What are Not Just Right Experiences?
A Not Just Right Experience occurs when an individual with OCD feels that something is not quite right or that something is incomplete. The feeling that something is not right or incomplete is typically coupled with a compulsive, behavioural urge to make things right or to feel a sense of completeness. Studies have suggested that up to 80% of individuals diagnosed with OCD will experience Not Just Right symptoms. Not Just Right Experiences differ from other OCD symptoms as there is no compulsive desire to avoid harm but rather more a sense that something that is incomplete requires completion.
Typically a Not Just Right Experience will be associated with a sense of discomfort or tension as opposed to anxiety. Not Just Right Experiences are also similar to other OCD symptoms in that they involve on overwhelming sense of doubt that leads to compulsion that aid the individual to seek relief from discomfort, increasing the likelihood they will perform the compulsion again.
What are the symptoms?
The common symptoms associated with Not Just Right Experiences are as follows:
- The use of counting rituals, repetitive behaviours, checking behaviours or ordering, arranging and symmetry behaviours to gain a sense that things are ‘just right’ or complete.
- Difficulty making decisions or delegating tasks as well as a general inflexibility.
- Reassurance-seeking to determine whether their sense that something is not right is valid.
- A loss of time resulting from the completion of ‘obsessional loops’.
- High levels of perfectionism and a sense that the mind is never at rest.
Why does it occur?
Not Just Right Experiences occur as they are triggered by something in the individual’s surroundings. There are a variety of ways in which a Not Just Right Experience can be triggered that will vary greatly between individuals. The most common triggers may be separated into four general categories.
- Sight: Something does not look right and must be moved, placed and replaced until it is right.
- Sound: Something does not sound right and must be replayed until it is right (such as a note on the piano).
- Touch: Something has been touched once and is followed by a compulsive need to touch it repeatedly until the feeling of tension is relieved.
- Personal Expression: Thoughts and ideas must be expressed in a precise manner and will be rewritten or worked through in the mind until the words are just right.
What treatments are available?
As with other symptoms of OCD, the most common treatment for OCD with Not Just Right Experiences is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with a focus within this on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This is such that a client creates a hierarchy of their Not Just Right Experiences from those that are the least difficult to confront to those that are the most difficult to confront and exposes themselves to a Not Just Right Experience without then performing the compulsive behaviour used to gain a sense of ‘rightness’ or completeness.
The treatment of Not Just Right symptoms is complicated by the abstract nature of obsessions of incompleteness that are less concrete than the obsessions seen within other OCD symptoms.
Dr Kris Ojala
Clinical psychologist for ten years working predominantly with anxiety and OCD
- He has extensive experience in facilitating OCD group programs for both children and adults
- He has conducted professional development workshops on the treatment of OCD and anxiety both nationally and internationally).
- Enjoys working with children and families to create a team approach to understanding and managing emotional distress.
- Has developed targeted programs for assisting boys in building confidence and self- belief during the transition to manhood.
- Completed his studies in Psychology at Griffith University, including Honours in Psychology and his PhD in Clinical Psychology.
- Utilises a positive psychology approach and incorporates a blend of CBT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Motivational Interviewing.