I’d prefer not to swallow…

Obsessive-compulsive disorder – it’s a topic that’s fairly well known, possibly because of people’s bizarre fascination with OCDs most extreme examples. But talked about doesn’t equal understood. For a lot of people, it’s not a case of ‘I need to turn the light switch on and off 50 times or my family will die’. There are many different forms, and often they are so subtly integrated into people’s behaviours that you might not even notice.

I have experienced sensorimotor obsession since childhood. It’s a lesser known kind of OCD, and is basically intense focus on automatic bodily processes. Sometimes it’s breathing, but most often mine takes the form of compulsive swallowing. It’s usually triggered by stress or anxiety and most often occurs at night, when there are no other stimulants to distract me.

I will swallow, and then start thinking about swallowing, leading me to swallow again. I then think about how I don’t want to keep swallowing, which leads to more swallowing. I then get panicked and try not to swallow, I don’t breathe through concentration – but inevitably the swallow happens and each and every time, I become more anxious, upset, scared even. Sometimes I‘ll be in tears. Sometimes I’ll try to wash the sensation away with water, which of course makes it worse because you need to swallow it! An attack can last from minutes to hours, but always feels like a lifetime.

I am aware of how bizarre this sounds. And that’s why, despite not having talked about this to anyone really, I‘m writing this post. Genuinely I always assumed I was mad, and until very recently, I didn’t even realise it was a real disorder: a form of OCD, diagnosable, understandable.

And now it’s like a weight off my shoulders. Realising you are not the only one is absolutely the best medicine.

6 thoughts on “I’d prefer not to swallow…

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  1. Hello to a fellow OCD sufferer! It isn’t a fun disorder to live with, however there are many benefits to having such a condition. I would say many of the successful people we look up to obsess over certain things and have became perfectionists of the art, whatever that may be. I guess it is finding ways to morph obsessive thoughts into productivity, like you are doing by putting it into writing. It may be a blessing in disguise!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Sam! That’s a really nice way of looking at it, and I’m definitely trying to work more on my mindset this year to see the positive side of things over the negative. Obsessive thoughts can actually drive you forward if you can harness them, and they certainly mean we have great passion, attention to detail and an eye for beauty and perfection!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this quick and informative post. 🙂 It’s great to learn more about these things, and the swallowing thing you described is new information for me. I don’t have OCD, but somehow this reminds me of some aspects of anxiety. I think there are similarities based on your description. Panic, fear, ‘washing it away’ with something, never-ending thought loops.
    Sending hugs your way, and thanks again for writing this important post!


  3. I have OCD and I hate when I say this and people assume it’s the sort of thing where I can’t go to bed without washing the dishes. No, that’s a quirk, and everybody has them. Not an obsession, or a compulsion, like you exhibit with the swallowing. My compulsion centers around Trichotillomania, a compulsive hair pulling disorder. My obsessions are numerous and always feel like they are crushing me. OCD is a many-faced beast, and there needs to be more understanding. Thank you for sharing.


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