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OCD about racism making me really unhappy

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OCD about racism making me really unhappy

Postby throwaway5487 » Thu Feb 27, 2020 1:54 am

Just some background - I am an 18-year old white male, freshman in college. I've had obsessions about racism and the idea that I could be racist in the past, which I mostly dealt with using CBT and an improved understanding of racism (everyone is racist because everyone has implicit bias, accept that you have bias and try not to act on it, treat your biased thoughts the same as you would intrusive thoughts).

The girl I'm dating right now is Black, and I feel myself obsessing again. I think I'm generally slow to warming up to people, which she picked up on kind of early into dating noticing that I was a little shy at first. I think it took me the first semester of this year of college to really feel myself around my peers and settle in, so I know that this is definitely true - I just require some comfortable time around people to come out of my shell. Since she pointed it out, the idea has since entered my head that maybe I'm specifically uncomfortable around her because she's Black, and that that's why I'm acting shy/awkward/not myself. Now I'm really worried about acting weird or off or just generally not myself when I'm around her, and it's started to feed into itself to create obsessions.

There is likely some small truth to this fear - all white people in the U.S. are taught negative things about people of color (especially Black people) virtually from birth. But OCD has sort of latched onto this and makes me think about it constantly whenever we're together. I'm always thinking about whether or not I'm acting weird or awkward around her, and that in turn makes me anxious, which actually DOES make me weird and awkward around her because my thoughts are making me so uncomfortable and upset.

It's gotten really bad and I kind of hate myself for it. I am sure that I like her a bunch, she's really kind and funny and smart and I had been talking to her casually for a couple months before we started going on dates this month. The first date we went on, before I started having these obsessions, was super fun and made me really happy. But I obsess about this constantly and it's started to make me miserable. Whenever we plan a date, I get really nervous leading up to it, borderline dreading the occasion because I'm so afraid of how I'll act. In turn, I then obsess that maybe I'm actually just nervous to go on dates with her because Black people make me uncomfortable. I go back and forth all day visualizing myself interacting with her in my head to try and understand the anxiety, which just makes me even more anxious. That anxiety makes me think even more that my discomfort is not due to OCD.

She picks up on me being uncomfortable or kind of tense/stiff, and will ask me if everything is ok. I'm really upset because she probably just thinks that I don't like her, or that her Blackness makes me uncomfortable. I hate that thinking about her makes me uncomfortable instead of happy. I really hate that this actually is preventing me from opening up and acting like my normal self around her because she's an awesome person. I hate that this is functionally the same as me being uncomfortable around her because she's Black. Please, please somebody give me advice on how to approach this from a CBT/exposure lens. I really don't want to talk to her about this because it's a dumb weird problem that should not at all be her responsibility. I feel myself wanting reassurance but know from experience that it'll only hurt me in the long run. What can I do to work on this? How do I get better?
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Re: OCD about racism making me really unhappy

Postby throwaway5487 » Thu Feb 27, 2020 4:45 am

Fr please someone help tho, we're going on a date in like 2 days and any CBT/ERP strategies would be appreciated
Last edited by throwaway5487 on Thu Feb 27, 2020 5:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: OCD about racism making me really unhappy

Postby throwaway5487 » Thu Feb 27, 2020 5:07 am

Oops, bump
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Re: OCD about racism making me really unhappy

Postby throwaway5487 » Thu Feb 27, 2020 8:26 pm

I've thought about this and now I'm wondering if it's actually really just a symptom of ROCD - a lot of the qualifiers for it seem to match
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Re: OCD about racism making me really unhappy

Postby Snaga » Mon Mar 02, 2020 3:24 am

Hey there!

Just a reminder for folks to give posts time to be responded to, and refrain from bumping, thanks.

As for this...

This is... another example of what becomes increasingly hard for me, as a moderator, to deal with because it's hard to not get political- which we have rules against. Things which I think your OCD is having a feeding frenzy with. I think this is only going to get harder as time marches forward.

If your girlfriend thought you were racist, she wouldn't be with you. If you were, you wouldn't be with her. I think you're right that this is a form of ROCD- our brains will find a way to glom onto anything in order to make our lives miserable.
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Re: OCD about racism making me really unhappy

Postby Bert the Turtle » Sat Mar 07, 2020 1:42 am

Hello, I used to have some occasional racism-OCD when I was in my early twenties, although it was never a dominant theme. It's been a long time since I reviewed the rules, but hopefully talking about my own experience in an oblique and respectful way is alright.

What helped me was graduating, reading a wider variety of political viewpoints by POC journalists, and deciding that some of the things I had been taught were … not entirely accurate, or at least very unhelpful in real world contexts. In particular, viewing myself as uniquely socially primed to discriminate, as it turns out, was encouraging me to fixate on whether I was being perceived as racist in pretty much every social interaction I had with a black person.

I'm not saying you need to become more conservative, but rather take a step back and ask yourself; if the bias paradigm causes you to worry about race in every interaction you have with your girlfriend, is it really making you a better anti-racist? If not, is it doing anyone good?

I found success in training myself to think reflexively in old-fashioned ethical terms like 'fairness' 'courage' 'justice' without appealing to 'bias' 'problematic' 'institutional' etc., and have felt since that personal interactions call for personal virtues. Whether you try something like that is entirely up to you, and you needn't advertise it if you're worried about being perceived as trying to be color-blind.

Either way, I would strongly urge you against ever asking your girlfriend for reassurance, for all the reasons you already know; I imagine it would be very off-putting, and like all reassurance seeking it's likely to rapidly become a habit. Best of luck!
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Re: OCD about racism making me really unhappy

Postby Snaga » Mon Mar 23, 2020 2:43 pm

I try to accept people as individuals, not collectives. And go from there, and try to police myself against making blanket assumptions. The words of ML King have been turned on their heads- the very last thing the people who insist everything is racist, seem to have forgotten about judging people by the content of their character. From what I know of what passes for higher learning these days, I'm not at all surprised you worry over this- in fact I'm surprised there's not more people in these forums, OCD'ing about it.

If you let this gnaw at you, it'll continue to make you miserable and I'm sure, not act natural, because you will be second-guessing everything you do and say- that's no way to live! I know it's hard, but just try to be yourself- it was yourself, after all, that she found attractive, no? And your actions (finding girls outside your race attractive) speak louder than anything your brain is trying to hoodwink you into thinking about yourself.
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