It’s very popular in OCD patient communities, and in mental health communities in general, to get stuck on labeling superficial symptoms. But it becomes just another way to practice the judging and categorizing and discriminating that can fuel so many compulsions. A more effective approach to support recovery from OCD is to understand (and eliminate) the compulsive patterns of thinking and behaving beneath any symptom.

This might be easier to understand by looking at the sub type of OCD that is, without a doubt, the most horrific to deal with: LOCD. LOCD is the subtype of OCD that includes all of the compulsions related to the fear that you’re a llama. Common compulsions include:

  • Looking at pictures of llamas to test whether you get aroused.
  • Ruminating on “false” memories about experiences where you might have spent too much time near grass. You liked how it smelled. Maybe you wanted to eat it (because you’re actually a llama).
  • Avoiding romantic relationships because if somebody actually knew you were a llama, they could never love you.
  • Pulling out your photo ID to check if it’s a human or a llama in the picture.
  • Telling people you have Pure O.
  • Praying repeatedly to get those images of dromedary genitals out of your mind. Praying repeatedly is a compulsion but keep telling people you have Pure O. Confusion is human.
  • Confessing to your partner that you’re actually a llama.
  • Cooking meat until it’s like rubber because you’re afraid of getting listeriosis. It’s quite prevalent amongst llamas.
  • Constantly checking that weird feeling in your stomach and Googling symptoms online because that feeling is probably listeriosis.
  • Checking in mirrors repeatedly to confirm whether you’re a human or a llama.
  • Only eating specific foods that llamas don’t eat (like baked Alaska) so you can consistently reassure yourself that you’re a human.
  • Weighing yourself after every meal to make sure you’re not getting close to 375 lbs (the average weight of a llama).
  • Avoiding social events because you’re afraid you might spit in somebody’s face or defecate in front of your friends.
  • Tapping your fingers against each other and counting them. You have to start over if you get a thought about being a llama. You’re not sure why you began doing this but at least you don’t have hooves.
  • Rereading work emails to check if you confessed to being a llama. You don’t want to get fired for being a llama.
  • Ruminating about how you’re going to explain to your family and friends that you’re a llama. What if they never talk to you again?!
  • Panicking when you hear a police siren go by because you’re sure they’re coming to take you away to a petting zoo and lock you up forever.
  • Not getting into elevators with children because you’re a llama and you might bite them.
  • Making sure you touch your right and left side evenly when you’re scratching yourself or bump against something. This actually makes you worried because it seems like something a llama might do.
  • Checking whether you actually love your partner and feel “right” in your relationship. Maybe you’re not feeling what you should feel because you’re a llama. Llamas don’t feel love towards humans.
  • Retracing your steps around your neighbourhood to check whether you kicked anybody with your back hooves. Search “llama attack” on YouTube. It’s no joke. You don’t want to do that to somebody.
  • Wondering if that guy you’re messaging on an online dating site is taking a really long time to respond because he’s actually figured out you’re a llama and he doesn’t want to speak to you anymore.
  • Questioning the meaning of existence. What does it all matter if we’re just llamas anyway?

I might have missed some. Please share your experiences with LOCD in the comments below.

Here’s the thing: You can just take out the word “llama” or any of the llama behaviors and swap in your particular fear or compulsion. That’s because OCD is about patterns. OCD is in the things a person does, inside or outside of their head, as a reaction to a fear or uncertainty or feeling they don’t like. It’s those patterns of reactions that need to change.

A big problem that people often run into is only wanting to make changes related to a particular topic that’s bothering them–their “type” of OCD. When somebody is talking about their type of OCD, it’s often just the symptoms that are bothering them the most. It’s a tiny part of OCD. If they only tackle that topic, but they keep engaging in the same compulsive patterns in other areas of their lives that don’t bother them, OCD continues.

OCD doesn’t have to be chronic, but if you only play whack-a-mole with the topics that bother you, then it’ll keep going for as long as you can think up things to worry about. The problem is the whack-a-mole machine, not the moles popping up.

And watch out for those llamas.