Oversharing and OCD (tips inside)

Note: It’s important to note that not everyone with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) will “overshare,” and the reasons for sharing personal information can vary widely among individuals, both with and without OCD.

Reasons for oversharing

There are some reasons that might explain why some individuals with OCD might be more prone to oversharing:

  1. Seeking Reassurance: One of the hallmarks of OCD is the need for reassurance. Individuals with OCD often experience intrusive thoughts that cause them distress, and they might share these thoughts with others to seek validation or reassurance that everything is okay.
  2. Reducing Shame: Talking about one’s experiences, especially those that might be stigmatized, can be a way to reduce feelings of shame or isolation. By sharing, individuals with OCD might feel less alone in their struggles.
  3. Compulsion: For some, the act of sharing or confessing might itself be a compulsion. They might feel a strong urge to share certain thoughts or behaviors with others, even if it’s not socially appropriate.
  4. Building Understanding: People with OCD might overshare as a way to help others understand their experience. This can be especially true if they feel misunderstood or stigmatized by their condition.
  5. Coping Mechanism: Talking about one’s feelings or experiences can be therapeutic. For some, sharing might be a way to process and cope with their OCD symptoms.
  6. Seeking Connection: Sharing personal experiences can be a way to connect with others on a deeper level. For someone with OCD, this might be especially important if they feel isolated or misunderstood because of their condition.
  7. Lack of Awareness: In some cases, the individual might not be fully aware of social norms or might not recognize that they are oversharing.

It’s essential to approach individuals with empathy and understanding, recognizing that everyone’s experience with OCD is unique. Oversharing might be a symptom or coping mechanism for some, but not for others. If someone is sharing personal information with you, it’s crucial to respond with kindness and support, even if you set boundaries on the type of information you’re comfortable discussing.

Why is seeking reassurances a problem?

Seeking reassurance and oversharing can be interconnected in the context of OCD. When someone with OCD seeks reassurance, they might overshare personal details, fears, or intrusive thoughts in their quest to obtain the comfort or validation they’re looking for. Here’s how the two behaviors can intertwine:

  1. Detailed Narration of Obsessions: In the process of seeking reassurance, an individual might provide an exhaustive account of their obsessive thoughts or fears, even if the listener is not familiar or comfortable with such details. For instance, Wesley might describe in great detail the exact route he took, the specific sounds he heard, and the numerous times he’s felt this way in the past, all to convey the depth of his anxiety and to get a more “accurate” reassurance.
  2. Repetitive Sharing: Just as someone with OCD might repeatedly check a door or wash their hands, they might also repeatedly share the same concerns with different people, hoping to gather multiple opinions or reassurances. Wesley might tell multiple friends or coworkers about his driving fears on the same day, seeking validation from each person.
  3. Sharing Inappropriate or Intimate Details: In the quest for reassurance, the individual might share details that others might consider too personal or inappropriate for the context. For example, Wesley might share his fears with a casual acquaintance or during a work meeting, not recognizing that it’s not the right setting for such a discussion.
  4. Seeking Validation for “Taboo” Thoughts: OCD can sometimes involve intrusive thoughts that are socially taboo or distressing. In the process of seeking reassurance, an individual might share these thoughts, even if they are deeply personal or potentially shocking to the listener.
  5. Misinterpreting Social Cues: In their heightened state of anxiety and preoccupation with their obsessions, someone with OCD might not pick up on social cues that indicate the listener is uncomfortable or that they’ve shared enough. They might continue to provide more and more details, thinking it’s necessary for obtaining the reassurance they seek.

In essence, the act of oversharing can be a manifestation of the reassurance-seeking behavior. The individual might believe that by providing all the details, no matter how personal or extensive, they can obtain a more “complete” reassurance. However, this can sometimes lead to social challenges, as listeners might feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to respond.

OCD and reassurance-seeking

How is this analyzed from CBT perspective?

According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) models, particularly as they relate to OCD, there are several problems associated with reassurance-seeking and the associated behavior of oversharing:

  1. Reinforcement of Obsessive Thoughts: Reassurance-seeking can inadvertently reinforce the validity of the obsessive thoughts. Each time an individual seeks and receives reassurance, it can validate the idea that their concern was legitimate and needed addressing, even if it was irrational.
  2. Temporary Relief: While reassurance might provide temporary relief from anxiety, it doesn’t offer a long-term solution. The individual often finds themselves back in the same cycle of obsessive thoughts and reassurance-seeking, creating a repetitive and unproductive loop.
  3. Strengthening of Compulsions: The act of seeking reassurance can become a compulsion in itself. Over time, the individual might feel an increasing need to seek out reassurance more frequently or from more sources, further entrenching the behavior.
  4. Avoidance of Underlying Issues: Continually seeking reassurance can prevent the individual from confronting and addressing the underlying fears or beliefs that drive their obsessive thoughts. This avoidance can hinder progress in therapy and personal growth.
  5. Strained Relationships: Oversharing and constant reassurance-seeking can strain personal relationships. Friends, family, or colleagues might become frustrated, overwhelmed, or unsure of how to respond. This can lead to feelings of isolation for the individual with OCD.
  6. Misinterpretation of Reality: Relying heavily on external validation can distort an individual’s perception of reality. They might begin to doubt their own judgment and become overly dependent on others for confirmation.
  7. Decreased Self-Efficacy: Constantly seeking reassurance can erode an individual’s confidence in their ability to handle situations or make decisions on their own. This can lead to decreased self-efficacy, or belief in one’s ability to achieve goals or cope with challenges.

The tips

Refraining from reassurance-seeking and oversharing can be challenging, especially for individuals with OCD, but with practice and the right strategies, it’s possible to reduce these behaviors. Here are some tips:

  1. Awareness: Recognize and label the behavior. Before you can change a behavior, you need to be aware of it. When you feel the urge to seek reassurance or overshare, acknowledge the impulse.
  2. Delay the Urge: If you feel the need to seek reassurance, try to delay the action. Tell yourself you’ll wait for a specific amount of time (e.g., 10 minutes, an hour) before acting on the urge. Often, the impulse will decrease in intensity over time.
  3. Journaling: Instead of sharing your thoughts or fears with someone else, write them down in a journal. This can provide an outlet for your feelings without seeking external validation.
  4. Set Boundaries: If you’re prone to oversharing, set some personal boundaries for yourself. Before sharing, ask yourself if the information is relevant, appropriate for the context, and beneficial to the conversation.

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