Reading OCD

As a child I loved escaping into a book. Reading OCD however made this process a lot more complicated than it should have been.

There was a specific routine I had to do every single time I bought a new book.

Checking and Ordering OCD are the types that affected me whilst reading, along with mental contamination.

This is probably why I still struggle to get in the mood to read as an adult.

Featured image

How Ordering OCD affected my book reading

As a child I had to read a book in the following order:

  1. Front Cover
  2. Back Cover Blurb
  3. The pages before the first chapter (foreword, who the book is dedicated to or in memory of etc)
  4. Introduction
  5. First Chapter

If I missed one part of the routine, I had to start again.

If I made a mistake such as mispronounce a word, back to the start. If someone interrupted me, back to the start too.

I would have a strange feeling inside that wouldn’t go away if I didn’t start the book in this exact order, or if I made a mistake.

My earliest memories of reading books are full of these behaviors. Although I loved nothing more than finding a good book (Goosebumps and Horrible Histories were some my fave series), the fun never lasted too long.

A child looks at a shelf of books in a library

This was Ordering OCD as order was vital for me to keep reading. There wasn’t another way I could read that I would be happy with.

This leads into Mental Contamination because if I didn’t read the book the right way, the book felt ‘dirty’.

This also coincides with Just Right OCD/ Tourettic OCD, as the orderly behavior wasn’t the result of an intrusive thought or a worry that something bad was going to happen. It was simply because this order just ‘felt right’.

Obsessive-compulsive behavior was, and still is, a problem for me.

I would make up ‘checkpoints’ in my mind that I had to reach

If I could make it to the first chapter without making a mistake or messing up the order of things, I hit my first ‘checkpoint‘.

I would create checkpoints in both reading and gaming. Once reached, I could start from this point if I made any further mistakes.

I think deep down even my OCD knew that having to start again every time I made an error would mean it would be almost impossible to finish a book.

Any mistakes after that would mean I start from this new checkpoint, although the compulsion to do so would ease as I progressed through the book.

A child reads at sunset under a tree

Usually by the time I got into the second or third chapter, I wouldn’t feel these compulsions so strongly.

I could often relax after mistakes and have little to no desire to start from the last checkpoint, which would tend to be the beginning of that chapter.

Checking OCD possibly played a part

Can this be classed as checking OCD? Maybe.

Although I knew deep down that any text before the introduction was not important, I would worry about missing something vital if I didn’t check anyway.

What if I miss something in the cover art? Who is the author dedicating the book to?

I know I’m not the only one to read these pages in-between, but I could not skip them.

I would just feel uncomfortable if I didn’t read every single word before the introduction. Going back later was not an option due to the order of things.

How mental contamination made the book feel ‘dirty’

I keep talking about this ‘feeling’ I have if I was to continue reading after making a mistake. It is pretty hard to describe.

But like mental contamination I feel in other areas of my life, I felt like I was doing something dirty. I was cutting corners and being lazy.

I wasn’t feeling a lot of anxiety taking over, it was more like a low-key alarm bell that was going off in my mind. I couldn’t ignore the mistake I made. That off switch wasn’t there.

Also, if I was to finish the book with this mistake being made, the book would always seem dirty to me. I wouldn’t be able to look back at it with joy, even if I knew it was a great read.

A book burns on the ground, something I wanted to do a lot with reading OCD!

The same goes for movies, gaming and even mistakes I make on holiday.

I have almost had some of my favorite holiday memories tarnished by mental contamination, by making ‘mistakes’ at the wrong times and ruining the experience. I have these posts all linked here and also at the bottom of the post.

I still have book reading OCD

Throughout my twenties I rarely picked up a book, mainly for this reason. However ADHD also made it very difficult to concentrate, and now I usually listen to podcasts. I find it easier to take in audio without having to read words from a page. I can also listen on the move.

This kind of OCD still very much affects me (now in my early thirties), and if I was to read a book today, I know I would have some compulsions.

I don’t have the same obsession with order, however I couldn’t start the book on an intrusive thought.

Any intrusive thoughts before my first ‘checkpoint’ would make me start again, and I cannot imagine this going away unless therapy helps rid me of those thoughts in the first place.


Ordering OCD

Checking OCD

Starting Over OCD

Back to OCD homepage

Leave a Reply