Tunnel Vision

I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten into a fist fight as I have, but your brain does amazing things when such a moment of crisis occurs. As a survival response, your brain momentarily zeros in all your attention, focus, and memory onto your opponent and pumps loads of energy into the rest of your body. Now imagine being stuck in this survival mode for the rest of your life because your entire life is an unending crisis.

People with OCPD operate with tunnel vision because they are always in survival mode (my first post on hypersensitivity explains why they are in survival mode in the first place).

As you can see from my fight example, tunnel vision is not something exclusive to only people with OCPD. Anyone who has a fear gets their tunnel vision activated. Even my arachnophobic friend, who I have been using as an example in all my earlier posts about fear, also operates in tunnel vision when he is confronted with his fear. When he sees a spider in my bathroom, his focus zeros in on that spider. His entire body is still. He does not think about anything else. He never takes his eye off, not even while he is using the toilet, until the spider is killed.

But while his tunnel vision only needs to be activated in those occasional times that he comes across a spider, the tunnel vision of people with OCPD is activated all the time because of their unending fear of the entire world. So what you get are people who function like superhuman beings in a few areas of their life. Their attention, focus, memory, drive, and motivation operate at extreme levels that no regular person can match. In other “nonessential” areas, however, their life feel like a chore to them. In these areas, they have extreme difficulty being attentive, keeping focused, remembering, and being driven and motivated. After repeatedly operating in tunnel vision for so much of their life, their brain develops such strong neural pathways of this type of focus that it becomes an automatic way in which their mind operates.


Unless you live alone in the Himalayas and have no family or friends, you cannot get away with neglecting your “chores.” It is unfair for your family, friends, employer, business partner, or government to suffer because you choose not to pull your own weight. Before you forget, get your chores done and over with. Then move onto the things you are passionate about. If your tunnel vision is causing you to neglect simple gestures of care that mean a lot to your friends, allow them to communicate openly with you what those gestures are. Put your pride down for a minute and listen to how you can make them feel like you care about them. If you get angry, you will destroy that channel of communication and leave your friend to assume that you do not care about them. While you are in the zone and someone “interrupts” you, do not explode in anger – you know you can easily get right back in the zone because it’s something you are passionate about.

Assume that your OCPD friend is not reliable at all in things that he or she does not have much passion for. If there is something that requires his or her attention, summarize very concisely (1) what needs to be done, (2) when it needs to be done by, and (3) what will happen as a consequence if it is not done by that time. If you do not learn how to speak concisely about things that your OCPD friend considers as chores, he or she will only hear “blah blah blah” as you talk. If your OCPD friend fails to do things that most people would automatically do out of their care and consideration for you, don’t go on assuming that he or she does not care about you. Although that may be the case for regular people, it is not the case for people with OCPD; people with OCPD can care about someone so much, yet still be completely oblivious to simple gestures of care because of their tunnel vision. All that they need sometimes is someone to give them a hint. But thanks to Disney, giving hints shows weakness. So women avoid asking their men to treat them like princesses and men avoid asking their women to treat them like champions. They should just know, right? Wrong! If you let your OCPD friend know how he or she can make you happier (without offending him or her), most likely he or she will be happy to do that for you. On the other hand, if you choose not to communicate, but rather have the attitude that he or she should be able to read your mind, bitterness will build up inside of you from all your assumptions until you will eventually hate your OCPD friend. Now whose fault is that? The one who has little control over his or her tunnel vision because his or her brain has created strong neural pathways from repetitive use or the one who chose not to communicate because he or she did not want to appear weak? If your OCPD friend is in the zone, try not to interrupt. Don’t take it personally if your OCPD friend seems to be unaware of your existence while he or she is in the zone.

I believe it is very important for people with OCPD to make timetables and day plans. Set aside some time for work, family, friends, errands, chores, meals, exercise, sleep, leisure and relaxation, things you are passionate about, etc. Make an agreement with the people you live with that you will follow your timetable. Whatever time slot you are in, regardless of how passionate you are about it, give your 100%. For example, if you are in your relaxation time slot, do not think about work.

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7 thoughts on “Tunnel Vision

  1. Antonia says:

    Firstly thank you for the great website. I only recently discovered I have OCPD and your information has really helped me to make sense of a lot of things. You mention in your Tunnel Vision post that it’s a good idea to have schedules and Day Plans, I agree, but my obsessive planning means I never actually get to the point of putting something on paper. Do you have any examples that might help me kickstart the process? Thank you.

    • I use a calendar where I mark different activities in the window of the day. Helps me remember the world around my tunnel 😛 I do not plan a whole schedule. When I look at the stuff for the day, I make an intuitive organization of which could come first, which can wait for the end.

  2. Link Gotham says:

    Thank you this has helped me greatly I learned a lot more about what I have then I ever have before. Pushing myself into survival mode on purpose has rendered me there for good it seems like unless I focus on using my perphials. It sounds weird but it is what it is.

  3. KC says:

    As well as having many lists, I also carry a calendar/ yearly planner (to write things on as I plan them), and I have a weekly whiteboard calendar stuck on the fridge. It breaks the days down into blocks and at the end of every week I rub out the past week and write what I know I need to do in the new week. It means that every night, I can check what tomorrow entails and any time of the day when I’m not sure what I should be doing, I can just check. It also means that when I get very ‘involved’ in one of my passions, I have a reminder there to tell me what my time limits for each activity should be. It’s a god send and saves me from lots of unnecessary anxiety as well as my partner (I’m certain!). I even put things like “cook tea” on my nights to cook, and “exercise” somewhere in a block for each day, as well as appointments, work etc. Otherwise there are all sorts of things (like eating, sleeping, the boring basics) that I just forget to do because I’m ‘in the zone’….

  4. Abdul Wahid says:

    Man, this website is just so great. I get to learn more about my OCPD in a very deep sense. Please keep up the good work. 🙂

  5. JT says:

    Thank you very much for this information.

    “If you do not learn how to speak concisely about things that your OCPD friend considers as chores, he or she will only hear “blah blah blah” as you talk.”

    I organize things in my head into “exiting” and “boring” – no middle ground. One very obvious thing that helps “expanding” your tunnel is to actively trying to find meaning in things that in the past didn’t interest you at all. When you are forced to do something uninteresting, concentrate your energy in finding new perspective to this activity. It also helps interacting with other people if you can truly understand why they see something interesting that you don’t.

  6. VU says:

    I am a medical student and recently I found out that I have OCPD. It’s a huge problem for me. Thank you so much for writing in this website.

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