Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

Fear of overlooking something vital

By Michelle Meadows, LPC

Oct 13, 20224 minute read

Reviewed byTaylor Newendorp

What is OCD focused on fear of overlooking?

Have you ever experienced the strong urge to be sure you haven’t missed any critical details or overlooked something vital, even in the absence of any reasons to believe you might have? Responsibility OCD can include a constant fear that you overlooked something vital. 

Intrusive, unwanted thoughts create a strong urge to check and recheck something you have already done, something you have said, something you read or watched, or something you wrote. It could cause you to lose time due to rumination on these things, or you may find yourself re-reading, re-writing, driving back home, calling people on the phone, or other compulsive behaviors that interfere in your life. You may rewind a video clip and rewatch multiple times to be sure you heard it just right. You may ask yourself constantly: “Did I remember to include everything in the email? What if I left something out? Will they think I’m irresponsible? Were there details I missed?” You may also find yourself asking friends, family, or co-workers for reassurance that you did not miss anything critical. 

Fear of overlooking – Common Obsessions

  • What if I left something vital out? 
  • What if I left the door unlocked?
  • What if I left the stove on?
  • Did I close my gas cap? What if I start a fire?
  • Did I remember to send that email?
  • What if I miss a critical detail?
  • What if I’m not understood correctly?
  • How can I be sure I included everything?
  • Could something bad happen because I missed something?

Common triggers

People with Responsibility OCD may find that their intrusive thoughts are triggered by any situations that require responsibility or safety. Any task that requires attention or focus may bring intrusive thoughts and distress.  

Triggers for people with Responsibility OCD focused on possibly overlooking something vital include:

  • Reading, listening to, or watching media
  • Emails
  • Texts
  • Documents
  • Legal paperwork
  • School work
  • Leaving home
  • Driving
  • Handling important tasks

How can I tell if it’s Responsibility OCD, and not just being cautious or thorough?

It is critical to remember here it’s not the anxiety that distinguishes OCD, but how you are responding to it—i.e., the compulsions you do to check your doubts or erase uncertainty. The checking and rechecking only reinforces OCD over time, convincing your brain that those actions are needed in order to be certain about every detail. 

Do you notice you are losing time? Are you responding to anxiety rather than to your own values, intentions, and motivations? These are some of the ways to determine whether you may be experiencing OCD, rather than typical levels of caution or thoroughness.

Common compulsions

When people with Responsibility OCD experience intrusive thoughts, images, feelings, or urges that cause distress, they may engage in mental or physical behaviors, called compulsions, in an attempt to erase uncertainty about their thoughts and doubts or to prevent a feared outcome.

Compulsions performed mentally or physically by people with Responsibility OCD include:

  • Rumination on doubts or worries
  • Checking objects, places, documents, etc. to erase uncertainty
  • Reviewing their memories to feel certain about details
  • Seeking reassurance from themselves or or others
  • Distracting themselves from thoughts and worries

These are all done in an attempt to eliminate uncertainty and doubt. Sufferers can spend a significant amount of effort seeking reassurance overtly or in a subtle way from a partner, friend, or family member. With Paternity themes in OCD, seeking a paternity test may sound like an effective way to address the issue, but with OCD, any answer often leads to more doubt and therefore creates additional questions. One may continue to worry “What if the lab made a mistake or mixed up the samples?” or “What if I just got lucky and the baby could have had a different father?”

How to treat OCD fears of overlooking

OCD can be debilitating for people who struggle with it, but it is highly treatable. By doing exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy with a licensed therapist who has been trained in treating OCD, you can get better.

In ERP, you will learn how to acknowledge thoughts and let them pass without judgment, rather than engaging in endless compulsions to find certainty. You can learn to respond to your worries differently and take back control of how you spend your time. You can learn to live with confidence, despite uncertainty and discomfort. 

ERP works by practicing exposures, or exercises done to trigger your anxiety and distress and present an opportunity for you to resist the urge to engage in compulsions.

Exposures that may be done to treat Responsibility OCD with a focus on missing vital details may include:

  • Sending emails without re-reading for typos
  • Watching TV or movies without rewinding to hear something twice
  • Writing worst-case scenarios and reading them out loud
  • Not asking a partner for reassurance about whether you locked the door

If you’re struggling with OCD, you can schedule a free 15-minute call today with the NOCD care team to learn how a licensed therapist can help. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training. ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP.

We look forward to working with you.

We specialize in treating Responsibility OCD

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