The reality is that this is frequently no more than speculation or dread about something that might happen. So it was when I became obsessed with the idea that my kitchen radiator would spring a leak.
It began when I was on my hands and knees, mopping up a wine spillage, and spotted a dot of rust on the bottom edge of the radiator. Peering underneath, I saw that this ran along a whole section of the rim.
My heart started pounding. It was as if the rust had just appeared before my eyes and was spreading like wildfire. I tried to tell myself it was nothing: it had probably been there for ages and was just on the surface. I rubbed a finger over it and while the skin did, indeed, turn orange, there was still rust visible on the metal. How deep did it go?
|Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
And so a new anxiety had mutated into a new obsession that had led to a new checking compulsion.
Fortunately, my plumber was due to visit to carry out a non-urgent maintenance job, so I took the opportunity to ask him if I should be concerned. Reassurance seeking is common in OCD sufferers, but ill-advised; the reassuring effect is usually temporary and fails to satisfy the disorder's demands for absolute certainty. However, there was a chance that an expert assessment - if positive - might calm me down.
He glanced at the radiator. 'It looks brand new.' He was clearly bemused as to why I should be worried.
'It's under here,' I explained, crouching down and touching the lower edge...and then I felt it - water! 'Oh no, why is it wet?' I looked up at him, panic-stricken.
'It'll just be condensation,' he said. 'Have you had the window open in here today?'
'Er no...and I did two lots of washing, which made the room quite warm...and I haven't had the heating on.'
He shrugged. Warm air plus cold metal could only have one outcome.
I felt foolish for even asking the question, but his response did enable me to bring my checking to an end, albeit gradually over a number of days.
Months on, I can walk into the kitchen without thinking about leaks at all and wonder how that ever became such a huge concern. Of course, a succession of other, equally pointless worries have been and gone in the meantime. If I could only fast forward to a position of hindsight every time a new one surfaces, life would be a lot easier.