#42: Oh, the irony

In this update, I share details of the new app I have been creating, and the deep irony of become obsessed with making it.

These weekly updates are an ongoing series in which I share what it is like to live with OCD in an effort to reduce the stigma around mental health, particularly in the workplace.


For a few years, I have been looking for an app to make that I am passionate about. Nearly all of the apps I have made were for my own use. If they are useful to others, that is a nice bonus.

Pointedly is to replace paper and pen when keeping score for board and card games, which we needed for family game nights. Light Table is for my kids to stop needing to tape pictures to the window in order to trace them. Carrier is for scheduling text messages, which I needed for late night inspiration, preparing for birthdays or nice messages to my wife throughout a holiday. Agendum is for creating and presenting simple agendas, which I needed after becoming a manager.

While all of these apps met a personal need, none of them are truly a passion. I have been searching for an idea and finally found one a few weeks ago. It came to me the morning before a therapy session, and when I shared it with my therapist, she was excited by it as well.

As I started working on it, I became, well, obsessed. I wrote a couple weeks ago about a rough time including some panic attacks. Last week wasn’t much better. As I discussed it with my therapist, she said the reason for my struggles was simple and clear. Because I had become obsessed with making my app, I was experiencing distress any time my ruminating was interrupted.

One of the biggest ironies of OCD is that we often get obsessed with our OCD. We worry whether we are obsessing or not. We try to be perfect in managing our OCD.

The irony of my obsession took a close second.

My new app, the one that caused two straight weeks of panic attacks due to my obsession with it, is an app to help with the management and treatment of OCD. I told my therapist that I hadn’t done the work I was supposed to because I had been coding the app to track that work. She was not amused.

My assignment in therapy last week was to not work on the app at all for a week. My therapist said that I would feel some distress for a couple days, but removing the immense guilt from giving in to the compulsions would was quickly overcome it. The relief was immediate.

OCD ERP app

The focus of the app is on facilitating exposure response prevention therapy. This is the gold standard of treatment for OCD, and is helpful for many other anxiety disorders. However, the therapy must be done appropriately. If people hear about it and naively try to face their fears over and over, it may not be of therapeutic value. Accordingly, the app does not perform any treatment or suggest any specific action. It is intended as a tool to assist in treatment administered by a trained professional.

In performing this kind of therapy, we establish a hierarchy of exposures to challenge an OCD rule or intrusive thoughts. Then we perform trials of the exposure and track the levels of distress that are felt. The app is meant to serve as a record of the exposures and trials in order to share the data with a therapist.

I am excited to use this app. I want and need to be doing exposure work regularly as part of my OCD recovery and management.

I am even more excited to work on the app. This kind of treatment is so meaningful and impactful to people dealing with OCD, and if I can be a part of helping more people engage in it regularly, I am passionate about doing that.

My hope is to be able to help in someone’s journey of healing as well as staying committed to my own. I just have to take care to not exacerbate my OCD in the process.


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