Creativity in the Time of OCD

Hello there! For those uninitiated in psych jargon, OCD expands to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. People with OCD tend to have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). Before I say anything further, let me tell you that OCD is a disorder which needs to be taken seriously. It can afflict almost anybody since its causes are virtually unknown and it requires treatment, by way of medicines, counselling, relaxation techniques, etc. Anybody with OCD is genuinely suffering and deserves our compassion and understanding. If you are one of them, know this that you are not alone.

In pop culture, OCD is what you would say Sheldon (The Big Bang Theory) has, with his need to knock on his friends’ doors thrice every time, or what Monica (Friends) has, with the anxiety she feels anytime anyone changes the position of the furniture in her house, or – if you’re a Agatha Christie fan – what Hercule Poirot has, considering his need to straighten a tilted hairbrush every time he sees one. These days it has become cool to say – Oh, I’m such a cleanliness freak, I have OCD! Well folks, if it’s bringing you pride and joy, then it ain’t a disorder. Keeping your surroundings neat and clean is a good habit. It is not and ought not to be considered a disorder. People diagnosed with OCD find their quality of life greatly impaired and would happily be rid of it in an instant if they could. Anyway I digress.

I don’t have OCD and I only used the word in this post because it has (erroneously) come to symbolise any behaviour which is unusual or out of the ordinary. I have what is called a slightly compulsive personality, best summarised by the Ruffles Lays tag line – I can’t seem to eat just one. This means that I can’t stop myself from watching just one more episode on Netflix even though its 4 am in the morning or from hitting the snooze button one more time even though I should have been up five snoozes ago or from eating that last slice of pizza even though I know for a fact that buttons are about to start popping.

But what happens when you mix a compulsive personality like mine with a creative activity like knitting. Well, in my case it means a lot of things. I have already told you about my extravagant shopping sprees to buy (not always needed) knitting accessories and my inability to walk past a yarn store without buying something. Both these compulsions have left me with more space in my bank account than in my cupboard but still, no serious harm done.

It also means that every time I see a new pattern I like, I feel compelled to start it immediately (after all I have enough yarn to do just that). To that end, I currently have 5 ongoing projects at various stages of progress. But, as and when I do finish the projects (and I will one day), I’ll own five beautiful knitted things, so again no harm done.

My five ducklings (projects) waiting to be transformed into swans

In fact, I can think of only one harmful consequence of my compulsive need to knit – physical injury. On a regular basis, I keep knitting row after row late into the night – without any thought to the fact that my hands need rest – even though I know its not likely I’ll finish whatever I’m knitting. This was driven home last night when, while trying to wrestle with knitting a floor mat out of discarded bed sheets, I injured my thumb. It had swollen to twice its size and yet I couldn’t stop myself from continuing to work on it. It prompted Nikhil to observe that it was a good thing that I never got into drugs, otherwise the trips to rehab would have been endless. He was right, as he usually is.

The project which proved to be my undoing

Knitting IS infinitely safer than drugs. But as a person who doesn’t know when to press the brakes, let me tell you something. Compulsiveness and creativity is all very well till the time it doesn’t cause distress. I have learnt the hard way that overdoing anything, including knitting, can have harmful effects. One such of knitting is the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which causes numbness, pain and tingling in your hands and arms. Over the years, men have discovered, for reasons of their own, what carpal tunnel syndrome is, but most women have remained blissfully unaware. However, knitting too much, without giving your hands a break, can cause carpal tunnel syndrome among other problems.

So my advice to you would be to not give into your compulsion (call it OCD if that rocks your boat) to knit just one more row when you have already knit enough. Instead, pick up that lovely book that has been gathering dust on your bedside. Come to think of it, I’m not aware of any side effects of compulsive reading. An over-developed brain maybe!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Deeksha says:

    This definitely strikes a chord with me.. Netflix and knit appears to have become the mantra and late nights have become a norm..


    1. Pallavi Mohan says:

      Beware Deeksha! Your hands are soon going to start protesting.


  2. Anita Sharma says:

    What lovely writing.I read all your posts at one go
    I too like to knit so I can understand your passion
    Yes we have a lot to talk about so please keep knitting and keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pallavi Mohan says:

      Thank you so much. Your words made my day. Would love to see pictures of your knitting.


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