucking room’ and hunting down those pesky hairs.  And I dare say there are many more like him. Meanwhile, there’s an 18 year old  Essex girl who absolutely can’t be without her dummy. Even when she’s out shopping, she has to lock herself in the changing rooms for a quick suck between credit card swipes.   Apparently, it makes her feel really good and she sometimes finds herself jealous of passing babies in prams.  Then there’s the woman who absolutely adores stale food with a particular partiality to turned up at the corners ‘crusty on top’ sandwiches, 3 day old orange juice (with a thin layer of dust), and tough as old boots Jaffa Cakes, there’s the man who collected belly button fluff and and I’m not even going to linger on the woman who loves to squeeze spots so much, her dream is to be locked in a room with a group of pubescent teenagers.  Now that does sound wrong on many levels!

Whilst revolting (to some), these predilections are relatively harmless because they are simply that; a special liking for something, and whilst  it would be psychologically ‘uncomfortable’ not to indulge these urges, it isn’t always distressing. The same cannot be said of those suffering from OCD which by its very definition is an illness, featuring in most everyday conversations with the regularity of a prune eater. It’s right up there  with narcissism. For example, regular readers of this blog will known that my article, Living With the Devil, is still one of the most read posts of this blog.  I presume this is because the majority of those reading it actually believe that they  are either living with or have shown symptoms of narcissism which is also an illness. Whilst relatively rare, Narcissism is corrosive and quite traumatic for anyone who happens to have the misfortune of being in a relationship with a narcissist. Generally speaking, you’re as good to a narcissist as you make them feel (narcissistic supply).   Yet, these days, many diagnose narcissism in others, generally exes, as easily as they would a cold.  The reality is that in this fast moving, busy, and sometimes stressful life, many are becoming acutely self-absorbed with barely enough time for themselves let alone the interest to consider others. It’s these apathetics (yes, new word) who may well suffer from a variant of narcissism but are not, at least not clinically, narcissists.

Likewise, I may prefer my study to be ‘just so’ before I start work in there but can this be classed as OCD?  It’s easy to brand somebody as suffering
from OCD simply because they like their shirts ironed in a certain way.  Real OCD is a chronic long term mental illness associated with thoughts and compulsive behaviour. Generally, the ‘obsessive’ thoughts are unwanted or unpleasant and they repeatedly enter the person’s mind causing anxiety whilst the compulsion is repetitive behaviour or a mental act that the person feels compelled to perform to try and avert or undo the effect of the obsession, which inevitably not only locks the sufferer in an endless cycle but can be quite distressing for them. E.g. a person who is afraid of catching diseases may avoid contact with people, public places (which in turn may spawn some form of agoraphobia) for fear that they may ‘catch’ something; they’ll also be ‘obsessed’ with constantly washing themselves.  Again, there is a clear distinction between this type of obsession and simply having good hygiene.

That  said, OCD (probably for the very reasons highlighted above) is actually one of the most common mental health conditions. It is estimated that up to 3 in 100 adults and up to 5 in 100 children and teenagers have OCD which usually starts in early adult life with men tending to report symptoms earlier than women.  The symptoms of OCD can range from mild to severe. For example, some people with OCD will spend about an hour a day engaged in obsessive compulsive thinking and behaviour. For others, the condition can completely take over their life.

The cause of OCD is unknown but there are a number of theories and these range from gene inheritance, where a relative of an OCD sufferer is believed to be four times more likely to develop the illness.  Brain abnormalities have also been blamed where  serotonin (yep, that old favourite) levels have deviated from the norm.  Antidepressants  that increase the level of serotonin have been known to successfully treat the symptoms of OCD.  Life events have also been cited as possible causes. E.g. the breakup of a marriage, as well as upbringing, e.g. parents who are overprotective.

If you have OCD, seeking help is the most important thing you can do. Left untreated, the symptoms of OCD may not improve. In some cases they will get worse. Without treatment, nearly half of people with OCD still have symptoms 30 years later. OCD can be treated with psychotherapy (known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and medication, such as antidepressants and the outlook is quite good. Some people  achieve a complete cure, and even where a cure is not achievable, treatment can equal a reduction in the symptoms equalling a far better quality of life. E.g.  not spending the best part of the day thinking about the obsessions and feeding the compulsion.

So what about us freaks? What about you?  That’s right, the person reading this. I’m including you because one way or another you’re part of my club, yes, you too are a freak you’re just  not aware of it. You’re either suppressing or simply have not yet become aware of your freakish ways because, remember, what may appear freaky to you may not be to somebody else and vice versa. But the reality is that each and every one of us has traits, rituals and routines that are exhibited daily, whether that be absently shaking your leg as you watch TV,  twirling your hair with your finger, chewing on a pen, chewing on your nails, having the urge to bite somebody you love,  avoiding cracks in the pavement, watching strangers and imagining them in various situations, sucking your thumb, keeping a comfort blanket, flipping the pillow if it gets too warm, eating out of bins (even if you don’t have to), biting your toe nails, collecting belly button fluff, biting your lip, picking ‘things’ you know you shouldn’t,  biting your lip, climbing into tight spaces, hoovering naked,  wearing only leather, and separating out certain types of food on your plate.  I could go on forever but I think you hear me.

The above are just a few of the many traits I discovered during my research, there are some that didn’t make it to this article as they actually made my eyebrows rise and  I simply couldn’t be held responsible for inflicting that on you first thing on Easter Sunday.  Suffice to say that it really does take ‘all sorts’ and whilst some things may not necessarily ‘float your boat’, they may float somebody else’s. We’re forever celebrating our diversity because these are the very things that define us, as individuals and as a race. And whilst some of our predilections are, to an extent, optional, they are a way of life for others. Spare a thought for them this Easter, oh and the next time you proclaim yourself to be an OCD sufferer!

Happy Easter, and peace to you and yours.

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