Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric disorder most commonly characterized by a subject’s obsessive, distressing, intrusive thoughts and related compulsions (tasks or “rituals”) which attempt to neutralize the obsessions. Thus it is an anxiety disorder.
Once you are diagnosed with A.D.D., like a good A.D.D.er, you search out more information on the disorder. Perhaps you come across a definition of O.C.D. like the one above. You stumble across definitions of other disorders like Asperger’s Syndrome or autism and you begin to remember the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie Rain Man. You fall further into the mental abyss and then you are no longer sure if you have something other than (in addition to?) A.D.D. (other than the obvious stuff that is considered comorbid like depression. [Why this term comorbid? Does that mean when I die I take both A.D.D. and depression with me?]). You begin to notice the conventional aspect of “normality” (conventional in the sense that what is normal is by convention, that is, an agreed upon (implicit/explicit?) set of standards) and that there is a permeable and stretchable barrier between “normal” and “the Syndromes.” The dividing line seems almost arbitrary. If you are a scientist and you perform your experiments over and over to make sure you have repeatable results, well, when does it go from “normal” science to O.C.D.? When you do it for the 20th time? The 21st time?
A.D.D. can, at times, come close to O.C.D. in the way that tasks turn into rituals and by doing so they keep at bay some of the chaos of daily life. It has a sort of calming effect. By going into “ritual mode” you can let your brain relax. You go into auto-pilot. A problem occurs when your ritual gets interrupted. If my post-shower ritual is interrupted…I may forget to shave. If I do things out of order (“task S must precede task D”) I may forget something (the other day I put on my dressy clothes only to realize that I forgot to shave…I did two tasks out of order…I got dressed in jeans and walked the dogs so, when I got back, I changed into dress clothes as if I had already shaved [my routine...shaving comes before dressing so if I was dressed I must have already shaved...logical...no?]).
So where, really, is the line? Can’t A.D.D. produce a sort of anxiety that only a ritual can ameliorate? Is a baseball player who walks in a zig-zag and wears his lucky underwear an obsessive compulsive because he performs the same tasks again and again in the hopes that, like the first time he walked in a zig-zag and wore his lucky underwear was when he hit a home run? Does this ritual relieve his anxiety? (And is he an A.D.D.er on steroids?)