OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Manila Bulletin, March 20, 2005 | Go to article overview

OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)


"The door to the cabinet is to be opened using a minimum of 15 Kleenexes."

Howard Hughes (1095-1976)

US billionaire; aviator

Instructions from his procedure manual for staff who handled anything he was to touch. (Citizen Hughes)

ITS the 21st century and Hollywood still has it mostly wrong about mental illness.

For one thing, it seems stuck on explaining away deviant or destructive behavior from a simplistic Freudian template. So if this man is messed up, its all because of Mother. The Martin Scorsese film "The Aviator," in fact opens with the scene of a pubescent Howard Hughes being bathed by his screwed-up mother. It appears to be the premise to later on be fixated on milk and Jane Russells mammaries. And still much later, the basis for Hughes slow descent to madness.

What is clear in celluloid though was the characterization of OCD or the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Theres the magnificent scene of Leonardo diCaprio as Hughes "trapped" in the mens room because he couldnt bring himself to touch a "germ-infested" door knob. He had to wait for someone to get in just to slip out.

What is OCD? We all have our little rituals, superstitions, and daily habits. These are normal "adjustments" to make our lives familiar and manageable, even pleasurable. But theres a limit. Once these behaviors become uncontrollable and seem to take over ones thoughts, feelings ones life in fact, there is reason to suspect a brain malfunction called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is NOT a persons fault OR the result of a weak, spineless, unstable personality. Investigators are proving that in OCD, information processing in the brain suffers as the communication between parts of the brain (cortex and basal ganglia) fails. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger in the brain, is insufficient in OCD patients.

Take a Look at This List. Obsessions are "thoughts, images, impulses" that occur over and over to a point that the person feels out of control. Whats significant is that there is recognition that these obsessions are a nuisance and do not make sense. Consequently, the person is disturbed and overwhelmed. Compulsions are intimately connected to obsessions because these are the acts performed to make obsessions go away. For example, in "The Aviator," to rid him of painful thoughts of dirt and germs (obsession) Hughes washed his hands with soap until his palms bled (compulsion).

Other common obsessions and compulsions are:

* Forbidden thoughts ordering and arranging things

* Excessive religious and moral doubt counting objects

* Intrusive sexual thoughts and urges touching oneself

* Imagining having harmed self or others repeating (actions)

* Imagining losing control or aggressive urges checking/monitoring behavior

* A need to have things as they are hoarding or saving things. …

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OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
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