OCD – My Glasses & Me

It is very easy to think of mental illness as being “something that happens to other people” but, in the same way that the health of our bodies fluctuates and changes during the course of our everyday life, so, too, I believe does the health of our minds.  In this post, I’m sharing my own mental health struggle which centres around Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD.

OCD - woman with thoughts drawn as squiggles surrounding her head

This, in itself, is the very reason why mental illness should not be stigmatised and the reason why we should discuss it.  For example, most people suffer from anxiety of sorts. It’s just that it is on a spectrum, rising and falling along with the events of our daily life.

My own problem falls within, I believe, the area of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.  I cannot bear people touching my glasses.  I know exactly what triggered this obsession.  A very unpleasant break-up, combined with a miserable job situation led me to focus on making everything all right by having the nose pads of my glasses ‘just so’.  The fact that I can logically assess what started it, however, is no help whatsoever in dealing with it.

I went from compulsively checking the fit of my glasses to putting them on the tops of wardrobes in hotel rooms so that housekeeping staff would not accidentally touch them, thereby altering the fit.

If relatives were visiting, I would make sure I had contact lenses in so that there was no chance of my glasses being knocked when they hugged and kissed me hello.  If I went anywhere in a car, the glasses would have to travel in their special case in the glove pocket and the case had to be carried quite separately from my luggage so that they would not be knocked about in transit.

Today I have 4 or 5 pairs of glasses which sit on top of a chest of drawers, not in their cases because I cannot bear to fold the arms in case it alters the fit of the glasses.  I rotate the various pairs throughout the day.

I’m a lot better than I used to be.  Having kids has helped me enormously. You can’t be cross with a child who knocks your glasses when giving you a loving hug and kiss, can you? But the first few times it happened I used to feel shaky and even a bit sick.

The husband is resigned to this and is understanding – up to a point.  My obsessions also extend to quite a bit of health-related anxiety, extending to my teeth, jaw, back, ears and any other bit which doesn’t seem to be functioning quite right!

OCD - my glasses

I tell you this because I want you to understand that it is OK to be like this.  This is what happens to humans when they are under stress and need love and understanding.

Something interesting happened, however, when I asked my blogging friends to share the strange rituals and habits that they live with on a daily basis – so that I could share them with you and help you to feel better if you are like me.

Some reacted with quite a lot of anger.  They objected to my using the word “quirk” to describe these behaviours.  They wanted to make quite sure I was not going to encourage the use of the term OCD as an adjective (for example saying “oh that’s so OCD” to describe somebody fussing) because it is unfair and disrespectful to those suffering from conditions like this.

Fair point, however, we have to talk about mental illness so we can understand mental health.  We have to hold these conditions up to the clear light of day to educate and inform and to teach our family and friends to help us make our lives as rich and fruitful as possible.  Make no mistake,  they suffer along with us and they need coping strategies too.

And if we don’t talk about things like OCD, how will we ever find the right words, the kind words to help people to deal with it?  Nobody would expect a cancer sufferer to keep their feelings to themselves and not discuss their cancer diagnosis, would they?  Our hospitals are not full of people stoically keeping their symptoms to themselves. Talking can be part of the cure – for the sufferer and their family.

What was incredibly reassuring to me was the number of bloggers who were kind enough to share their behaviours and I list some of them below so that you can see just how common it is to deal with anxiety by adopting certain rituals.

Gemma:  “I have to walk on the left side of people otherwise I feel very uncomfortable, it’s even caused me to have panic attacks in the past.”

Jadine:  “I can’t leave the house without checking the door is closed/locked twice and the lights are off without going around the place twice.”

Gillian:  “I can’t have people touch the insides of my tomatoes. Like in restaurants etc. Whole tomatoes are fine but if they touch the seeds, even with their gloves, I can’t eat it.”

Jade:  “Everything has to be in its place and I know if someone has moved something also on days out I have to plan it right down to times I have anxiety attacks if we are not in the schedule that I have it drives me mad that I’m like this but I can’t change it.”

Sarah Louise:   “My partner has bad OCD. He has to make sure every door, window etc is shut before we go out and he will stare at it talking to himself before he moves on to the next door or window. He takes absolutely ages to lock up but won’t let anyone else do it. He will physically hurt his hands and fingers locking a door as he said he has to ‘feel it locked when it can’t turn anymore’ until he can rest. He will stand turning a key in the door for ages and if you talk to him while he’s locking up he has to do it all over again.

I have a lot of things. I don’t like odd numbers. I won’t let anyone else change my daughters nappy. It has to be a certain way right in the middle ( The fasten part from the side…its hard to explain). Matching socks. Things have to be central else I can’t rest. My daughter’s cot canopy has to have no creases or bumps in it. Clothes are to be hung on the line a certain way and folded a certain way. Whoo, could go on forever.”

Natasha:  “Mad 5 pieces of loo roll for me, wash hands 3 times. But it’s mostly 5 times on most things.”

Elyse:  “I have to use the same numbers. Like my alarm is set for 08:08. If you head to my blog and blog page Sweet Elyse Blog I have to schedule them in for 13:13, 16:16 or 14:14 (at a push) and I can’t attend appointments unless I have at least 7 days notice. That’s just the start, I can live with these things and my friends and family have got used to my ”quirks”.”

Charlotte:  “this is so random but I can’t sleep in a room without opening to check every cupboard and wardrobe twice, I have no idea what I am checking for but if I haven’t opened, checked and closed the doors twice I just lie awake until I finally do! ”

Charlie:  “I have lots. I eat a slice of bread from the bottom (the base of the loaf ) to the top. I can’t bear uneven numbers when doing a workout, if something isn’t balanced, I’ll do more. I can’t bear marks on a table in a restaurant or crumbs if I’ve made the mess and will tidy it up. I always put shoes and socks etc on right foot first. Same if I’m shaving my legs”

Nikki:  “I eat all my food separately so if I have chicken peas and potatoes on my plate I eat the peas first then the chicken and finally the potatoes. I won’t put ketchup on my plate until the food I need it for is about to be eaten.”

Leslie:  “My thing is straight lines. Two objects next to each other must be parallel or I am not happy. Posters or photo frames on the wall must be straight or I will move them – regardless of where I am. All of my furniture has to be parallel with my living room rug for me to be able to relax (or at a 45 degree diagonal). I also have to wash my hands hundreds of times a day after touching things. Even if I have just washed them. Oh and I absolutely refuse to touch public toilet door handles… I’ve been known to wait by the door for 20 minutes or more for someone to open it for me when they come in.”

Tina:  “I have to bleach my toilet three times a day, my rug has to line up with the sofa and the fire.”.

As you can see, there is a myriad of ways in which our stress and anxiety can express itself through odd behaviours.  Nobody could deny the misery of suffering from OCD at a level where it is interfering with everyday life but equally, I think it helps to acknowledge those of us at the lower end of the spectrum may be suffering too.

I think I have just about got my ‘glasses thing’ under control but I know I’m stressed because I start to slip into my old ways – checking that the nose pads sit equally on my nose, for example.  Even my optician is used to my “glasses thing” and he tells me that he has other clients whose anxiety manifests itself in the fit of their glasses too!

So what exactly is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?  Much helpful information can be found on the website of OCD-UK and on the NHS‘s own website.

Current estimates for the UK population are that there are potentially around 741,504 people living with OCD at any one time. A disproportionately high number, 50% of all these cases, will fall into the severe category, with less than a quarter being classed as mild cases.

OCD presents itself in many guises. It is not just hand washing or checking light switches. OCD sufferers may experience obsessions “which take the form of persistent and uncontrollable thoughts, images, impulses, worries, fears or doubts.

These thoughts are often intrusive, unwanted, disturbing, significantly interfere with the ability to function on a day-to-day basis as they are incredibly difficult to ignore. People with OCD often realise that their obsessional thoughts are irrational, but they believe the only way to relieve the anxiety caused by them is to perform compulsive behaviours, often to prevent perceived harm happening to themselves or, more often than not, to a loved one.

Compulsions are repetitive physical behaviours and actions or mental thought rituals that are performed over and over again in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessional thoughts. Avoidance of places or situations to prevent triggering these obsessive thoughts is also considered to be a compulsion. But unfortunately, any relief that the compulsive behaviours provide is only temporary and short-lived, and often reinforces the original obsession, creating a gradual worsening cycle of the OCD.” [source:  OCD-UK].

If you are suspect you are suffering from OCD or any other mental health-related issue, please talk to your GP or visit the charity OCD-UK who have plenty of information about OCD and related disorders. Alternatively, there is the website of The Mental Health Foundation who are the organisers of Mental Health Awareness Week at www.mentalhealth.org.uk.

If all this feels like too much, a starting point may be an honest chat with a trusted friend or family member.

And it doesn’t matter which words you use to describe your anxieties.  Actions always speak louder than words, I find and being kind to yourself by seeking help is the first crucial step.

An update:  since I wrote this post nothing much has changed, except that dealing with my compulsion is part of my daily life and I have learned to accept it for what it is – as have my family.  I am able, however, to recognise that some days are worse than others and having experienced OCD for a long time (however mildly), I know that things will get back on an even keel.

What is more challenging, however, is to work out what triggers it and to put strategies in place to prevent that.  The Husband says that everything goes in cycles with me and we have worked out that holiday periods are definite triggers.  Knowing your triggers really helps.

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  1. Barry
    6 October, 2021 / 1:27 pm

    Thank you for this post, I suffer with exactly the same problem and do almost all the things you have referenced such as not putting them in their case, constantly checking the fit etc. My obsession with checking the fit and more specifically how straight the glasses are on my face, started when I was ten years old, it’s only been in recent years have I understood this is OCD related. This has mainly originated from me having one ear lower than the other, so naturally the glasses sit on a slant when resting on both ears. I now sit the glasses slightly off my ears to combat this as several opticians cannot adjust the frame enough for them to naturally sit level.

    Changing my prescription and having a new frame is also quite an ordeal. This was compounded as on a few occasions when I had new frames issued by the optician they had been scratched, sending my OCD into a sort of overdrive that means I cannot, like yourself, bare to have anyone touch them or anyone go near my face.

    I find this very hard to overcome and control, some days are better than others and today which has marked me researching the problem further, I would put down as “bad glasses day” which is actually what I call it too. Luckily my wife is very understanding, I know it must frustrate her a lot. I appreciate your post as sometimes I think this is just something only I do, perhaps there is just something wrong with me only. Although the problem can be overbearing at times it is comforting, although perhaps that’s not the right term, to know others have the same compulsions, I just hope in time we can all overcome them. Thanks again.

    • linda
      6 October, 2021 / 1:35 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story Barry and it’s great to know I am not alone. Actually my optician (who knows all about it) has another patient who struggles as much as I do and will not allow him to touch his glasses at all – which makes fitting and eye checks tricky! I am resigned to the fact that dealing with this is expensive and I currently rotate 4 different frames at different times of the day. The best ones I have found are Silhouette Titanium rimless ones – not cheap but the arms flex so you can’t accidentally alter the fit and the nosepads are static too. That said, I find plastic frames more comfy and again use Silhouette frames as they are made from their own hypoallergencic material called SPX. Believe me I absolutely do understand. My husband is used to it now. The most important thing is, I think, to ‘own’ the problem and just be upfront with people. I say “I have a thing about people touching my glasses – weird but it’s just something I live with”. You’ll be surprised how many people have their own ‘thing’ too.

  2. John
    16 June, 2021 / 8:41 am

    Hi, I just discovered this post. I identify so much with you! I had though I was alone in my battle with my spectacles. I get it adjusted with the optician very so often and I obsess over how it feels on my face. And holidays are my trigger too!

    • linda
      16 June, 2021 / 2:20 pm

      Glad it’s not just me. I have both plastic and metal frames but wear Silhouette who use an anti allergy material called SPX. Are your frames metal or plastic? Has the optician changed the nose pads for non silicone ones? Or bigger pads?

      • John
        17 June, 2021 / 2:59 am

        Hey. I wear braun buffel spectacles – metal with silicon (I think) nose pads. Lately, I started to remind myself that:
        1. My spectacles are not going to fall off, relax!
        2. It isn’t so much about the spectacles type / alignment / adjustment – I just have to accept it
        I am hoping it works out. It was helpful to read your post and to remind myself that this compulsion is part of who I am + try to manage it.

        Some additional information (just because it is therapeutic to share this with someone who identifies with this struggle):
        – It has been 10-12 years since I first noticed this compulsion
        – I am able to wriggle my ears and I attribute this to years of tensing up my face and being hyper conscious of how my spectacles feels on my face
        – I need my spectacles to be tight enough for me to feel it secure on my face YET loose enough that it doesn’t tense up my facial muscles – this sometimes leads to excessive adjustments at the optical shop (I had visited them thrice in two weeks in June 2021)
        – My latest adjustment by the optician (2-3 days ago) was too loose. I decided to adjust it myself, make it a little tighter. I continue to tense my face and notice the micro movements BUT I have decided to accept these sensations as part and parcel of my everyday life. I am hoping it gets better for me!

        Thanks for reading this lengthy rant! Hope things have been fine for you?

  3. Marilyn Shelton
    25 May, 2021 / 8:51 pm

    The only thing worse than having OCD is having OCD AND myopia and obsessing over it. I have a phobia about wearing my glasses and talking on the phone and seeing out the shiny rims of my lenses, which causes squint glare. Sometimes I can’t even talk when this happens. Trying exposure therapy.

  4. Monique
    26 December, 2020 / 10:09 am

    I appreciate how brave you are for sharing this and telling people it’s okay. I don’t know everything about OCD but I know the effects it can do to. Thank you so much for sharing this. Really insightful!

  5. 14 May, 2018 / 3:34 pm

    Mental Health Week is important for raising awareness and really nice to hear some personal experiences being shared. Very relatable for a lot of people!

  6. 14 May, 2018 / 12:38 pm

    Thank you for writing this, you’ve given me much more awareness of OCD. If I’m honest I’ve never really thought of it being a mental health issue, but of course it is. I can’t imagine how dicciult it must be to manage at times. Mich x

  7. 14 May, 2018 / 12:24 pm

    Many of us have our own quirks which seem perfectly nor to us until someone pass comment. It is then for me when the anxiety starts

  8. Mrs Tubbs
    12 May, 2015 / 9:24 pm

    I didn't know about Mental Health Week, but what a brilliant idea to raise awareness

    • Linda Hobbis
      13 May, 2015 / 9:05 am

      This is the first year I've really been aware of Mental Health Week too. Let's hope it goes from strength to strength. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Beth @ BethinaBox.com
    12 May, 2015 / 7:52 pm

    I saw the uproar over your sourcing for this post… The trouble is, society has been so use to using a name of a mental illness as an adjective that people automatically assume.

    I won't sit with my back to a door or other people because it makes me panic. I live with mental illness and would never make light of it…

    Great post lovely!

    • Linda Hobbis
      13 May, 2015 / 9:05 am

      Thanks Beth. I was a bit taken aback to be honest but I completely understand why some of the bloggers feel the way they do. But it's so hard for others to understand, it's quite difficult to explain without sounding glib. Another member of our family has OCD and it's hard to explain even within our own family.

  10. Leanne Cornelius
    12 May, 2015 / 6:21 pm

    Great honest post. Sorry to hear that you have this problem but I am glad to hear that you are dealing with it well.
    I don't think there is any problem with referring to OCD as a quirk and talking about it, posts like yours may help other people who are suffering in silence realise that they are not alone.

    • Linda Hobbis
      13 May, 2015 / 9:03 am

      Thanks Leanne. If nobody talks about a problem like OCD, then there is no language to adequately describe it. I must confess I hadn't realised how emotive a word like "quirk" could be but I didn't want to be rude! x

  11. 12 May, 2015 / 5:13 pm

    I used to be a psychiatric nurse and once worked with a lady who had an obsessive/compulsive disorder about washing her hands. I worked with her on a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy programme. OCD can cause misery for the sufferers. Well done in coming out about your disorder Linda.

    • Linda Hobbis
      13 May, 2015 / 9:01 am

      Thanks Mel. It's very strange doing something that you know is totally illogical whilst being unable to stop it. I have had some counselling which drew a bit on CBT but it is something I'd like to try.

  12. Emma Bee
    12 May, 2015 / 5:03 pm

    Thank you for you great post, my daughter suffers with terrible OCD, she cleans her glasses repeatedly, washer her hands constantly, splashes her face and is terrified something will happen to me if she ignores her ticks and she has quite a few,it has overtaken her / our lives, because not only does it affect her but the whole family, people really do not know the extent of this terrible condition. and annoys me when people make light of it, 'oohh i like to wear these earing all the time becausethey are my favourite, i am a bit OCD like that' aarrggh, well try and live in my daughters brain for just one hour and tell me then. she also has Aspergers, CVS and CFS. Mental health needs addressing, we have been waiting about 2 years now to see a specialist, finally got an appointemtn for October 🙂

    • Linda Hobbis
      13 May, 2015 / 8:59 am

      I'm really sorry to hear about your daughter. It must be really tough for all of you and I hope the appointment goes well in October. I have found with the NHS that the more fuss you make, the faster things happen. I found that, when my"glasses thing" is at its worst it helped if I could say "I'm just having a bad glasses day" – acknowledge my behaviour but try to get myself to compartmentalise the experience to a short period of time. I think it's the fear that this will go on for ever and there will never be any let up that is one of the hardest things to cope with. I also developed a ritual to deal with the rituals – so if I obsess over the nose pads, I make myself shut the glasses case firmly as a signal that I need to stop now and move on. Strangely this helps because in some way I am still in control – and that is really at the heart of OCD I think x

  13. 12 May, 2015 / 11:17 am

    I never knew Mental health awareness week existed until i saw bloggers writing about it. It's good to see it's now getting recognised more.

    • Linda Hobbis
      13 May, 2015 / 8:55 am

      I agree. There must be so many people suffering in silence.

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