Where would we be these days without the World Wide Web? And where would we be without the most popular way to search for and find information on the Web, Google. The search engine and advertising platform powerhouse is the Web for many people. It is such an integral part of daily life that Google the noun has become a verb.

But there is a dark side to Google for those who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s not that Google itself is bad; the problem would be evident no matter the search engine used. It’s just that Google is ‘the’ search engine for the Web and therefore the problem goes hand and hand with it.

What is the problem? The act of Googling, of searching for information, is a compulsion for many, many people who suffer from OCD. It is an extremely common compulsion that is performed by sufferers of virtually every OCD theme there is.

Sufferers are subjected to intrusive thoughts that cause distress and lead to compulsions. For many sufferers, the intrusive thoughts cause overwhelming doubt and pose questions that the sufferers feel must be answered in order for their distress to diminish. The easiest way to answer almost question is to Google it and search through web pages.

  • A man suffers from intrusive thoughts that he could be a pedophile. This distresses him greatly. He decides to try and find some peace he needs to Google his thoughts and feelings to see if he could be a pedophile.
  • A teenager has been plagued by thoughts he could be gay. He has become convinced he must be gay. In an effort to confirm his worst fears, he Googles many keywords associated to homosexuality.
  • A woman sees a spot of brown on her living room wall. Instantly she gets upsetting thoughts that the spot could be blood. Worse, it could be HIV infected blood. She had workmen in the house the previous week, maybe it came from them? To see if she is in danger, she goes to Google to find out how long HIV infected blood could survive on a wall.
  • Having unrelenting thoughts that she doesn’t love her boyfriend, a young woman Googles to find Web communities where she can talk to others about her thoughts to see if she could be falling out of love.

Searching Google for an answer to an OCD-posed question is a trap, however. The very nature of OCD dictates that doubt remains, regardless the answer arrived at. Even if a perfectly logical answer is discovered through the process of Googling and that makes the anxiety felt subside, soon enough more intrusive thoughts will pop up, doubt will return and the sufferer will feel like he/she has to Google for more answers. It’s a trap in that the answer is never final and the process simply repeats.

Like with any compulsion, Googling as a compulsion must be curtailed and stopped in order for recovery to proceed. This involves some brute force stopping but it also involves some cognitive work. Sufferers need to realize that their incessant Googling is a compulsion. They need to learn that all the researching they do just leads to more researching and brings no permanent relief. In other words, they need to become educated about the problem. They then need to realize that the questions posed by OCD intrusive thoughts simply do not need to be answered.

There is an incredible urge to answer OCD questions. How can a person go on with their life when the question of whether they are a pedophile or not is hanging over their head? But trying to answer the question is a trap. It leads nowhere, except to more questions, more answers, more doubt. That simple process is the best indicator that OCD is indeed at play. Sufferers need to learn that they can ignore the questions and refuse to get into mind debates over them and refuse to try and answer the questions. Doing so, and eliminating other joint compulsions such as ruminating, leads the sufferer to peace and freedom from mental turmoil.

If you’re Googling a lot, ask yourself why. Are you looking up innocuous, everyday things or are you trying to answer complex questions that began with intrusive thoughts? Be honest with yourself and if you are using Google as a compulsion, start the journey to curb and stop it.