“a&e” began a show about OCD called Obsessed memorial day weekend of 2009. To my knowledge, this is the first show about the disorder. The series consists mostly of interviews and documentary style footage with each episode consisting of stories from two people who deal with OCD. Each person then goes through weeks of CBT, usually with positive results. At this point drugs are not a prescribed form of treatment on the series.
So far, we have seen characters who suffer from all different types and severities of OCD from hoarding to hand washing. The consistent theme is that OCD has considerably intruded upon their lives and created unmanageable problems.
One particularly touching episode dealt with an older man who had not dealt with his mother’s death and had severe OCD that manifested in hoarding so extreme he had at points needed to sleep outside his apartment.
The CBT portion of the episode is a bit intense because the patient must face their fears through an exposure which is typically the last thing they would ever want to do. Though seemingly cruel at the time, the patient seems better off after having gone through with it.
At first I kind of liked the show’s focus on people who reminded me of myself as well as the fact that it brought some attention to OCD. The type of attention however was very disrespectful. What a person with OCD obsesses about is often times the thing they are most ashamed off and therefor, do not enjoy talking about it. I could not help feel like these people were being exploited. After all, the episodes where CBT was not going well and the star of the show quit therapy early, the viewers first reaction is to blame the victim and why shouldn’t we? Most of the time quitting is bad and rarely reflects positively on one’s character.
I also believe the bootcamp style of therapy to be irresponsible. Sure, it works for the show, but go ahead and guess how many real therapists would ever recommend that in real life. It’s like weight loss; people have a better chance maintaining the lifestyle if habits are put in place and practiced over time, not over night.
Lastly, the exposures portrayed on the show were highly unrealistic. Before therapy, I had watched the show and the exposures were so intense, I decided then and there to never try therapy. I eventually had to, and I learned that therapy for OCD is really not like what is shown on tv.
To summarize, the show brought some light to the world of mental illness which is still very much in the dark, but did not do so in a respectful manner.