In this episode, Carrie talks about the downsides of Googling too much, especially for those with OCD and anxiety. She shares how seeking reassurance online can actually make things worse and offers tips for resisting the urge to Google.

  • The risks of excessive Googling, particularly for those with OCD and anxiety.
  • How seeking reassurance online can escalate anxiety and spiritual confusion.
  • The importance of accepting uncertainty as a part of finding peace.
  • Recognizing the urge to Google and making intentional choices to step back.
  • Practical strategies for resisting the urge to Google and maintaining mental well-being.

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Transcript

Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD, episode 125. I am your host, Carrie Bock, a  licensed professional counselor in Tennessee. 

I’m glad that you’re here. I just want to remind everybody, we have some exciting news, we have some revamping of the podcast that is going to be happening this summer and hopefully, we will have some new artwork, a new website, and a new name. For more information about that, make sure to hop on our email list so that you can be an insider and be the first to know. It is hopeforanxietyandocd.com/free. We’ll get you any of those free resources and to be able to be put on our email list.

This episode is for some of you that really struggle with your relationship with Googling. Maybe you are Googling what you feel like is everything or you’re spending hours and hours reading articles, hours and hours researching things on YouTube. If you haven’t figured this out, this is not incredibly healthy for you or your mental health. It’s okay to research things in moderation, it’s okay to look into things. But there is a point where it becomes unhealthy and creates more and more anxiety. Googling is a common OCD obsession that I see in clients that I work with, and when I first started working with OCD, It was one of the red flags of maybe this person needs some more assessment if they are Googling all of the time.

Maybe we need to start assessing them for OCD. Googling is a way that people seek reassurance. You may have seen, or heard of reassurance seeking in OCD, where you’re asking someone in a relationship, “Hey, are we okay right now? You’re asking your boss, am I doing everything the way you want me to? You’re asking doctors like, am I going to be okay? Are you sure that I’m going to be all right? Googling is a way we have done to self-reassure, to find out from some article, or expert video that everything is going to be all right, or we’re finding for or against what we think is okay. 

Now we want to talk about how this can send you down a bunch of different rabbit holes where you see a bunch of different people’s opinions. It can cause you, especially in the spiritual realm from what I see with clients is it can cause you to become more and more spiritually confused, like, “Okay, well, this person about this scripture says this, and this person over here says that. You can get stuck on who is right, and who’s wrong.

If this person is saying this, does that mean I need to be doing that? If that person is saying I should stay away from seeing movies that are rated PG-13, does that mean that I’m a bad Christian if I go see this movie over here, the latest film? If this person over here says I should only listen to Christian music, does that mean I’m a bad Christian if I listen to secular music? What it does, the reality is, especially spiritually. It leaves you confused and causes you more disconnect from your actual relationship with God. Your relationship with God needs to, there’s a balance here. I’m not going to say it’s based a hundred percent. on just you and God because I do believe based on the scriptures that Christian community is an important part of our walk, that we can lovingly correct each other when we’re outside of bounds.

We need to just be very guarded and cautious about the people that we allow to speak into our lives. We need to make sure that they are aligned with the Word of God and our beliefs and understandings about the character of God. We don’t want to go too far off the rails and be following someone that is using obscure scriptures to make a major life change point.

Certain people may be convicted about some things. that you are not convicted about, and that is okay. Back to Googling and spending lots of time on YouTube, you need to be careful about that urge, so it starts with probably some type of obsession, and then there’s an urge to get on Google. There’s an urge that like, I need to know, I need to have this answer, I need to have this settled. What OCD is telling you is that you need to know and have that answer settled right now. That’s what you need to be cautious about. It’s not bad to know information or to try to research, but when there’s a strong, anxious, emotional urge that says you have to know it right now, go on and Google this. That’s probably OCD telling you or urging you to do those things. Then you can sit back and you have a crossroads, a choice at that point. Do I pick up my phone? Because now it’s so easy for us, we don’t even have to go to a computer anymore. We just pick up our phone. We can voice search in there.

We just say, “Hey, look up this for me.” We can ask it all kinds of questions. We don’t even have to touch our phones. I mean, people have Alexa in their home or they can say, “Hey, Alexa, look this up for me.” It’s so so easy for us. 

Be intentional. Maybe you need to leave your phone when you feel that urge, leave your phone in another part of the house and literally walk away from it or walk away from your computer. Make intentional decisions not to get on those things when you’re trying to go to sleep because that is going to activate your brain in a way where you’re trying to problem solve and figure everything out right now Here’s the truth that we can sit with it is very very rare that we need to have a solution Right now that we would need to Google Maybe there is a solution right now like in an emergency situation where We might need to call 911.

We might need to tell someone to stop doing something. We might need to walk away from a situation. None of those involve googling. A lot of times the things that you’re searching for are things that are hard to know right now. In this present moment, or you’re trying to find certainty about a specific situation that you’re dealing with, instead of sitting with, maybe the answers to your specific situation are not on the internet.

You’re trying to find other people who have been through similar experiences. I have done my fair share of Googling, especially when it comes to medical experiences. I did a lot of Googling when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had some various complications. I wanted to know, was she going to be okay? Was I going to be okay? Ultimately, that Googling gave me some information, but it really didn’t give me certainty. 

That’s what you’re wanting to know is, can Googling actually give you certainty? No, it can’t. It can give you more information, but can it tell you what’s gonna happen 100 percent of the time? No. As you’re learning through this process of dealing with OCD, part of that is learning to know, Hey, I don’t have 100 percent certainty. What’s going to happen in my experience? I didn’t know what it was going to be like to give birth to my daughter. Even though that was my first and only child, other people have had vastly different birth experiences, even who have had multiple children.

Just because you’ve had a child before, that doesn’t mean it’s going to go exactly the same as it did the last time. Googling about it can give you some broad strokes, some general ideas, but it’s not going to tell you the specifics of your situation. Keeping that in mind, you’re wanting to know, what is it that I actually need, and can Google actually provide that? Most of the time, the answer is a no. 

You may, if you do need some legitimate information, but you are struggling because you know that you’re going to spend two hours on it, It may be something where you ask someone else to get you, like, one or two articles to read that are informative, that is from a healthy, good source, not just something that someone obscurely wrote that’s about two pages down the search engine. A reputable source where you can gain that information without feeling overwhelmed by all of the information that is out there. Typically, we do not have to consume as much information as we believe that we need to consume. You do not have to look at all different sides or angles or videos. You can glean some information from one or two things and then allow that to be the information gathering and moving on.

If you were going to Google, you would want to examine for yourself, “What is it that I am needing to know?” That’s one thing. “What am I actually needing to know? What am I hoping to gain from this? If I’m really Googling just to reassure myself, Or just to get some sense of, like, obscure certainty that’s out there.” Then you need to put the phone down, put the mouse down, walk away from the computer or phone, and say, okay, I’m going be okay even if I don’t get the certainty right now. I have to sit with some of the unknowns that are in my present experience about the future. Typically, it’s almost like we’re trying to get Google to help us figure out the future and be able to have some false sense of control. I think that’s what OCD is trying to tell you that you can have. You can have some false sense of control if you just get a little bit more information about this. Maybe you’ll understand it. Maybe you’ll be more confident in your decision making. Maybe you’ll know what to do.

There may be times where you gather all the information and you don’t know what the right decision is exactly. I had to make a hard decision about whether or not to be induced with my daughter and that was tough for me because I didn’t want to. Looking at all the information and then being able to say, okay, well, at some level, I have to make a decision and so many times I see people with OCD being concerned in a perfectionistic way about making quote the wrong decision or feeling like there’s only one right decision to be made in the situation.

Sometimes life is about praying and waiting for the peace of God to steer us in the right direction. And sometimes we have two okay options that are not in violation of our spiritual nature or things that, they’re not moral decisions to be made. And sometimes we just need to go with one of those, and that may be really hard for you or feel scary.

You may not feel like you have the confidence to make those decisions. That means there’s a little bit more inner work that needs to be done within yourself to be able to say, “Yes, I can make decisions. It’s okay.” That’s a thing that all adults do. Sometimes we are not sure of ourselves and sometimes there’s just a decision to be made and we have to stick our neck out and make it. Sometimes it’s okay, it works out well, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s a part of our life. 

OCD wants you to believe that somehow you can have this absolute certainty if you have an abundance of information. More information typically does not give us more certainty. It can actually lead us to more confusion, especially if we find conflicting information.

Look at your past experiences with Google and see how they have turned out. Sometimes people will tell me, “Well, I looked this thing up and it actually relieved my fear or my concern.” I found out that it’s very unlikely that this scenario would happen. If it was just something like that and then you stopped and you were able to let it go. If it’s something where there’s a lot of gray area and you’re Googling about it more than once or you’re almost looking for new information on it, Is that contributing to your mental health and saying no to OCD? It Doesn’t sound like it. I would encourage you to take some steps to be able to prevent yourself from going down that rabbit hole so often. As you do, it may feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll notice that it gets easier and easier and easier the more that you resist that urge to Google. It truly is an urge, there is a feeling, you know. associated with it, but also you can say no to OCD and not give in to that urge to Google.

Hopefully, this helps some of you who are struggling with this area and the Googling. 

I’ll be back with you next time. And for more info, you can always contact us through hopeforanxietyandocd.com. 

Hope for Anxiety and OCD is a production of By the Well Counseling. Our show is hosted by me, Carrie Bock, a licensed professional counselor in Tennessee.

Opinions given by our guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of myself or By the Well Counseling. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum. Until next time, may you be comforted by God’s great love for you.