Compulsions

Many people on the autistic and neurodiversity spectrum have various forms of compulsions. Some are real disorders and cause significant problems in daily life.

Much more common is to just be a perfectionist/systemising personality type and be generally anal retentive with obsessive-compulsive tendencies without experiencing any emotional anxiety – only intense satisfaction when things come out ‘just so’, and perhaps some slight physical discomfort or mental dissatisfaction when they don’t.

“Last week found something about the differences between real obsession from aparent obsessions, which is of the people who do a lot certain stuff. Obsessive is when someone cannot stop doing something even if that something doesn’t give them anything in return, like pleasure, knowledge, fulfillment, like, when you cannot stop doing something which in fact you would like to stop doing. You simply cannot stop doing it, in spite of all the problems it can cause you. When someone does something and it is because it is either pleasurable, or interesting, etc, then that person does not have obsessive behavior.”

Marilia, Aspie from Brazil

Many of us have very intense & compelling special interests, love rituals, need routines, appreciate order over chaos & randomness or have a very keen sense of harmony, symmetry & proportions. We love our obsessions & compulsions and often find them very useful and enjoyable.

Having things in order can be welcome relief to a supersensitive or systemising person who easily gets physically or mentally overwhelmed by disorder and clutter. The sorting and arranging in itself can be very pleasurable and fulfilling.

I usually feel it in my body if items and people in a room aren’t positioned harmoniously relative to each other. Because of this gift, I am really good at things like interior design.

One obsession I have is peeling off, or painting over, the labels on everything I bring into my house (food I pour into neutral containers). This is because I get very disturbed by text being on anything but books and computer screen, intensely dislike logos of any kind and don’t want to pollute my brain with any more brand names and logos if I can avoid it. I’m very happy with these compulsions since they help me keep my home environment clean, harmonious & orderly.

I’m also perfectionist about most things I do. Sure, that makes everything take a looong time to finish (and I still often find things I want to change after I’m finished) but at least I know I’ve put a lot of concentrated effort into making everything as perfect as humanly possible for me at any one time.

My biggest challenge is to keep myself from correcting, perfecting, sorting, aligning things that are not my own, unless specifically asked or hired to do so. Just like Monk, ‘the defective detective’, I’m always itching to. Watching Monk, I get many a good laugh at myself. 🙂

Ing, site-author

“My CDs, records and books all have to be in alphabetical order, books in alphabetical order by author, and no one better touch them or I get really upset. /…/ I have a hard time cleaning, because I get obsessed with one area and don’t get anything else done.  Example I could spend 3 days cleaning my kitchen, organizing everything, emptying drawers and wiping them out, scrubbing the floors, until they shine, and the rest of the house goes to hell.  I hired a cleaning lady, who cleans but doesn’t move stuff to get the mundane things done, so I don’t get overwhelmed by them.”

Beth, adult Aspie from USA

“Obsessive compulsive disorder is one of my favorite aspects about aspergers syndrome. Because usually along with OCD comes obsessive compulsive interests. My OCD interests are video games, the internet and comic books. People who are obsessive compulsive are usually perfectionists in everything they do and are never pleased with the end results. Even i have had many times where i have not been pleased with the end results of my video games and yet i trudge on because it takes so long to get through them and to start from scratch would be futile.

“Whenever i read a comic book series i feel that i have to read them ‘in order’ whereas i have to have every single comic book that will complete the series in order to be able to read them all in order. I also tend to worry about other things in life like: are all the lights off? are the doors locked? things like that. So i’m very much the kind of person who worries about every little thing and tries to be perfect at everything. I love my obsessive compulsive disorder aspect because i really see it more as a ‘down time’ than as a disability.

“Because even when it comes to work in general i try to get the papers to come out just right, even in school. So it’s really quite the advantage to have, so if you’re not obsessive compulsive or don’t have OCD interests start to pursue some right away. Because who knows you might be hiding some hobbies that you never knew about, or even more you might be hiding a career. And that’s my take on OCD and OCD interests.”

Gregory, young adult Aspie from USA

“For some reason, I have this whole kitchen pattern feeling of where things ought to go.  I have to watch myself not having a meltdown on my husband if he tries to put things in places that don’t fit my overall pattern.  I have the same feeling about which way the bed has to face each time we have moved to a new house.  It has nothing to do with North, south, etc.  It is a feeling of the house and room.”

Kathy J, adult Aspie

“Sometimes when I’m home and after a while I start to feel kind of strange, without knowing why. I start to look around and all times it is about something that was placed somewhere else than where I left it or something small like that. I put it back in its place and than I feel fine again.”

Lida, Aspie from the Netherlands

“If I don’t do anything by the computer but sit at the living room table about to eat. Then I have to really make sure the carpet is parallel to walls and that the table is symmetrical against the carpet etc.

“Sometimes I have a habit of adjusting pencils, pads, cell phone and other stuff that happens to be lying on the table according to the Golden Mean and in harmony with other items, parallel the also have to be.”

JOR, male Aspie from Sweden

“I love symmetry, in all forms. Mom used to laugh at me once because I completely colour coordinated my clothes and accessories (now I sound like a fashion freak, but by accessories I mean the necklaces, earrings etc. I bothered to wear some days).”

“It feels good when I’m allowed to adjust containers and stuff in stores. If I see a pack of chewing gum wrongly positioned, or if the stacks are uneven I very much want to fix it.”

Ohana, female Aspie from Sweden

“Symmetry is, IMO, in most cases boring, sterile and lacking in charm. I’m the same with pictures on the wall, they can’t hang at the same hight or in line. However, they must hang straight and I guess that’s my habit, I can’t see a picture that hangs unevenly. I just haaaaave to adjust and don’t know how many shop assistants have given me a weird look when I’ve pointed out that a picture, poster or something hangs unevenly, and in a friendly way pointed out that they should correct it.”

‘Kaks’, female ADHD/Aspie from Sweden

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2 Comments »

  1. Liz said,

    If I go out to a sit-down restaurant with friends or family I have to stack all the finished plates and put all the used silverware on the top plate. I can’t stand to have a plate I’m finished with in front of me, not even for a minute. I also can’t leave the table a mess, if I spill something when I am eating I will stop everything and immediately clean up the spill before I can go back to eating. I always ask for extra napkins because of this.

  2. I agree with many of these. Whenever my family moved, I had to have me bed placed the same way, but it only ever felt that way to me. My dad pointed out that the place I put my bed was never actually the same in relation to, well, anything, but to me it was just the place that felt right. In addition, I can’t stand rows of anything, not even in stores. I mostly force myself to ignore it but sometimes I can’t. It feels…Dizzying, i guess is the right word


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