9 November 2015

I spy

I began this blog with the intention of focussing on my experience of living with OCD, perfectionism and anxiety. Writing about these conditions has, however, prompted me to reflect on other of my behaviours and I've discovered a great deal about myself as a result.

In the process, I've also acquired yet more labels, including obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, spartanism, compulsive skin picking and misophonia*. Fortunately, I tend towards the milder end of the spectrum of symptoms for each of these.

While I sometimes wonder about the merit of labels, I do think it can help to know that a particular behaviour is attributable to a condition, that you're not the only one affected by it, and that treatment is available. So this week I'm appealing for help in naming a problem that the usually trusty Internet has so far failed to shed any definitive light on. 

The issue I struggle with is that I'm easily distracted by things in my peripheral vision, whether stationary or moving. I already know that I'm not alone in this, as a friend has described the same problem, but I hope that by talking about it here, somebody might be able to provide an explanation.

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto/
At work last week, for example, a colleague sitting some distance away was zipping about between documents on screen and I was forced to adjust my seating position to block my view of this activity. Meanwhile, the friend I mentioned has created a wall of folders and large plants around the edge of his desk, so that he can't see colleagues moving about.

The situation is no easier elsewhere. When my boyfriend and I settle down to watch a film at his flat, I first have to check our surroundings for anything that might divert my attention. This could be the light on his iPod, a remote control on the coffee table or a greetings card standing on the floor beneath the television. While his living room is crammed with stuff, it's only certain items that catch my eye and have to be moved.

In my own flat, it's mainly the traffic that troubles me. My street has become increasingly busy and the flash, flash, flash of cars going past is unbearable. If I'm reading, writing or watching television in the living room, I have to draw the curtains - the nets have proved an inadequate shield.

And don't get me started on the ubiquitous phone screens that have, for me, ruined everything from going to the cinema to watching a fireworks' display...

The problem is exacerbated when the task I'm engaged in is difficult or requires particular concentration. I suspect, therefore, that it's more likely to be a psychological issue than a physiological one.

I'd love to hear from you if you've experienced this, too...especially if you know what it is and, more importantly, what I can do about it!

*You can use the 'Search this blog' facility (see right) to find related posts on each of these subjects.

* * *

I do hope that some of my more local readers will be able to join me for my talk at Friern Barnet Community Library, this Saturday 14 November - full details here.


Unknown said...

I recognize it. I'm easily distracted and have many incentives throughout the day. Therefore I sleep a few hours every afternoon, To clear my mind and reset my brains.That's in my relapse prevention and my ocd remains under control.

helen said...

Hi Helen,

Possibly it could be due to an over active amygdala (fight or flight). Our peripheral vision detects movement - that's one of its functions. If you are on 'alert' all the time, due to a heightened state of stress, your peripheral vision would be placed on high priority by your brain. If you were hunting, this level of peripheral awareness would be useful - but not while you're trying to read or relax.

A few minutes with your eyes closed each day and some quiet mindful breathing will lower the 'volume knob' on the amygdala. It takes regular and gentle practice every day to build this skill, but it's well worth doing. Just a few breaths every now and then would start the re-calibration.

all the best,

Helen E xxx

Helen Barbour said...

Ineke, thanks for sharing your experience.

Helen Barbour said...

Helen, thanks for the insight and your useful tip to address this issue - sounds like excellent advice!