More threads by Brendon


Hi everyone. Within the last year I have developed some major feelings of fear and anxiety that typically involve things that could cause harm if left open/on/in an incorrect position. It all started with me obsessively checking my stove and oven before I left my house. At first I had to do it once, then I would get the point of checking it 3-5 times. I could stand there, look at it and confirm it was off, but the second I turned around I was as uncertain as I was before I had checked it at all. It was like all my memory and certainty were gone as soon as I looked away.

Now that I have moved to another town for my graduate studies and work in a lab, this fear has been spreading to other potential objects of danger. In your average biochemistry lab there are little vials of protein worth up to $400 for 1ml. In a -20degC tub-freezer you could have literally tens of thousands of dollars of proteins and DNA. In a large, -80degC freezer you could have an entire career worth of frozen protein and cells. A lab will also have gas-burners that create a sterile zone in the air when working with cultures. The fear I had of leaving my stove on at home has now transferred to these objects, and whenever I am the last person to leave the lab and have to close up, I find myself frantically scrambling to check that everything is off. I will check everything, but then have a sudden fear that one thing wasn't turned off or closed properly. I will go check it, then suddenly have to check a burner again, or a fridge, etc...

The worst thing is that if I try to consciously convince myself that I am being irrational, I am flooded with visions of burning down the building by accidentally leaving a flame on, or destroying my PI's entire career by neglecting to shut the -80 freezer - I can practically feel the anger and disapproval of everyone else in these visions. I see these things being turned off, I know I can tell the difference between something this is open and closed, but it seems nothing can make me feel confident that I have left everything as it should be. Even when my routine is done and I go home, all it takes is one random doubtful thought about how I left the lab and I am suddenly crippled by fear and anxiety.

A month and a bit ago, I got up at 3 in the morning and walked 30 minutes to my lab just to make sure a box of enzymes was put away in the freezer. I also got out of a bus two stops from home and walked back because I thought I had left a fridge open in the staff office.

I used to think my behaviour was just a silly idiosyncrasy, but now I feel that my actions have crossed a line that suggests mental illness. I want to go ask a professional, but I don't know how to go about it. I don't want to just go to a doctor and say "Hey I think I have OCD or some anxiety disorder please diagnose me".

Does anyone else think there is something wrong with me? I conceal my behaviour so well that others probably think I am normal. If other people who were less biased and prone to over-thinking things agreed with me I might feel more confident to go see a professional without worrying about coming off as a hypochondriac. Right now I am worried I have just constructed my supposed mental illness as a way of making sense of something that feels out of order in my life.

Any opinions from those who have been diagnosed are greatly appreciated!

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
We cannot diagnose anyone online, Brendon, but what you are describing may well be OCD. Ask your family doctor to refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist who you can see for an accurate diagnosis. Once you have a diagnosis, you can pursue appropriate medications and therapies to help you better manage the more troublesome symptoms.

You mention that you are in graduate school. That's good news because most universities have medical centers where you can get such a referral through the psychology department or via on staff psychiatry residents. I would reommend that you start there if you don't have a family doctor in town.
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.