Sunday, April 3, 2011

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Success

I recently read an article which described Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as a disease that needed a cure. Here are a few symptoms associated with the illness.

Signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have both obsessions and compulsions, but some people experience just one or the other. The symptoms of OCD may wax and wane over time. Often, the symptoms get worse in times of stress.

Common obsessive thoughts in OCD include:

  • Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt or contaminating others
  • Fear of causing harm to yourself or others
  • Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
  • Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas
  • Fear of losing or not having things you might need
  • Order and symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right.”
  • Superstitions; excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky

Common compulsive behaviors in OCD include:

  • Excessive double-checking of things, such as locks, appliances, and switches.
  • Repeatedly checking in on loved ones to make sure they’re safe.
  • Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety.
  • Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning.
  • Ordering, evening out, or arranging things “just so.”
  • Praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear.
  • Accumulating “junk” such as old newspapers, magazines, and empty food containers, or other things you don’t have a use for.

Now here's my problem with the above, I can't remember anyone who hasn't got less than 70% of the symptoms listed above. Are most of my friends suffering from OCD or is this just another hogwash where humans are using their type-2 error to invent knowledge and diseases where there is no knowledge existing, only randomness. 

It would be understandable, if someone kept on washing their hands non-stop and somebody diagnosed them with OCD. But all the above listing is just part and parcel with what comes with being human. We can't change ourselves even if we know what are limitations are. 

Now Robert Sapolsky suggested that OCD is closely related to Religion, which makes a lot of sense. Religious rituals cannot be achieved if one does not obsessively and compulsively follow religion. Islamic rituals are done five times a day, and most muslims obey those instructions religiously, which doesn't make them any more diseased than the rest. Most traditional rituals are overtly repetitive and we are biologically fit for these rituals. Now humans will go to any extent to understand why that is, but complexity is difficult to decipher. We would create narrative fallacies and explanation based on evidences that we can see and not on the hidden evidences or the future evidences which are yet to come. Our type-2 errors will create explanations and create models that fit the human which would simply not be complex enough, and any thinking or theories that would be derived from this model would itself be flawed because of the gigantic assumptions required to create it (hint: economic theories). 

Now the above findings prove that religion is natural. But the real problem is that we already knew that religion was natural, it came naturally to us. Why did we have to go through the horrors of communism to figure out that it is impossible to separate humans and religion. What is the advantage of being religious? to answer this question, we'll create another rational theory, but the truths would always be hidden by blankets of complexity and hidden evidences. Sometimes it's better to trust evolution, god, etc then to trust what comes from the human mind.

And our genes are all different, different heuristics apply to different people from different places on the planet. We all have evolved differently and we need to accept this plurality. We must make an effort to stay away from the rational method and its sets of problems (hume/descarte). Human thinking is terribly flawed and we learn to stop trusting it as we grow older and older. An aging brain refuses to trust newer information/theories/models.

Here's a nice video explaining human creativity and brain aging

The problem discussed above is also the confidence problem. Hence a basic rule for life should be the older the better. Be skeptical of new things and trust old things even if you don't know or understand them. Really old phenomenons should be treated as sacred because the human brain can simply not comprehend the advantages of these phenomenons. Religion is one of those phenomenons which is as mental as it is biological. It fits us perfectly and comes naturally. We don't know it's advantages, but if evolution went out of its way to make us religious then we must understand that evolution is simply a lot wiser than human thinking.

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