Jun 13

OCD Memoirs: Three Recent Contributions

Until recently OCD memoirs have been scarce. Below are three worth considering:

I. Lily Bailey, Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought (2018)

Bailey is a British model. From the publisher’s blurb:

By the age of thirteen, Lily Bailey was convinced she was bad. She had killed someone with a thought, spread untold disease, and ogled the bodies of other children. Only by performing an exhausting series of secret routines could she make up for what she’d done. But no matter how intricate or repetitive, no act of penance was ever enough.

Excerpt from Kirkus Reviews:

As a child, the author privately referred to herself as ‘we.’ However, the girl that ‘shared’ Bailey’s mind was no imaginary friend: she was the ‘other’ who drove her to check on her sleeping sister several times a night, wash her hands to rawness, and mentally repeat elaborate ‘prayer[s].’ She existed to ensure that Bailey carried out rituals as ‘protection against everything going wrong’ and make up for all her real and imagined mistakes…

After significant struggles, therapy eventually helped her manage her condition.

II. Shala Nicely, Is Fred in the Refrigerator?: Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life (2018)

From the publisher’s blurb:

Even at nine years old, Shala Nicely knew there was nothing normal about the horrifying thoughts that tormented her at bedtime, or the nightly rituals she summoned to beat them back. More importantly, she knew to obey her mind’s Rule #1: keep its secret, or risk losing everything and everyone she loved.
It would be almost two decades before she learned the name of the menacing monster holding her hostage: obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It would take years longer to piece together the keys to recovery that would change her life forever, beginning with the day she broke her monster’s silence.

And now Nicely is a therapist specializing in OCD treatment. In addition to writing this memoir, she’s also the co-author of Everyday Mindfulness for OCD: Tips, Tricks, and Skills for Living Joyfully (2017).

III. David Adam, The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought (2015)

From the publisher’s blurb:

David Adam…has suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder for twenty years, and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop is his unflinchingly honest attempt to understand the condition and his experiences. In this riveting and intimate blend of science, history, and memoir, Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind and explains how they drive millions of us toward obsession and compulsion.

Excerpt from the Mother Jones review:

The greatest strength of his book―part memoir, part scientific treatise on obsessive-compulsive disorder―is that it meets [people who call themselves ‘a little OCD’] on their level: ‘Imagine you can never turn it off.’ Adam’s personal insights, and case studies from the famous (Winston Churchill, Nikola Tesla) to the obscure (an Ethiopian schoolgirl who ate a wall of mud bricks), make that feat of imagination both possible and painful.

Aug 15

Neil Hilborn and His Powerful “OCD” Poem in Full Video

A powerful poem is rapidly making the rounds via video. Neil Hilborn, who wrote it in 2011, calls it “OCD,” and the presentation of it below occurred this past June at the Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam in Madison.

In case you’re wondering, Neil Hilburn has recently explained (source: The Huffington Post) that the tics are actually part of his intended performance; however, he also has them for real.

What’s the relationship between OCD and tics? Expert Charles S. Mansueto, Ph.D., offers a comprehensive article, “OCD and Tourette Syndrome: Re-Examining the Relationship,” on the International OCD Foundation website.

The following, from Mansueto’s article, is an intro toward understanding the distinction between these two diagnoses:

OCD is characterized by obsessions – frequent, unwanted, upsetting and maladaptive thoughts or images that a person can’t get out of his/her consciousness. These are often associated with ritualized overt or covert behaviors (compulsions) that the person feels compelled to perform in response to his/her obsessions. Typically, these are designed to reduce distress and/or to prevent a feared event. Tics are sudden, repetitive, stereotyped movements or phonic emissions that are usually seen as involuntary and are sometimes preceded by urges. Tics can occur in flurries and tend to wax and wane in severity and intensity over time. They can be simple – sudden, brief and meaningless (e.g., eye blinks, head jerks, facial grimaces, coughs, barks, snorts, etc.) or complex, slow, and more purposeful (e.g., smelling things, touching things, shouting obscenities, counting things, tracing objects, ‘evening up’ objects, and repeating heard words or phrases, etc.). Simple tics often appear first with complex tics developing later. Tourette Syndrome is diagnosed when multiple motor tics and one or more phonic tics are present during the course of the disorder.

Mansueto notes that the DSM-IV classifies OCD and tic disorders as separate entities, which remains true in the newer DSM-5 as well, though both OCD and tic disorders have now received updated placements. OCD now has its own listing, no longer under Anxiety Disorders, and Tourette Syndrome and other tic disorders are now listed as motor disorders under a neurodevelopmental category.

Although distinct from each other, OCD and Tourette Syndrome (TS) and other tic disorders (T) are viewed as having a connection, according to Mansueto:

The frequent concurrence of symptoms of both disorders in the same individual is one strong clue. Up to 60% of TS sufferers have been reported to have OCD symptoms, 50% of children with OCD are reported to have had tics, and 15% met criteria for TS. Also, evidence from family studies and lines of genetic research suggest that the disorders are etiologically linked.
Moreover, at the clinical level, distinguishing between OCD and T/TS symptoms can be difficult and at times impossible. Even seasoned experts can be hard put to distinguish complex tics from compulsions. This can present a significant dilemma for clinicians attempting to make a differential diagnosis (tic or compulsion?) under such circumstances. This is not a small point. Besides influencing treatment decisions, the diagnosis holds important implications for the predicted course of the patient’s disorder, the likely choice of treatment, and the expected prognosis for the individual.

OCDTypes.com looks like a good resource for descriptions of the various subcategories of OCD; it also includes related disorders such as hoarding, trichotillomania, and tic disorders.

Interested in seeing more of Neil Hilborn? He and a couple other poets—Dylan Garity and Hieu Nguyen—are involved in “The Good News Poetry Tour“—and they’re going back on the road this fall.