Staring OCD: Why You Need To Know Your Behaviours Just Before You Stare

What is Staring OCD?

Staring OCD, also known as visual Tourettic OCD or V-TOCD, means staring at people’s privates or peripherally due to distractions around you. It might also include staring at animals’ privates, shoes, shiny things, and more. But this article is about staring at people’s privates. In this case, V-TOCD is anxiety-based and makes interaction and communication difficult to manage. 

Intimate Gaze

V-TOCD is not the same as when people do the well-known intimate gaze where they make two quick glances up and down before looking at the person’s face. Nearly everyone does this; it’s a primitive thing and not meant to be rude. We’re not entirely conscious of doing the intimate yet subtle gaze, but it is a typical staring process that at one time was to discover the sex of each other. 

When Staring Becomes Repetitive

All said, though it shows that nearly everybody stares at each other’s private areas, it becomes an obsessive worry for people who develop V-TOCD. This is due to the tic-related problem involved. In other words, you can think of the tic in a way where everyone gets skin irritations and scratches them automatically. So likewise, people with a visual tic feel it like an itch and need to release it. It’s just unfortunate that the tic rests on the chest, rear and pelvic areas and is repetitive.

Identify Behaviours

I’ve lived with V-TOCD for many years, but I’m now in recovery. I realised to recover, you need to notice your behaviours immediately before you get the premonitory urge to stare. For example, suppose you’re having a conversation. In this case, imagine you get the urge to stare at the person’s privates, and your behaviour is to look to one side to avoid doing so. That being the case, you would manage the tic around that behaviour (looking sideways). 

Get Yourself a Toolbag of Techniques

A toolbag of techniques can help you choose what works best. So, for example, I would select a triangular gaze and hair-flick approach from my toolbag during a conversation. To see in your mind’s eye the triangular gaze, draw a face, put a line across the eyes, and make a triangle where the point ends at the mouth. Now imagine the triangle is on the person’s face with whom you next have a conversation. The triangle is your focus. 

It does two things. 

First, it’s a social look and non-threatening because you’re not making direct eye contact. Second, since you’re not making direct eye contact, it eases anxiety a little. But do be confident when you make the triangular gaze. In other words, it’s okay to be casual and not worry because, after all, the goal is to manage your tic and make it a skill. 

Be Natural

What can help is knowing that most people without V-TOCD make the triangular gaze. They’re just less conscious about using it, so they come across as natural. So, the good thing is when you do it, it’s more than likely that the other person is too. So, no need to feel intimidated because it looks like non-threatening eye contact both ways.

Next, you want to gauge how long you’ve made the triangular gaze. When I do it, I want it to be between three and five seconds before using the hair-flick technique I mentioned earlier (I’ll tell you how this works in a minute). Three to five seconds is the length of time people without V-TOCD naturally manage their gaze before turning away briefly. So, I’m happy to go with three seconds, even two. 

Next, convince yourself you can do this and try it out. Start with one second, then two, and three after that. Suppose you can stretch to four and five, then great because the other person will likely look away first. If that happens, you don’t need the hair flick technique because you’ll get a chance to relieve yourself of the pressing urge to tic (down there or up there) and resume the triangular gaze.

Hair Flick Technique

So, now to the hair-flick approach. If needed, I throw my hair back with my hand because it’s long. But if it’s short, you can brush your hand through it. Whichever way you do this, it gives you a quick second to take a covert glance at the person’s privates. It’s because you naturally turn your head as you flick or brush your hair. Then, you resume the triangle position.

Of course, you probably don’t want to flick your hair or brush it back every few seconds; otherwise, it might look as weird as trying not to stare. In that case, you can choose more techniques and use them when you feel the urge to tic—for example, rubbing your brow with the tips of your fingers (a fraction of a second is all it takes). It gives you a further chance to release the staring tic. It prevents avoidance and can make your conversation look like a typical interaction. 

Making Eye Contact

If you want to make direct eye contact to improve your communication skills or be more personal, you can do the following. First, concentrate your attention on your triangular gaze, and if you can, look into the person’s eyes for a fraction of a second and resume the triangular gaze. Then, try it for a full second when you’re ready. Again, rehearse with friends or family who are happy to be your practice person.

The process above might sound long and complicated, but it all happens in seconds. And then you repeat it from time to time until your conversation ends. When perfected, you have an ideal means to achieve an end. You have the power to control your tic. So it’s crucial to keep your attention on managing it, not trying to avoid it. Let it become a skill, as mentioned before.

Obsessions and Compulsions

V-TOCD is associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as you might already know. Obsessions and compulsions are the results of having OCD. The first is when people have irrational fears, for example, germs and getting ill. The corresponding compulsion will be to wash repeatedly to get rid of the germs and reduce anxiety. It is a repetitive problem because once anxiety decreases, it’s not long before the urge to wash returns. 

Exposure-response prevention (ERP) is an evidence-based treatment that has people gradually challenge their fears while simultaneously resisting the compulsions. The purpose is that by resisting the compulsions, it starves the obsession and people become less sensitised to the fear of germs.

Pay Attention to Response Prevention In V-TOCD

I realised that when you keep your attention on managing the tic, for example, with the triangular gaze, you’re resisting an avoidance behaviour. It’s like obsessions and compulsions in classic OCD. In other words, it’s only by paying attention to response prevention (resisting the avoidance compulsion) that you’ll weaken the urge to avoid.

So let’s look at what another compulsion might be in visual Tourettic OCD. Suppose, like me, it’s worrying you’ll get caught staring at a colleague’s privates and labelled a creep. Now let’s imagine the compulsion is to check you didn’t get caught by phoning the person and gauging whether they’re OK with you. If they seem fine, you can rest assured that they probably didn’t see you. However, a little later, you might wonder if you missed something and need to check again. So what you would do instead is resist phoning the first time. Then, you’d manage the idea that it’s possible but unlikely that they saw you, but that if they did, you’d cope positively. 

So how can you cope positively? 

Find out in my BRAND NEW book “Address Staring OCD: How To Manage Visual Tics And Obsessions”. In my book, I share everything. I tell my story of overcoming this disorder, and I share my toolbag of techniques to help you recover too! Preview available on amazon!

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