The diagnostic criteria of Obsessions and Compulsions leaves a lot of OCD symptoms unaccounted for. And while each person’s experience with OCD and symptom make up varies, many experience what I termed, “Scenarioizing.”

Scenarioizing is the propensity to become lost in a daydream of negative events playing out, always with a dire outcome. It usually start with some type of trigger, but it could be on any topic.

“Did my tire look low before I got in the car?  I’m not sure. What if I am driving down the road, the tire blows, the car swerves onto the sidewalk and I run over children at the bus stop. I’ll go to prison…. Or what if I am cleared because it was an accident. Then I have to live in this neighborhood, and people will hate me. I’ll lose all the friends I know in the area. The parents of the children that died will commit suicide. I will feel responsible for the children that didn’t die, but were crippled. I should pay for them to go to college, but what if there are like five of them, I’d never be able to afford that. I’d have to get another job, but I can’t do anything else. I hate the job I have. I wouldn’t be able to take it. I wouldn’t be able to handle all of that! I can’t take this anymore….”

Scenarioizing is all consuming, and trigger physical reactions as if all of the things we are imagining are really taking place. The distress this OCD symptom causes is very real, even though the thought scenario is completely contrived. While your psychologist or psychiatrist might put this OCD symptom in the category of Obsessions, I believe it is different from how obsessions typically appear.

Obsessions are typically topical in nature, meaning they are recurring thoughts about something bothersome to that person, such as germs, becoming ill, or contamination. These obsessions will repeat, often taking similar forms. Alternatively, Scenarioizing is ‘off-topic’ from the person’s typical obsessions, just as often as they are on the typical topics.

Scenarioizing also does not fit the category of Intrusive Thoughts, which are usually brief and fleeting, even if they are frequent and chronic. Scenarioizing episodes last longer than Intrusive Thoughts and involve mental participation where we are involved to some degree with the direction of the thoughts, which is not the case with Intrusive Thoughts.

At best, Scenarioizing would be most similar to a combination of obsessing/ruminating/intrusive thought. As far as OCD goes, Scenarioizing absolutely draws on the tendency in OCD to over-analyze and think far too deeply about anything and everything –a tendency to dwell, or better yet, intensely fixate.

Intervention:  First, neurotransmitter deficiency is a large portion of the cause of this, and any OCD symptom, leading to improper neuronal communication. Thus, a medication is needed to correct the deficiency. Second, a Cognitive-Behavioral intervention is appropriate. A person needs to: 1. Recognize they are scenarioizing; 2. Shift their thoughts forcefully with any type of activity that takes the person’s attention, such as doing a puzzle, playing a video game, etc. This allows for the scenario episode to fade.

Thanks for reading, and live happy!