I wish my oven worked like a microwave. It pings when finished and that’s it. Sadly ovens have stayed in the past and it drives me crazy because of my oven checking OCD. I want to share some of my thoughts when cooking and my behaviors around this, in the hope some of you can relate.
Oven checking OCD is exhausting because of my fear of a fire. Even if I haven’t used the oven, I will stare at it before bed to make sure it is off and nothing is on top of the hobs. This doesn’t quite cause the stress that my door and tap-checking does, but it is probably in third place.
This constant oven checking comes under the ‘Checking’ type of OCD.
- Why I need to keep checking
- What happens if I don’t check
- My ritual when doing checks
- Understanding the dangers (or lack of) without compulsive checks
Why do I keep checking the oven?
Ovens are amazing. Sometimes I will think about how our ancestors had to create fire to get a nice cooked meal, now we can eat cooked food with barely any effort. With great ease comes great complacency, and I worry that I’ll forget the oven is on at all.
After-all there are so many distractions that can lead me to lose focus. Or maybe I will just fall asleep. What if I head to the store, run into a friend and have a 30 minute chat whilst my quiche bursts into flames.
It is all too easy for me to panic and check multiple times. One time is never enough. I don’t want to burn the house down, but I don’t want my mental health to burn out either.
OCD makes me believe that multiple checks are vital for safety, but instead make me lose trust in myself. That self trust and confidence needs to be brought back by checking the once and not giving into the urge to check again.
I’m not quite there yet.
What happens when I don’t check?
I overthink the worst case scenario. Every time.
If I have been cooking, I can’t sleep or leave the house until the oven has cooled down again. The same with the hobs on top.
If I know something (or someone!) could get in or on the hot oven or hob when I am not looking, I fear a fire could break out.
For this reason I cannot leave the house without intrusive thoughts. I cannot sleep for the same reason, worrying I may never wake up again due to smoke inhalation. Only when it has cooled can I relax.
My oven checking ritual
I open the oven door, stick my hand in to make sure it is cool. Even if I haven’t used it.
Next I’ll close it veeeeery carefully to ensure I don’t accidentally knock a dial.
Then I will check all the dials are at 12 o’clock (in the off position) and stare at them until I feel relaxed. I have to concentrate until my mind gives me the green light, usually after a few seconds.
I hope no-one is watching and thinks I am a weirdo.
Update: Since moving to West London I have a much smaller kitchen and large communal kitchens my whole floor shares. This has reduced my oven checking OCD considerably for a couple reasons.
One reason for this is my little apartment doesn’t actually have an oven, just two hobs and a microwave I share with my flatmate.
The oven is in the kitchen at the end of the corridor (one on every floor) and I never really use it. Even if I did, I know that it is availible 24/7 and that someone else would be using it shortly after. Not to mention the security checks done by staff every couple hours.
Because the oven is not my sole responsibility, I am much more relaxed checking it the once. I do still have to do my ritual after use, but so far I have never went back to check it again if I doubt myself.
It seems I only worry when I know if I forget to check and it is on, no one would be there to turn it off for me.
This is the same for my tap checking and door checking.
What if I leave the oven on?
Leaving the oven on isn’t the hardest thing to do. But I understand burning the house down takes more effort.
I also understand that if I am cooking it means I’m hungry. And if I’m hungry I won’t forget about food cooking.
And an oven on with nothing inside will stay hot but not burn anything. That is the beauty of an oven! It can handle extreme temperatures for long periods.
Reasoning with myself only goes so far before I recheck. I cannot remember the last time I went to bed without a thorough check of the two hobs in my little private kitchen.
I won’t leave my house if something is cooking, so my main worry would be falling asleep as it cooks.
This is where the fire alarm comes in handy. Fire alarms save lives. They are the safety net if all else fails.
I regularly ask myself, what are the chances of me not realizing the oven is on, with food in the oven, that food starts burning, and it has started a fire outside the oven, and I don’t hear the fire alarm?
There are safety measures in place to prevent dangerous occurrences, this makes OCD my irrelevant.
At least it should…
Some more peace of mind
My hobs work on a timer, meaning I can only cook for the amount of time I choose. After this period ends, the hobs flash hot for a while before shutting down completley.
I love this.
I know I know, this should surely help me to stop checking before bed. But it sadly doesn’t.
I worry that I may switch it on upon passing, and have to check that no tea towels or packaging are on top of the hobs before I jump into bed.
But being on a timer puts me at ease a lot more than my old ovens did. Why can’t they all be like this?!
Oven checking OCD final thoughts
I would say oven checking is probably a 7/10 in terms of my OCD stress levels. Not quite as strong as my tap and door/lock checking, simply because I don’t use the oven as much.
I also like to cook one big batch of food for a few days due to work and not having the time to cook on work days. I am sure my checks would increase if I cooked daily and knowing this is probably another reason why I enjoy prepping meals for a few days.
Many of my obsessive thoughts revolve around putting myself and those I live with in danger, and doing everything I can to reduce it.
But the more I check, the more I feel I put myself in danger. The rituals are driving me insane.
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