Locked into the Mind of Gazza

The Journal (Newcastle, England), August 7, 2003 | Go to article overview

Locked into the Mind of Gazza


Byline: By Hannah Stephenson

Poor Gazza! A recent documentary probed the psyche of the fallen football ace and highlighted his torment. Channel 4's programme, Inside The Mind Of Paul Gascoigne, suggested that obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is just one of the mental illnesses afflicting the former Newcastle United and England player.

OCD leaves sufferers slavishly following bizarre, self-imposed rituals and routines and Paul himself has spoken frankly about it.

He recently admitted that his house has to be spotless at all times and he is obsessive about checking locked doors and turning off lights.

"Sometimes I've locked the door of the house, got 20 miles up the motorway, turned round, come back and checked the door again," he said.

Paul is far from being alone. This frustrating illness affects an estimated 2pc to 3pc of the UK population and many sufferers do compulsive checking. Some may worry that the gas is switched off or that taps are turned off and they end up re-checking dozens of times before they actually venture out of the house.

Around half of all sufferers experience another kind of symptom - contamination fears.

Chart-topping sex symbol Justin Timberlake is said to have a thing about cleanliness. He reportedly changes his underwear six times a day, travels with his own Egyptian cotton sheets and even gets his staff to replace the air filters in his hotel suites.

Common compulsions of this sort include excessive washing and cleaning, checking, touching, arranging and ordering.

Those fearing contamination may not only want to wash themselves constantly, but feel the urge to clean anything that has been touched - towels, clothes, surfaces, for example - for fear that it will be contaminated.

Shopping can become a nightmare because some people are too frightened to try on clothes for fear of contamination and end up guessing whether the garment will fit before getting it home, washing it and then trying it on for the first time.

Or they may feel reluctant to touch any item because they are worried about contaminating it.

Others wash and wipe every single item they buy, including the boxes, cans and containers.

In extreme cases it can completely disrupt the life of the sufferer and those around them.

"It's common to see people with severe contamination fears becoming housebound because they don't want to go outside and risk being in contact with germs," says Paul Salkovskis, clinical director of the Maudsley Hospital Centre for Anxiety Disorder and Trauma.

Howard Hughes, the famous Hollywood recluse, was an extreme case.

At one point he stopped talking to many of his associates on the phone for fear that bacteria would be transmitted down the line and infect him.

He would give his staff complex instructions for handling objects. For example, before handing a spoon to Hughes, his servants had to wrap its handle in tissue paper and seal it with cellophane tape. A second piece of tissue was then wrapped over the first protective wrapping. On receiving the spoon, Hughes would use it with the handle still covered. …

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