This is a moving and delightfully unpretentious little book written by someone who had an entirely normal childhood and who traces the onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to a bout of food-poisoning when she was eighteen. This resulted in a morbid fear of germs which triggered the classic hand-washing ritual so common among OCD sufferers. The author briefly discusses what she calls the "over-exaggerated emphasis on establishing a trigger" (p.18) but does not inform us whether there was any family history of OCD which, if there was such a history, might support the hypothesis that it is a mutation in the human serotonin transporter gene which causes OCD.
The author then describes how OCD blighted her life -- making her work difficult and eating away at her marriage. Initially she was a 'checker' -- constantly checking and double checking that the lights were switched off, that the cooker had been turned off, etc. The she became a 'washer' -- washing her hands so many times a day that they became cracked and bleeding. Her job and her marriage started to crumble under the increasing strain. Finally her GP made an appointment for her to see a behavioral psychotherapist who set up a program of behavior therapy which was monitored by twice weekly visits to the therapist. However, this turned out to be not nearly enough and the author finally plucked up the courage to book herself into a psychiatric hospital. Here they could more carefully monitor and help her to change her behavior. The doctors also prescribed a variety of antidepressants including Seroxat and Imipromine, and the benzodiazepine Diazepam/Valium but it was the antidepressant fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac) in quite large daily 60mg. doses that, combined with the behavior therapy, enabled her to slowly claw her way back to a normal life.
She and her husband divorced but this was a new beginning rather than a sad end. She established her own business, remarried and now enjoys a richly satisfying life free of the OCD which threatened to remove any quality from her life.
This is the perfect book for someone who thinks that s/he may be suffering from OCD and wants to know where to start looking for help. The book ends with a list of organizations in the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. which are dedicated to helping people suffering from anxiety disorders and particularly OCD. The book is inexpensive, well-written, easy to understand and very engaging -- highly recommended.
© 2007 Kevin M. Purday
Kevin Purday is a consultant in international education working mainly in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. His main focus is on helping schools to set up the International Baccalaureate Middle Years and Diploma Programs. He has taught both philosophy and psychology in the I.B. diploma program.