OCD on Glee

Ever see Glee?  I was excited to see it when it first came out since I had heard there would be a character with OCD on the show.  Unfortunately I am mostly disspointed with how they have chosen to portray OCD.

For those who don’t watch or who haven’t seen it, that character is Emma, and her OCD mostly manifests in mysophobia (more commonly known as germaphobia).  The pilot showed Emma getting quite anxious after stepping on a piece of gum.  Many episodes show her cleaning fruit with moist towel-ettes and gloves.

Most recently aired season three: episode three, where Emma’s parents come over for dinner which stresses out Emma to the point of compulsively arranging and rearranging her silverware.  Her parents are mean and make fun of her.  A flashback scene then shows Emma as a child sitting at the table of a restaurant.  Her parents hand her the familiar moist towel-ette and she begins cleaning her cup as her parents do; implying that Emma developed OCD because of the way she was raised by her parents.  I did not appreciate this as it sends a strong message that OCD is someone’s fault, when it is not.  Later in the episode, Emma is seen compulsively rubbing her hands together, before she kneels to the ground to pray.  Will is with her, and says “I wish I could make things better for you”, not knowing what to do.

I thought that scene was sweet and probably the closest the show has come to portraying OCD in a realistic way, but overall Emma falls short.  She is often seen cleaning or compulsing, but she always seems quite calm performing her rituals, and I think most of us don’t really recognize that feeling while compulsing.  Thus, further supporting the false idea the OCD is about perfectionism, cleanliness and anal retentiveness rather than anxiety.  At the heart of it, OCD is about trying to make the anxiety go away.  When an obsession or intrusive thought pops into the mind, the person becomes anxious and tries to get rid of the feeling with compulsive behavior.  Emma rarely seems anxious, as most of the time during her cleaning, she is chatting with great ease.  After a while you don’t even notice her cleaning because it comes across like she is simply overdoing it.

Without too many shows highlighting OCD (besides some exploitative reality show garbage), I am less than impressed, and I really don’t relate to the character.

You ever watch Scrubs?  That scene with Michael J Fox was what helped me realize I had OCD. It was a very realistic representation as he showed anxiety, stress, frustration, shame and strength.  Emma is pretty flat as a character and while I think it’s nice they have an OCD character…yawn.

Here’s the clip from from Scrubs that really changed my life.


I used to be good at distracting people from my embarrassing compulsions and nervousness. I hated people asking me if I was nervous; I did not want to draw attention to my crazy brain. I guess I also did not want my mood to inconvenience anyone. I would talk really fast in hopes people would focus on what I said and not what my fidgetty hands were doing. I smiled all the time, even when sad, to throw people off. I smiled so much, it’s habit to do it at the “wrong” times even if it’s stupid like when a security guard tells me to move. I don’t talk as much and I think it’s because much of my anxiety is gone and my brain isn’t moving a mile a minute. The problem is, I still smile.

“The OCD-Girl”: Identifying with OCD

The idea that OCD and I had this almost Jekyll and Hyde relationship defined me more than I would care to admit. Because of therapy and tending to all my health problems, my OCD is at a minimum. So much so, that I rarely see it as part of my life anymore. This was amazing; not having OCD steer my ship anymore, but it wasn’t that simple. Who was I now that my OCD was mostly gone? I had such severe OCD, that I had trouble keeping a job, few friends, and threw out stuff (opposite of hoarding). I dressed plainer than Jane, hated traveling and feared everything. Now that I was not this girl anymore, I hated my clothes, hated how I acted, hated that I had no career…It was like that movie with Val Kilmer where he plays a blind man, but gets his vision (not as extreme, but you get the idea). He was confused by shadows and mirrors and though he could see, he still lived the life of a bind person. I felt like I was still living the life of OCD and I hated it.

I am sad. At first, I felt spoiled for not being full of pure glee for my new mind, and I assumed that the adjustment period was to blame. I then realized that this sad feeling is too much. For years, I have been told I had depression and I would always deny it. For some reason, I refused to admit to it. Now that OCD is not the main issue, I feel like these other issues are coming to the surface which, though painful, is for the best.  Now I am in therapy again for the depression and continuing to work on my physical health.  That was the biggest difference for me, healing the body as a whole.

I am not the “OCD-Girl” and though it makes me a little unnerved to feel like I don’t know who I am anymore, I feel hope in knowing that I am now free to find out.