Thursday, August 2, 2012

Did Deployment Give You OCD?

Deployment OCD happens. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

What do I mean by Deployment OCD? This is when your husband deploys, and you get so paranoid that you end up creating these little repetitive and unnecessary routines to make yourself feel safe.

For example, you check the stove multiple times before you leave the house - you turn back after leaving because you think you left your hair straighter on - and every time you get home you walk through every single room of your house with a cell phone and a knife just to be sure. Okay, hopefully, you don't do that last one ... but if you do, don't worry, because I did it too.

photo  ©2009  Chelsea Oakes, Flickr

When this happened during my first experience with deployment, I thought I must be absolutely psychotic. I really thought I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that compels a person to do unnecessary actions repetitively in an effort to fend off severe anxiety.

Over time though, I learned, having what seems like symptoms of OCD is actually quite normal during a deployment. I know tons of Navy Wives who do this. It's a natural reaction to the fear of taking care of a house and home all by yourself. If something goes wrong, it's all on you, so you just want to be sure you didn't leave the stove on.

So what do you do?

1. Acknowledge What You are Going Through

To start, don't let things like this freak you out. Remember that a deployment has a major impact on you as a human being, that means your emotional, psychological, and physical state. Different people react differently and nothing is wrong about a coping mechanism, as long as it is not harmful to you or your personal wellbeing and security.

You are dealing with fear and anxiety that is not only normal but perfectly understandable. The fact that you have this fear is not wrong. You have a right to it.

Start commending yourself. Girl you are doing something most women can't imagine doing, so start giving yourself props!

For the majority of people, this Deployment OCD will go away as soon as he gets back, and if it makes you feel safer, then just do what you got to do

2. If it Bothers You, Then Make an Effort to Cope Some Other Way

If it really bothers you that you are doing this, feel comfort in the fact that you can stop and cope some other way. You don't actually have OCD, so stopping this behaviour is just a matter of effort and willpower.

Face what's going on in your head.
When this OCD occurs, you might be thinking: I have to check the oven again because if it is on then the house will burn down, and it will be all my fault, and I know I just checked it, but if I'm not sure I will be afraid.  

So now that you have identified that you can make a concerted effort to think something different: The oven is off. I checked it, and I know it is off. I am strong, independent, and more than capable of taking care of myself and my home. I do it all the time when he is here and other than that, nothing has changed.

The idea is instead of submitting to your fears in order to be safe, you reassure yourself that you are safe. You are capable of handling this situation and taking care of things because you are a strong and independent person. You can do everything that you need to do because you always have done it, and your ability to do so hasn't changed.

Don't just accept the worst case scenario. Think the 'what if' through. Think about what would really happen if you forgot something. How about - did I leave the fridge open? If you did and you don't go back, the house will still be there and other than a little bump in the electric bill and possibly some melted butter, nothing extreme would be wrong, so take a chance because you probably didn't leave it open. When you get home later and see nothing bad happened, you can think about that next time as evidence that it's probably okay.

Acknowledge when you do something. If you know you will freak out about the oven, specifically, then when you check it, say out loud to yourself, "The oven is off. I have checked it." Or even do a check list. Don't worry if this seems silly or crazy. Remember, your going through deployment and are allowed to do whatever you need to do to cope as long as it's not harmful to you, your family, or personal wellbeing.

Find a coping strategy that you are comfortable with. If you decide to eradicate this coping strategy, try to find another one that is healthy and that you are comfortable with. This could include taking a self defence class, installing a security and fire detection system, getting a room mate, taking firearm classes, or even just getting a big dog.

Rmember the importance of having confidence in yourself, and your ability to take care of yourself, your family, and your home because that is the root of the anxiety that leads to OCD like activity.

3.  What if it's really OCD?
Then it's still okay. Everyone has something going on with them whether it's physical or mental and nothing is wrong with that. If you feel like your symptoms are not just a coping strategy or if they are seriously affecting your life in a negative way or if they do not go away after the deployment end, go to your doctor and discuss it. Or check out the website for the International OCD Foundation.

Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author
Photo by Randy Enriquez
I married my husband who was already in the US Navy when I was 19. We did the courthouse wedding followed by a ceremony three years later. Even though we married after only six months of dating, I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy and deployment survival, and I didn't know what to ask. At that time blogs were unheard of and the internet was not the playground it is today. Navy Wife help online was unheard of.

It took years to learn the ropes by trial and error and after ten years of marriage in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives & Navy Girlfriends. I wanted to spread my knowledge and help other Navy Girlfriends and Navy Wives who are new to this world and reveal to them what it took years for me to learn: the moments when you feel the weakest and craziest are actually the moments that reveal how strong you really are.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction, and many of the themes in my work are inspired by my Navy Wife experiences although I don't write about the military. My first novel A White Room debuted in July 2013 and it is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions to marry a man she hardly knows. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness. Sound familiar?

Becoming a VIP reader at and purchase A White Room on Amazon US, Amazon UK or Amazon Canada. Find my author page @CarrollBooks on Twitter & Facebook too!

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