Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Exactly Is OCD?

At different times in life, certain illnesses become—for lack of a better word—"trendy" in pop culture. Lately, it seems OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) fits into that category. As more and more celebrities speak openly about their own experiences with the disorder (ie, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Howard Stern, Howie Mandel) and OCD is more frequently featured in TV shows, often for comedic effect (ie, "Glee," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Monk"), there has been a perception shift: it's almost as if it has become hip to have OCD. In fact, people with mildly compulsive habits and/or obsessions are often incorrectly self-labeled or peer-identified as having OCD when they actually do not.

While it is great that more and more people feel comfortable discussing OCD, the truth is that many still don't understand exactly what OCD is. Our friends at OCD Chicago describe OCD as such:

OCD is a neurobiological anxiety disorder. It equally affects men, women and children of all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. OCD is the fourth most common psychiatric disorder, after phobias, substance abuse and major depression, affecting about one in 40 adults and one in 100 school-aged children.
OCD is characterized by obsessions and compulsions that take up an excessive amount of time—typically an hour or more each day—and cause significant distress. Obsessions are uncontrollable, persistent worries, doubts, or fears that significantly interfere with normal life. They are intrusive and create unbearable anxiety.
People who have OCD feel compelled to perform repetitive activities—compulsions—in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions. Compulsions may be either physical or mental rituals that are performed over and over again in an attempt to control the obsession. But unfortunately, any relief that the compulsive actions provide is only temporary and reinforces the original obsession. It becomes a cycle that is difficult for an OCD sufferer to break without professional help.

Like any other mental or physical illness, OCD manifests itself in different ways depending on the person. And also like any other mental or physical illness, people with OCD are so much more than the illness from which they suffer. They are real people, with real voices and real stories.

Erasing the Distance is thrilled to partner with OCD Chicago for a one-night-only event in honor of National OCD Awareness Week that explores the many facets of obsessive compulsive disorder. Here's the info.

Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 7pm
at Ann Sather Restaurant
909 W. Belmont, Chicago

Featuring ETD actors David Hornreich, Maura Kidwell and Craig C. Thompson.
OCD: REAL STORIES - REAL PEOPLE is a powerful evening featuring three stories performed by ETD actors followed by three speakers discussing their own experiences with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Refreshments provided.

Tickets are $10 ($5 for students). To register, click here.

If you suffer from OCD yourself, know someone who does, or would just like to learn more...we hope you can join us.


  1. Thank you for this additional insight on OCD. I am strengthened by your work and wanted to know if you knew of similar organizations in the Bay area.

  2. Thank you for your kind words, and for reading our blog.

    Unfortunately, there are no organizations that we know of in the Bay Area who do what we do, especially the combination of theatre and mental health.

    There are certainly mental health organizations --- NAMI has offices/chapters in the Bay Area as one example. There are other groups in that area that use theatre to tackle other social issues - i.e. there is a group that works with women in prison called the Medea Project ---- http://culturalodyssey.org/medea/. It's founded by the amazing Rhodessa Jones.

    I would suggest starting with the NAMI chapter in your area and seeing what other organizations they could recommend. Good luck in your search!