Just Me, Clinical OCD, and Frugality

Ever heard of a reframe?

Well, it sort of saved my life.

In 2018, I was clinically diagnosed with a severe form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). My particular brand of OCD centered on checking rituals to mitigate or outright eliminate risk and uncertainty. (This is, of course, impossible.)

I entered a behavioral health hospital after my initial diagnosis. The program there focused on a subset of cognitive behavioral therapy known as exposure and response prevention (ERP). Essentially, you expose yourself to something that triggers the compulsion and then “sit with the anxiety.” You don’t distract yourself. You acclimate. After a period, you reframe the obsessive thought that caused the compulsion. You do this over and over again until you habituate and the anxiety fades.

An example might help: I check things like locks, the stove, and light switches. Let’s take locks.

At night, I lock the front door. But is it really locked? What if it’s not and someone comes in and hurts my family? I better check it again. And again. And again. Maybe I better check it 20 times. If I don’t keep checking, my heart rate rises. I get cold sweats. I go numb. Sometimes, my chest will hurt.

Do you see how debilitating this could be? Imagine you had about 100 similar rituals that you performed from the minute you woke up to when you went to bed.

It’s not sustainable. Your world shrinks because you try to avoid triggers at all costs. It might get so bad you take pictures of the lock so you can keep “checking” when you go upstairs.

Enter the reframe. What are the odds someone is going to break into my house and hurt my family? Not great. Is this perhaps an irrational behavior? Probably.

If I don’t lock my car door, someone will break in and steal it. I’ll then be late to work. I’ll get fired. I’ll go broke.

Reframe: what are the odds this sequence of events will happen? Even if it did, what’s the worst-case scenario? You’ve been laid off before, so losing your job isn’t the end of the world.

You attack irrationality with rationality.

Now, what the hell does this have to do with frugality?

I’ll tell you.

It’s difficult to always be frugal. In fact, there’s such a thing as frugal fatigue. You’re tired. You’re overworked. It takes time to send in that mail-in rebate. It takes time to find that coupon.

Here’s where I reframe stuff.

Fine, you don’t want to search for that coupon because you’re exhausted. But this coupon will save you $10.

Imagine $10 fell out of your pocket. Would you just say, “Fuck it!”? Would you just keep walking?

Would you throw $10 into a bonfire? (That’s actually what you do when you play the lotto or go to a casino.)

Hell no!

So why do you stop looking for the coupon?

See, the system wants to wear your ass down. It wants you tired and overwhelmed so you spend more money. Because when you spend more money, you have to work even more. This makes you even more tired and overwhelmed, so you spend even more.

Screw that. Start using frugal reframes to motivate yourself to save.

The system will hate you for it. And that’s a good thing.

Frugal Tip: Hang your clothes to dry. Me no like the dryer.

I’ll show Benjamin Franklin who the boss is!

2 thoughts on “Just Me, Clinical OCD, and Frugality

  1. I sometimes buy brand new things at garage sales. It’s good for me . But I think they didn’t want to return the item they bought or got as a gift. They had an opportunity to get far more than the $1 that I paid for it.

    Liked by 1 person

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