A constant and never-ending stream of figures clouds your thoughts, a whirlpool of addition and translation is swirling about your brain. This is arithmomania.
Arithmomania is a recognized symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is characterized by a clouding obsession with numbers and mathematic process that reaches a severity which interferes with your everyday life.
As one who suffers from arithmomania, I can only begin to describe the feelings associated with the condition, and I can’t explain the collective condition as well as I can my own experience with it.
You see numbers everywhere in your day-to-day life, extending to the volume of the television or the radio, the numbers on the clock, the temperature of your oven and numerous other facets of your world. So what characterizes arithmomania?
You see the number, and it is yours to change— or maybe it’s someone else’s. You insist that it should be a multiple of X- X for many people being five, 10, two— and when that standard is not met, you feel uncomfortable. Scratch that, you feel pained. The joints in your wrists and fingers ache, your skin feels too tight, you have to bite your lip or press your nails to mask the feeling for even a moment and it doesn’t go away. You are obsessed with the number until you can change it, or until you no longer have to be around it and even then it might be an itch that occupies your mind until sleep.
It isn’t just here that you experience these compulsions. Maybe you count the reflectors on the road, the number of times you chew a piece of food on each side of your mouth, the number of times you click “cruise” in your car before feeling satisfied. Maybe you flip the light switch on and off seven times and have to lock the door 18 before you can feel safe. Maybe you feel crazy, but you still need to satisfy these desires.
For me, it’s in everything. I can’t look away from a digital clock until the numbers feel right. The volume on my car radio and TV must be a multiple of nine to keep my hands from hurting. It’s how many times I have to wash my hands before I feel clean, and how many times I have to check the faucet before I know it’s off. For my father, it’s the reflectors on the road and starting over for each one missing.
It is probable that everyone has mild obsessions with numbers in their everyday life, but this obsession isn’t quite arithmomania until it begins to interfere with your living. Does it occupy your thoughts more than an hour, or maybe several hours of each day? Do you turn the music louder than you’re comfortable with to satisfy an arithmetic standard? This is arithmomania.
If these symptoms don’t sound familiar to you, no sweat! However, this should be a simple reminder to respect those around you who may suffer from these feelings!
So, next time your friend, your kid, or your parent asks, “Hey, can you turn it up to 18?” consider what you’ve read here.