In the podcast series, The OCD Stories, founder Stuart Ralph discusses how the media often gets Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) wrong with Hollywood writer, producer, and OCD sufferer, Harris Goldberg.
Goldberg is known for his films Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Without a Paddle, The Master of Disguise and Numb, films inspired by his own experiences battling an anxiety and OCD.
OCD is a debilitating mental illness that affects approximately 3 million adults and half a million children in the U.S. The U.K. current estimates suggest that 1.2% of the population will have OCD, which equates to 12 out of every 1000 people. OCD occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. These obsessions range from a wide variety of themes such as cleanliness, morality, violence, to sexuality, religion, and perfectionism. Compulsions are an attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease distress. Compulsions can manifest as overt physical actions such as hand washing, checking something (e.g. a stove, a lock) over and over again, or avoiding certain places, situations, people, or objects to less obvious mental compulsions that attempt to suppress or neutralize uncomfortable mental content. Misunderstanding what actually constitutes OCD has resulted in widespread misdiagnoses and stigmatization of those who actually suffer from the disorder.
The phrase, “I’m sooo OCD”, has become part of modern English parlance, casually dropped by non-OCD sufferers in conversation when referring to being overly tidy, particular about something, or obsessed with any number of things. Being a neat freak or enjoying organizing your shoes, however, does not make you OCD. How did the abbreviation for a medically diagnosed and debilitating anxiety disorder come to be used as a flippant comment to describe harmless personal quirks? According to Stuart Ralph and Harris Goldberg, this transition has largely been influenced by the lack of accurate portrayals of OCD in the media and, especially, in Hollywood.
Too often popular media presents oversimplified versions of OCD. Movie writer Harris Goldberg discusses the challenge of writing accurate scripts for characters with OCD. Often directors and producers change the script to fit stereotypes, audience expectations, or just to get a laugh. Goldeberg says, “I wrote in a character to be literally me, based off my own OCD experience. I originally wrote him to be a real three-dimensional character with OCD. But then somebody buys the screenplay and they go can we make him less OCD, can we make him a little weirder like can we make him terrified of cellophane or something.” Goldberg asserts that people are more likely to identify with an accurately portrayed, multi-dimensional, character than a “diluted cartoon.” The problem is, the studio gets frightened and prefers to create a fantasy version of what an OCD person acts like in order to, so they think, appeal to a larger audience. What gets lost, though, is the reality and compassion.
Goldberg explains that producers need to understand that the thing that will sell the movie is the script that is true to the OCD experience: “People will go, ‘Wow! This so passionate and real.” For Goldberg, this is what makes “good work.”
Mental health advocacy and education efforts such as The OCD Stories podcast are key in informing the media on what OCD is. The OCD Stories podcast is dedicated to inspiring people with OCD to seek proper treatment through thought-provoking and informative interviews with clinical specialists and OCD sufferers alike.
Interviewees tell the stories of their own recovery including strategies and tips on living with OCD…and beyond it. Mental health advocacy is a crucial tool for teaching the media how to properly inform the public on what OCD is. For more information about The OCD Stories podcast go to their website at theocdstories.com or follow them at The OCD Stories on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.