Cannabis and OCD

Is Your Grow Op Causing Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors?

Have you ever had someone say that you’re obsessed with growing cannabis? My girlfriend kept telling me, “You’re OCD about your pot plants.” When I asked what she meant, she said I neglect her and spend way too much time worrying about and attending to my cannabis grow op.

I explained to her that growing weed is my primary source of income and pleasure, and I would rather grow my own medical marijuana than buy it from others. She replied that I had to choose between her and my plants.

I chose my plants.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, is “a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” If you’ve been diagnosed with OCD, you’re compelled to repeat sometimes meaningless activities or habits in a ritualistic manner to such a degree that it disrupts your daily life.

The OCD person may feel plagued by their compulsions and obsessions, struggling to break free of them. The person living with this psychological disorder may feel compelled to repeatedly wash their hands due to an irrational fear of germs. They may repeatedly check on things, like if the door is locked, that the oven is off, or if they’ve missed an apparently important message on their phone.

While the causes of OCD are unknown, there is an established link between anxiety, depression and body dysmorphia. The OCD sufferer may already feel anxiety or experience negative repetitive thoughts, which causes them to repeat these compulsive behaviors or obsessions in an attempt to alleviate their emotional and mental suffering. They do not get pleasure from performing these repetitive actions, but may feel brief respite from the anxiety their negative thoughts and emotions cause, and so these obsessions and compulsions become cyclical.

To that end, a cannabis grower may start to believe there is something wrong in their grow room, so they obsessively monitor their cannabis crop, while their worries are never allayed. In the meantime, life goes by, and you spend your time compulsively washing your hands, checking your lights, or practicing other repetitive behaviors that you don’t need to do anywhere near as often, if at all.

In my house, I have two grow rooms and sleep in the third small room. I dream about my plants and grow ops, and the dreams are usually nightmares.

I often dreamed that my grow op catches fire while I’m away and I come home to find smoldering ruin and police waiting to handcuff me. I dreamed that the exhaust fan breaks and the grow-op hardware is making noise neighbors might grow suspicious of; that my pH meter or pH calibration fluids are inaccurate; that my plants are growing too slow; my lights aren’t putting out the right spectrum or intensity; my dehumidifier condensate pump floods my grow room; my seeds won’t germinate; my clones won’t root; that spider mites, root aphids, russet mites, thrips, powdery mildew and gray mold are amassing like armies, waiting to invade my grow op and destroy my plants.

Some nights, I’d wake up every hour in a sweaty panic and rush to my grow rooms. If it was dark cycle, I’d put on my green headlamp and look around. On almost every occasion, none of the bad things I dreamed about were real. Everything was fine. I’d go back to sleep. I’d wake up an hour later. I’d rush to the grow room. That felt a lot to me like an obsession bordering on OCD.

No matter how much sedating indica or Kush I consumed, I couldn’t guarantee getting a good night’s sleep. I’d awake in the morning, tired and worried, and immediately start stressing about my grow op. The same fears that plagued me in nightmares plagued my waking mind. I’d have numerous ritualistic grow-op checklists to complete every day. Check pH meter accuracy. Check nutrients pH. Check nutrients EC. Check the distance between grow lights and plants. Check plant leaves, growth rate, all fans, lights, power strips, temperature and humidity, resin glands, and on and on.

I didn’t just do these actions once in the morning and once later on. I did this all. The. Time. I’d bounce in and out of the grow rooms like a pinball. I’d have charts on the wall to record data. I’d enter data into spreadsheets. I’d sit at my computer late at night analyzing the spreadsheets, trying to see where I could save money, get faster growth, bigger harvests, more THC, more terpenoids.

You can see why my girlfriend left me.

For a long time, I saw my vigilant cannabis-growing habits as a sign that I wasn’t a lazy stoner like other growers I knew.

You see, before I developed this grower-related OCD, I was often careless with my crops. As a result of this carelessness, my plants were often destroyed by spider mites, gray mold or a faulty pH meter. I only went in my grow room a couple of times a day at most. Sometimes I’d go away for the weekend. I didn’t care enough about my grow op, so problems developed that I didn’t catch soon enough. I lost harvest weight and bud quality to pests and issues I could have detected and stopped if I’d paid more attention.

What Sparked My OCD As It Relates To Growing Cannabis?

Perhaps the rational circumstance that sparked my irrational compulsive behavior was that cannabis legalization caused the price of weed to drop in some regions, including my own. My profits plummeted while my operating costs increased with inflation. I became obsessed with the idea of pushing my plants to maximum output, hoping to make up for that price drop.

Aside from money woes, as someone who considers themselves a staunch environmentalist, I realized my indoor grow op was causing negative environmental impacts. I ride a bicycle instead of driving everywhere, do not travel by air if I can avoid it, am not a consumer, use energy-saving devices, and am presently saving money for solar panels. And yet, I suck down 3500 watts of energy for my grow lights every day of the year, and more than that for air conditioning, pumps, timers, fans, dehumidifiers and chillers.

According to a 2016 study by New Frontier Data, cannabis growing accounts for one percent of all US energy consumption, going up to three percent in recreational states like California and Colorado. This energy consumption is most often due to the use of lamps, CO2 generators, fans and air conditioning. Bottom line, my grow op contributes to climate change and pollution. If I wanted to be 100 percent environmentally ethical, I should only be growing weed outdoors. My concerns about my energy consumption caused me to become obsessed with yield per watt and maximum grow-op productivity, because I wanted to get as much as I could from every watt I burn. I didn’t want to waste electricity. I didn’t want to be an environmental criminal.

Yet another reason I became so obsessed with my grow rooms is that I absolutely need the cannabis I grow. I’ve managed to breed my own strains that perfectly suit my medical and recreational needs, so I don’t have to buy cannabis from others. I’ve been to the best dispensaries in legalized states, and while their concentrates are way beyond anything I could produce myself, those dispensary buds aren’t as fresh or potent as the buds I grow myself. I simply can’t afford crop failures. If I don’t have a constant supply of fresh bud, I suffer physically, emotionally and financially.

And so, I became obsessed with my grow, because I’m naturally a passionate, cause-oriented person who needs to be zealously committed to something in order to feel self-worth. I want to be devoted to something fully, without reserve. Other people have hobbies such as playing sports, watching sports, traveling or cooking. They have spouses, pets and children. I have cannabis growing. When your life feels kind of empty, and the only living things you interact with on a daily basis are your plants, it’s easy to become obsessed with them.

Asking myself if my form of OCD makes my grow ops better, my self-analysis indicates that the extra attention I give my plants and grow rooms has both positive and negative effects. I was adjusting pH five times a day, moving plants around constantly in an attempt to maximize grow-light output, compulsively repotting plants because I was afraid they were root bound, getting rid of perfectly good grow lights and replacing them with new ones, and pulling clones and seedlings because some slight defect on one leaf made me paranoid about that plant’s vigor and genetic stability. This behavior was clearly harming my grow op more than helping it.

While there must be a healthy balance that is less about indulging my OCD tendencies and more about doing my due diligence to protect the investment of time and money I’ve given to my cannabis cultivation career, I was going too far in the wrong direction. I thought about finding additional hobbies, trying to date, getting out of the house, downsizing my grow rooms, using automated grow-room monitoring devices and data-logging systems, taking psychiatric medication or getting counseling. But ignoring my plants and being careless weren’t part of my new prescription.

If you’re wondering if you’ve become obsessed with your cannabis grow op to the point of anxiety or neurosis, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you spend the majority of your time and attention on your grow op, or is the grow op only a minor fraction of your life duties and attentiveness?
  • Do you find yourself engaging in repetitive grow-op duties, such as checking water pH, only to realize you didn’t need to, because pH was the same as when you checked it 10 minutes prior?
  • Do numerous people say you’re spending too much time on your grow op?
  • Is your grow op interfering with healthy activities such as exercise, maintaining gainful employment elsewhere, maintaining close relationships, education or healthy hobbies and interests?
  • When you think about your grow op, do you predominantly get a good feeling or a bad feeling?

I’m no psychiatrist, nor am I offering medical advice. If you suspect you have OCD or any other psychological disorder, visit a doctor or clinical psychologist. I’m not yet fully cured of my OCD, but by sheer force of will, I’ve kept myself from constantly obsessing over my marijuana plants and grow room. My grow-op nightmares have receded. I wear noise-canceling headphones while sleeping so I can’t hear my grow-room equipment. I force myself to leave the house and take a break from my grow rooms. I even started taking yoga classes and doing volunteer work!

I’ve cut back from constantly looking at my cultivation parameter spreadsheets multiple times a day, to only doing so once a week. I started using pH Perfect hydroponic base nutrients that automatically balance and adjust pH, thus eliminating my formerly compulsive concerns about my pH meters and nutrient water.

And you know what? My plants are just as healthy and productive as they were when I was pathologically obsessed with them. Minor grow op glitches still happen, but I’m worrying less, spending less time in the grow room, and getting the same if not better results. I hope there’ll come a time when all my actions are deliberative, non-compulsive and useful, and my OCD diagnosis is nothing more than a distant memory.

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