Why Buying Online Is Torture with OCD

Anxiety has a way of ruining even the simplest of tasks.

Key Takeaways:
  • Chris is diagnosed with both Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
  • In this article, he describes the anxiety he experiences while online shopping, and how OCD can impact mundane responsibilities.
  • You can keep up with Chris on his blog: www.yeahocd.com


As someone with mental disorders that can suck an entire week’s worth of energy out of them, I don’t generally enjoy shopping.

Additionally, as someone who started my tech career before the dot-com boom, I believe in the Great Promise of the internet when it comes to optimizing the shopping experience. Luckily, I’ve managed to get around 85% of my purchases down to items I’ve bought before and continually need. However, my shopping issues lie in trying to find items that are unique to me. Let’s use clothes as an example.

My OCD brain is tremendously picky. I have little fashion sense and often seek out the simplest, least expensive clothing possible (while still matching my very pruned preferences for fabric type and color). For example, I want a t-shirt fabric zip-up hoodie. It has to be only one color — no stripes, no patterns, nothing but that one color. That color has to be military green or brown. It needs to be a size 3XL because I’ve found that larger is more comfortable (due to an obsession I have with thinking my clothes are too small). I am willing to look like a fool to mitigate this.

This all seems simple, no? Looking for this item online should be easy with Google, Amazon and the thousands of stores they’ve networked together. Right?

It is hell.

My results are always filled with noise — logos, patterns, graphic thick hoodies. Hoodies that aren’t the right size. The noise is impossible for me and my OCD to filter out. Seeing even a few missed results on my screen forces me to focus on the potential futility of my search. I instantly want to give up.

In fact, I often do. I give up and then come back later with my energy refilled. But again, I forfeit the search. This cycle repeats ad nauseam.

Beyond clothing, I’ve purchased countless items that fail to meet expectations when they arrive. I obsess over features to the very inch. Like those hooks I purchased to screw into my cabinets. They’re too long, much longer than anyone would want.

Because I experience every emotional reaction at a heightened level, these misses cause an instant sense of disappointment. Almost depression. I’ve wasted all this time and money, and I still don’t have what I need.

I know this sounds like complaining, a minor problem at best. But it speaks to the ways in which my OCD reacts to shopping in our digital world. What should be a simple task, is dragged out and draining.

This is part of how OCD works. In my mind, there is no difference between what others would classify as major and minor issues. Purchasing a car is as stressful as shopping online for clothing. I feel most people can relate to all the various stressors involved in purchasing a car. I feel these same stressors when purchasing a hoodie. Or at least attempting to.

“Attempting to.” That is the aspect that is so daunting here. Every little action in life — even things I know are benign — begin as attempts to metaphorically climb a mountain of which I highly doubt I can reach the peak.

But I have to wear clothes. And they have to be right and perfect. These two sentences may not seem congruous, but to me they are. The import of basic life needs (clothing, in this example) includes the very minor details (color, fabric, size) equal to the fact that I can’t live naked.

So, If you want to shop for me, please. I’ve given up after attempt number eight.