Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dealing with genealogical OCD

WARNING: If you really do think you have OCD after reading this post, please seek medical help and don't blame me. It may be hard to tell from this post how much of what I say is serious and/or factual.

Do we really have to worry about Obsessive Compulsive Behavior (OCD) in our genealogical community? Why not? When I used to read Reader's Digest years ago, the Reader's Digest people had a new disease or syndrome to worry about every month. I sort-of miss that monthly worry. But I have a recent substitute, right now, if I pick up the latest version of the AARP Magazine, I am regularly assured of warnings about another dreadful disease that I will certainly become afflicted with shortly. I see a great lack of such warnings in our genealogical community, so realizing the need to create even more anxiety and worry among our rather placid population, I thought it only proper to dive into the media with yet another quasi-medical warning.

After watching every single episode of Monk, I feel that I am now an authority on OCD. But just in case I missed something, I also quickly checked the Mayo Clinic's online medical resource site. With that, I am sure I have moved from being an authority on the subject to being an expert. After all, don't we all become expert genealogists after checking out our family tree on or and watching every episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

As usual, when I read the symptoms of OCD, I am convinced that I have the disease or whatever it is. It is classified as a disorder. Since I look at the piles of genealogy stuff I have surrounding me in my home, I am sure that is what is meant by a disorder. So, on that basis alone I probably have another disorder. Although, I am not sure about a disorder that is so prevalent that everyone has it. I would think that if everyone fits into the categories defined by the OCD people, then it must be normal rather than normal. Come to think of it, since everyone is supposed to be interested in their family and ergo, family history, everyone in the general population must be genealogists and since there are billions of names and millions, upon millions of family tree things online, I assume I am addressing the general population of the earth, rather than just a few cranky old guys that do genealogy.

But back to OCD. After reading through all the admonitions and disclaimers on the Mayo site, I find the following definition:
Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms include both obsessions and compulsions.
Obsession symptoms
OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent and unwanted ideas, thoughts, images or impulses that you have involuntarily and that seem to make no sense. These obsessions typically intrude when you're trying to think of or do other things.
That just about fits every single one of us, doesn't it. Its like driving down the road, just minding your own business, thinking about the stock market or some war or another, and suddenly you pass a cemetery and come to screeching halt and jump out to look at gravemarkers. If that isn't a compulsion, I don't know what else it could be. Or more serious, you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about your seventh great-grandfather. Can that possibly be normal?

Rather than "symptoms," OCD has "themes." One of the themes is "having things orderly and symmetrical." Come now, I am not making this stuff up. You can check the website yourself. I can think of no more persistent theme of genealogy than having things orderly and symmetrical. Admit it. You have a constant worry about cleaning up that mess of papers and books stashed under the table in your work room. In know in my house, this is a persistent and almost constant topic of discussion since the piles are now blocking most of the room and overflow into a huge pile in the garage.

What could cause this other than a severe case (if you have a case) of OCD?

Doing this extensive research on the subject (after all there are eight seasons of Monk) I have no doubt that I have this disorder. I find my personal diagnosis confirmed every time I log into the FamilySearch Research Wiki and find some error or misspelled word or whatever and am compelled to correct it. Definitely OCD. This is confirmed with another symptom of OCD, performing the same action repeatedly. See what I mean?

So, what can I do about this problem or disorder or disease or whatever it is?

Well, the answer for me is simple. Give in to the compulsion and do genealogy all the time. See. Solved. No expensive therapy, no visits to some medical provider, just doing what I normally do all day and night anyway. Here is the admonition from the Mayo folks:
If your obsessions and compulsions are affecting your life, see your doctor or mental health provider. People with OCD may be ashamed and embarrassed about the condition. But even if your rituals are deeply ingrained, treatment can help.
I am embarrassed to go to my doctor and tell him about my genealogy OCD, he might think I was crazy.

1 comment:

  1. LOL, and need I compulsively remark that you could extend the orderly and symmetrical syndrome into the entire realm of rabidly working at conclusions from that always-pesky indirect evidence we seem to collect?