Count to a hundred each time I write a word. Always turn the apple three times before you can enter the house. Touch or ask for the same thing seven times in a row.
Brush your teeth exactly 35 times before you spit and rinse your mouth. All of these situations have one thing in common: for some reason, an action is performed a certain number of times. It’s a common thing for people with a numerological obsession.a, a type of obsession typical of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
To understand how numerological obsessions work, we must first make a brief summary of the disorder in which it appears: obsessive-compulsive disorder.
the obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a psychological disorder closely related to anxiety and characterized by the presence of obsessions, intrusive and recurring thoughts which escape the control of the person and cause him a high level of anxiety, even if they are recognized as theirs and are tempted to neutralize themselves.
Usually, in order to reduce anxiety, the subject eventually begins to perform some type of action, whether physical or mental, an activity which in relieving anxiety is reinforced and repeated each time the thought returns, s ‘establishing as a constraint. This creates a continuous spiral between obsessive thinking and the anxiety regulation mechanism, which occupies a large part of the patient’s time and plunges him into a state of permanent anxiety from which he can only temporarily escape through compulsions (a escape which in turn reinforces anxiety). , producing continuous discomfort.
Entering a loop of thoughts
The process that follows this disorder is usually as follows: fortuitously, one day a thought appears that seems aberrant and unacceptable to the person. The fact that this idea has crossed his mind generates a high level of discomfort and anxiety, trying to eliminate all thought and avoid it as much as possible. However, the fact of trying to avoid it causes a fixation in him, making its reappearance even more likely and generating an even greater anxiety that we will try to avoid more eagerly. For this, he usually uses the aforementioned compulsions, which produce temporary relief from the discomfort.
It is a disorder that causes those who suffer from it deep suffering: the person knows that the thoughts and actions that he carries out do not have any logical or practical meaning and lives them as something absurd, but must nevertheless carry them out to reduce your level. anxiety. The same goes for obsessive thoughts.
The continuous cycle between obsession and compulsion only worsens and worsens the subject’s condition, Occupying a large part of their daily time and being an element that greatly inhibits their life in various ways. It is also not uncommon for variations to appear in the vicious cycle, which can add new anxiety-generating thoughts.
The causes of the appearance of obsessive thoughts and fixation on them are due to multiple causes, with a certain genetic predisposition. Many of these patients have frontal hyperactivity with problems in the basal ganglia. They are also common in people who are seriously inhibited at the vital level, restricted in one or more aspects of their person by society or the education received.
There are a variety of obsessions and compulsions in people with OCD, such as cleaning or checking. One of them concerns the obsessions related to numbers or the numerological obsession.
Numerological obsession: numbers that settle in the mind
Count to ten. This is something that a large majority of the population has done before, usually to reassure them after something or someone has caused our anger, rage or anxiety. And it is that counting and ordering makes us occupy our mind in something concrete and demands our attention, and can be a loophole to avoid doing a little of what we regret or putting aside something that we are changing.
Coming back to obsessive-compulsive disorder, in people who have numerological obsessions, the mechanism used as a reassuring anxiety ritual relies on precisely this. But then, Why do we speak of numerological obsession and not of rituals or numerological compulsions?
A mechanism to calm anxiety … or anxiety itself
This is because people with a numerological obsession not only use the numbers as a mechanism to calm anxiety, but in them, the numbers themselves are the cause of the anxiety. This type of case is very complex, because with them the person would be completely blocked, to the point of having already forgotten the reason which led him to use the figures as a means of reassuring and transforming, which was a constraint in the ‘obsession. This does not mean that the original idea has faded, but that the subject that produces the obsession has been masked.
The way the numbers are applied is very varied. There are people who have to mentally count to a certain number, perform an action a certain number of times, have a specific amount of items, or avoid contact with anything related to one or more numbers in question. In fact it may seem related to other obsessions and compulsions like cleaning, but in the case of the numerological obsession, what will prevail will be the number and not the action itself (that is to say that if you do not wash X times, your anxiety will not decrease).
There are many cases of OCD with numerological obsessions, And it is common to be obsessed with specific numbers or groups of them that have common characteristics (eg with odd or even numbers). A well-known example is the famous inventor Nicholas Tesla, who was obsessed with number three in many aspects of his life.
Treat numerological OCD
The treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder has been somewhat complex throughout history, being a disorder traditionally difficult to treat. Thus, OCD (including numerological obsessions).
One of them comes from pharmacology, which helps to treat and reduce symptoms with a certain level of effectiveness. The antidepressants that inhibit serotonin reuptake, SSRIs, are particularly effective.
Generally, on the cognitive-behavioral side, obsessive-compulsive disorder is treated by exposure techniques with response prevention, leading the patient to gradually dissociate obsessive thinking and compulsion. Since the repetition of the compulsion maintains by negative reinforcement the vicious circle of obsession-compulsion, it is one of the most applied therapies to treat symptomatology.
In the case of numerological obsession, this type of treatment encounters the problem that it is more complicated to find the source of the thought that causes anxiety and to work with it. However, working on the prevention of the response is possible and can facilitate a decrease in overt behavior.
At the same time, interventions are applied to give a realistic view of the level of responsibility of the patient in the facts that are imagined could become the non-performance of the rituals, to make visible that trying to deny a thought makes us relapse into it. thinking something negative does not mean doing it. Again, in the numerological obsession, this type of treatment is very complicated because one does not see what specific thought the problem produces. A thorough analysis of the case and the surrounding circumstances is necessary in order to discover
Other current therapies such as psychodynamics show that while treating symptoms is very helpful in improving the patient’s condition and can lead to success, treatment should focus on changing the root cause that caused the patient’s obsessive structure. In this aspect, to reduce the inhibition and to discover and direct the internal energy towards what the individual genuinely desires can go a long way in bringing about a structural change in the person, which can go a long way in a person’s recovery.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
- Pickover, California (2002). The wonder of numbers, but not too many.
- Ruiz, D. (2014). Free the monkey, save the princess. The AFOP method to get rid of obsessions. RIOCC Publisher: Barcelona.
- Sants, JL; Garcia, LI; Calderon, MA; Sanz, LJ; of rivers, P .; Left, S .; Román, P .; Hernangómez, L .; Navas, E .; Lladre, A and Álvarez-Cienfuegos, L. (2012).
- Clinical Psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 02. CEDE. Madrid.
- Vallejo, J. and Leal, C. (2010). Treatise on psychiatry. Volume II. Ars Medical. Barcelona.