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OCD with Numbers: The Strange World of OCD Behavior

Please note:  The information on this page should not be construed as medical advice, nor should it be used to diagnose or treat any condition. The content on this page is written by recovered OCD sufferers, not by clinicians. Read More

OCD with Numbers

Do you ever feel like you can’t stop counting? The number of steps you take, the number of items in your shopping cart, or the number of likes on your latest post is constantly on your mind? 

If so, you’re not alone. Many people suffer from OCD with numbers (also known as arithmomania). This blog post will discuss OCD with numbers and suggest tips for overcoming this disorder and living a happier life!

What is Arithmomania?

Arithmomania is a type of OCD that involves obsessing over numbers. This disorder can manifest itself in many different ways. Still, the most common examples include counting items, steps, or calories, measuring everything, and constantly checking numerals for mistakes. 

In other words, OCD sufferers feel the urge to count every time they do specific tasks throughout the day. They attach a certain meaning to particular numbers. Some numbers induce additional anxiety, while others make them feel calm. 

Most common types of counting OCD

As already noted, some of the typical examples of arithmomania include repetitive mental counting, item counting, and waiting for a particular time for performing specific tasks. 

Often those counting rituals tend to be time-consuming and exhausting. Still, in the end, the person who conducts them feels safe and less anxious, but not for long.

However, each individual with this disorder may experience it differently. Some people may only count to a certain number, while others may have to recount everything multiple times. Others may become so obsessed with numbers that they can’t focus on anything else.

Why do some OCD sufferers count to feel better?

It can provide a sense of control and calm, at least for a while. Counting can help to focus the mind and block out intrusive thoughts. It can also give a sense of order and routine to an otherwise chaotic life.

Counting can sometimes give an individual a feeling of satisfaction or accomplishment. It is well-known that most people with OCD are bombarded with scary thoughts of upcoming disasters often associated with themselves or their close ones. 

What triggers counting compulsions?

There is no one answer to this question since every person’s case of OCD is unique. However, some of the most common triggers are intrusive thoughts, stress, being in a new environment, or encountering a specific number. 

Furthermore, sometimes there is no particular reason for the urge to count. It simply happens automatically. The counting can trigger the fear of what will happen if the person stops counting. 

OCD suffers count to lower the anxiety experienced. For example, a young girl with OCD might feel the need to count to 20 every time she brushes her teeth so that nothing terrible will happen to her mom or dad.

Treatment for counting OCD

Several treatments are effective for counting OCD. These treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure and response prevention (ERP), acceptance and commitment therapy, and medication.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that helps you change the way you think about and act on your thoughts and feelings.

Exposure and response prevention is a type of therapy that helps you face your fears and resist the urge to do your compulsions.

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a type of therapy that helps you accept your thoughts and feelings and commit to changing the behaviors that are causing you distress.

These therapy forms are very effective for many different types of OCD, including counting OCD. To be successful, you must practice these techniques regularly outside of therapy sessions until they become automatic habits.

Helpful tips for overcoming OCD counting 

Some helpful tips to help you manage your OCD with counting.

-Start by acknowledging that your counting is OCD and not reality. This means that you are aware that your thoughts and compulsions are not real but are products of OCD.

-Challenge your thoughts by asking yourself whether the numbers you are counting have any meaning. If they don’t, there should be no reason to worry about them.

-Practice mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises to help you focus on the present moment and calm your mind.

-Create a plan to slowly reduce the amount of time you spend counting. If you are currently spending an hour counting, try cutting it down to 45 minutes, then 30 minutes, and so on.

-Distract yourself. If you can’t resist the compulsion to count, try distracting yourself with another activity instead. Such activity can be anything from listening to music to reading a book.

-Talk to someone. OCD can be very isolating, but it is essential to remember that you are not alone. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about what you are going through. You can also join a support group for people with OCD. You are welcome to join our OCD community here. We talk about everything related to OCD and offer support to one another.

-Stay healthy by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. These things will help you stay strong both mentally and physically.

-Seek professional help. If you find that your counting is causing significant distress or disrupting your daily life, it is essential to seek professional help. Remember that recovery is possible. With time and patience, you can overcome your OCD.

A final word on OCD with numbers

If you are struggling with OCD, know that you are not alone. Several treatments can help you manage your symptoms. With time and patience, you can overcome this distressing disorder. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about this article. Please join the discussion below!

Notable Replies

  1. I find that counting sometimes helps me keep calm in stressful situations. I do it to get focused, too, but that is rarer. I haven’t felt that activity as a burden yet, though.

  2. I find it relaxing, too, but obviously, we don’t have the real problem individuals with that type of OCD have. I know a friend of mine I met during a support group meeting who needs to count things every few minutes in order not to go crazy.

  3. I wonder what would typically help people with such a severe type of OCD? Do they take pills every day or do some sort of therapy? It should be so difficult to survive if you have a similar problem.

  4. It can be therapy or medication, or even both. There are also other advanced methods for dealing with severe OCD nowadays that involve surgery as well. I am not aware of how successful it is, but as with any further similar intervention, it has its risks too.

  5. I was reading an article about some electro-stimulating methods that seemed adequate for some people. However, it should be a nightmare to undergo surgery to heal from OCD or other mental problems. I feel for those people.

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