Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Internal or External Struggle?

This post was written by a student in Susan Schuyler’s Narrative, Rhetoric, and Identity class at Stanford University. Each student in this class will complete a research-based argument related to the course topic.

“Ugggh, I’m so OCD.”

We’ve heard this phrase a lot.  OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is an anxiety disorder that is thrown around casually in today’s society.  It has been portrayed, and oftentimes parodied, in countless movies and television shows such as Monk, As Good as it Gets, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Aviator, to name a few.  In reality, OCD affects 6 million Americans.  It is a serious disorder that, in extreme cases, compromises an individual’s quality of life, making simple tasks such as getting out of bed nearly impossible.  It is far from a joke.  Why and how then, has OCD taken on this new identity?  What about the way individuals with OCD have managed to present themselves in society has skewed the reality of this disorder?

The urges associated with OCD are “ego-dystonic,” which means that they are contrary to one’s own knowledge of his or herself.  This implies that there is a manipulation of one’s image, both personal and public.  What conflict does this internal manipulation imply?  Additionally, no pleasure comes from completing these tasks; in fact, these behaviors can oftentimes be obtrusive and embarrassing.  Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley, authors of The Mind and the Brain, describe an obsessive compulsive urge as, “…chronic poison ivy of the mind.  The more you scratch it, the worse it gets.”

I want to explore both the internal and external tension that individuals with OCD live with.  How do they create an image that masks their OCD?  Why do they feel the need to do so?  How do individual’s internally cope with actions that seem so contrary to their image of themselves? How does completing a an action devoid of pleasure and oftentimes associated with dread add or detract to one’s sense of self, and how they present themselves?  Does the greater struggle come from managing the disorder in order to preserve one’s image of oneself, or the public’s opinions of the individual?  I plan to use primary research backed up by scientific evidence to explore these questions.

– Alex Simon, Stanford 2014

This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Stanford-CCNY, Fall 2010: Humanities, Identity, and Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink.

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