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Do I Have OCD or Perfectionism?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hello there. A few months ago I completed about a year of cognitive therapy with a focus on anxiety and panic, although I initially started going to get help with irritability. I never really felt like we focused on that much, but late in the game we figured out that I have ADHD. I started Wellbutrin and it has helped immensely in all aspects of my life, including a substantial decrease in both irritability and problems with frustration. At the end of my visits, I mentioned that I had wished we talked more about my trouble with perfectionism and asked for a few book recommendations. I have always had a hard time with accepting the way things look when it comes to aesthetics. So sometime in the middle of the summer, I was in my garden and became very bothered by the weeds in the yard, the dead branches high in the trees, the rocks that got mixed with the mulch, etc. The feeling seemed to become magnified and it got to the point where I quit going to my garden entirely, which I had spent many many hours in previously. Granted, I do have a large yard and I get overwhelmed by it somewhat often. But things that should be so trivial end up just gnawing at me. I have recently started to wonder if it’s more of an OCD thing rather than perfectionism. I am concerned that the same thing will happen to me next summer, and it would be nice to fix it over the winter. I’d like to go back to my therapist but feel like he’d think it was dumb (because I FEEL like it’s dumb.) Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Your therapist will not think you’re “dumb.” Many, many people do their therapy in chapters. They take care of an issue or two, then take time out from therapy to settle into new ways of thinking or a new routine. When that’s comfortable, they then go back into therapy to tackle another issue.

It looks to me like you made excellent use of your initial episode of treatment and now you’re ready for more. You’ve already discovered what a relief it is to be less frustrated and less irritable. Why shouldn’t you also want to be less troubled by whatever it is that overwhelms you?

Your therapist already knows you well. Take advantage of that. Set new goals and go for another chapter of the work.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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