After recently watching the movie As Good as it Gets, starring Jack Nicholson (Melvin Udall) and Helen Hunt (Carol the Waitress), I was left with the impression of a very peculiar man who had some very strange habits. During the course of the movie, veiwers watched his condition go on a small rollercoaster ride, better to worse to better, and by the end of the movie Melvin is nearly cured. Faced with the task to diagnose this weird and wonderful man, I eventually came to the conclusion that he suffered from nothing other than Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can take many different forms. According to the DSM IV-TR, the essential features of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are recurrent obsessions and compulsions that are severe enough to be time consuming, at least one hour a day or more. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that seem to invade one's mind despite attempts to ignore or suppress them. These thoughts are not simply excessive worries about real life problems. In other words, they are not legitimate worries about routine life issues such as finance, children, or the grade one will receive on a paper one wrote for class. Instead, they are senseless and unrealistic. Some examples of things people might be obsessed with might include germs, dirt, religious thoughts, and sexual thoughts or images. Obsessions may also center around special numbers, in Melvin's case, the number five.
Compulsions are the actions, or thoughts, that the individual performs to briefly reliefe his or her obsessions. Obsessions provoke compulsions. They are voluntary, irresistible actions that are ritualistic. People with OCD do not enjoy carrying out these rituals. All that they receive from them is temporary relieve from the anxiety caused by their obsessive thoughts. Including Melvin, about eighty percent of all OCD sufferers experience compulsions. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can become so severe that the time consuming rituals may take over the sufferer's life, making it impossible for him or her to continue live outside the home.
Can you imagine constantly thinking about something, such as keeping your hands free from germs? Now imagine yourself washing your hands repeatedly for an enormous amount of time because you want relief from these pestering, unwanted thoughts. This is a day in the life of someone with OCD. You can see how this condition can truly drive someone absolutely crazy.
Another key characteristic of OCD is the fact that people with the disorder show recognition that their symptoms are unreasonable and that the consumption of time that they spend due to them is maladaptive. These people are constantly struggling to squash their obsessive thoughts and to prevent themselves from engaging in time consuming, compulsive behaviors. Many people are able to keep their symptoms under control during the day while they are at work or at school. But left untreated for a long enough period of time, their symptoms may become so severe that time consuming rituals take over every aspect of their life, making it almost impossible for them to leave the home. This is exactly this case with our character, Melvin Udall.
Picture someone that can only think of just one thing all the time. This thought may start out small but then grows until it totally dominates the person's mind. They can't get rid of it. The only thing that helps is acting on this thought, this act itself is the compulsions, but this will only suppress it for a small amount of time. The thought is similar to a wildfire. The way a fire consumes a forest, the sufferer's obsessions engulf his or her mind.
OCD needs to be taken seriously. Many of the things people with OCD do may be funny or humorous, stepping on cracks for example, but it is a very serious disorder. It adversely affects many people lives, although during the movie it was...