Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments (20) Posted 08.18.09 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Chappell Ellison

Compulsion: Where Object Meets Anxiety


The author with her brother

My brother stood in the kitchen, staring at a stool. It was where he always sat. Having not visited home in a while, I was unaccustomed to his new habits and placed my purse on the stool. Following my brother’s intense line of vision, I realized my error and lunged for the purse. I carried it to the opposite end of the kitchen, my brother watching as if I held an irritated viper. I apologized as he walked over to the now empty stool and began his inspection, scanning the seat with his eyes. I apologized again because I knew he was desperately determining whether he could ever sit on that stool again. There was no way I thought he could get worse. He was 24-years-old at the time.

At the age of 30, my brother turned to our mother and said, “I never thought I’d make is this far.” As a mother, she didn’t know what was worse: that her son made such a statement, or that she agreed. We all did. For a grown man who has never been terminally ill or fought in a war, it’s a puzzling utterance. My brother suffers from a disease that is diagnosed as often as asthma. In his early 20s, he was officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He became one of the nearly 7 million Americans with OCD. While his compulsions are propelled by a fear of germs, OCD comes in many forms. The most commonly known form, thanks to film (As Good As It Gets) and television (Monk) is ritual based — touching a light switch or locking and unlocking a door for a specific amount of time. The common factor of all forms of OCD is that they are absolutely crippling, ruining lives and permanently damaging families. 

We make small, compulsive decisions every day. The hand towel should be folded this way. The coffee must always be in the Father of the Year mug. The bed must be made before leaving the house. When I take a morning walk in my neighborhood to get a coffee (half decaf, half regular, one tablespoon of milk) and a newspaper (daily Will Shortz addiction), I’ve become familiar with some of my neighbors’ compulsions. There’s the old woman who sits on the porch in her pink muumuu, compelled to clutch her rosary and say three Hail Marys when an ambulance passes. There’s an elderly gentleman who shuffles along the sidewalk in a a tweed jacket, despite the rising heat as spring melts into summer. He stops at each deli, leaning on his cane while straightening each stack of newspapers. He never buys one and he doesn’t want one either. I offered once.

Generally defined as an irresistible, persistent impulse, a compulsion is an act that is deeply imbedded in our brain from the moment we’re born. While scientists can wave their hands and point at a section of the brain where compulsive behavior originates, there is no chart or graph that can describe the emotional investment we make in objects that trigger such behavior. Whether it’s a rosary or a stack of newspapers, our brains insist that we must touch, fix, avoid, destroy, or heal these objects in order to satisfy the impulse, thus pacifying internal anxiety.

I used to not understand it. I harbored an anger towards my brother, as if his OCD were controlled by a switch that he was too lazy to turn off. After all, Christmas in my house isn’t shaking the presents under the tree or fighting over the last piece of pecan pie. It’s attempting to suppress my brother’s nervous breakdown after he drops his pencil on the floor.

About four years ago, I had my first recognition of my own compulsive behavior. On a flight from Little Rock, Arkansas to New York City, I learned that compulsions at 20,000 feet are rarely a good thing. As I sat in my aisle seat, buckled in and hoarding one of those tissue paper covered pillows, I found myself staring at the latch that held my tray table in place. It was the same color as my family’s first computer. And it was ever so slightly at a 98° angle. I found myself wanting, no, demanding that the latch be perfectly vertical. If I did not reach out and turn that cold, plastic latch to perfect alignment, I was certain that the plane would crash. My breath grew shorter and my body temperature soared as I noticed the two passengers next to me also had misaligned latches. I reached a boiling point, quickly fixing all three latches, my arm a speeding blur past their faces. One of the neighboring passengers gave me a strange look. The other had fallen asleep, still clutching his plastic cup of ginger ale. While I’m sure it was a means of coping with my fear of flying, it was the strongest compulsion I’d ever felt. My experience was only a hint of my brother’s pain. The anxiety I felt lasted mere minutes. For him, it’s a lifetime.

When my brother walks into a room, every single object has a voice that screams only at him. The sofa, the rug, the throw pillows; they scream indiscernible commands that all seem to say “Don’t touch me or you will die.” His fear of these objects and the perceived germs they carry cause him to stand in the middle of the living room, paralyzed with his palms pressed together at his waistline. It has become his standard position. He might watch an entire half-hour of television, standing in that very spot. We’ve gotten used to it. In the past five years, I’ve realized that some objects scream louder than others: door handles, light switches, cushions. But his interactions with some particular objects have provided stories that cause my family to laugh and cry years later. We have learned that objects designed to make our lives easier, prove disastrous for him. As his condition worsens, we have to take stock of these objects and adjust our own behaviors in the process.

Soda Cases

Though my brother still withstands a few public outings, my mother made a solo trip to the grocery store that day. Fulfilling my brother’s grocery list requires an eagle eye. No dented cans or scratched boxes. A particularly tricky item is the 12-pack soda case. Standing in aisle 14 with the hum of a row of freezer cases to her back, my mother’s challenge was to find a soda case in pristine condition, with its perforated handles not yet punched in, proving that no one’s hand has touched the inside of the packaging. 

My brother loves the soda flavors that make your liver want to cash its last check — Diet Black cherry Pepsi, Diet Caffeine-free Vanilla Dr. Pepper. Choosing the best two cases, my mom carried them to the register. The polite cashier began making small talk (city population: 36,054) while scanning the items. Before my mom could verbalize a warning, the cashier passed the first soda case over the price scanner — Beep! — and punched her hand through the perforated handle — Pow! The sound was a gunshot that caused my mother’s shoulder to slump. After a brief, sugar-coated explanation, mom returned to aisle 14. She chose the least damaged of the few remaining soda cases and stomped back to the checkout counter where the patiently waiting cashier handled the soda cases with care.

“Oh I’ll carry those for you Mrs. Ellison,” the eager grocery boy said to my mom while bounding for the soda cases.

Pow!

His hands punched through before any objection could be made. Throwing up her hands and muttering to herself, my mom returned once more to the soda aisle and retrieved the only two remaining cases, one of which had a slightly dented corner. It was the best she could do.

The grocery boy held the new cases in his arms like a pair of newborn babies, following my mom to her car. He gingerly placed them in the backseat, ensuring the handles were in perfect condition. Mom drove the four miles to my brother’s house, a pink 3-bedroom under tall pine trees. His only roommate is Billie, a cat whose deep, soulful meow earned the namesake of the legendary jazz singer. Billie often walks around the sparsely furnished house, meowing at ghosts and spirits we can’t see. She takes particular interest in the bathroom.

After pulling into the driveway, my mother parked the car and waited while my brother retrieved the groceries from her backseat. He carefully scrutinized each item before taking them inside.

“This corner is dented in,” he said while staring at one of the soda cases that lay on the seat. My mom gave no response, only an exhausted sigh. He knew she had done her best. Lifting the case out of the car, he held it at arm’s length and rushed it inside. Because of that dent in the case, he would spend the next few hours washing the surface of each unopened can with hot water and soap.

Pillowcase/Laundry basket

When my brother was 16, he lost his hearing in his right ear due to an infection. It was a fluke, the doctor said. My brother was devastated. As his OCD grew from non-existence to crippling disease, he became more obsessed with anything that touched his ears. He refuses to buy headphones that have spongey ear coverings. The porous material is impossible to clean with rubbing alcohol. He also holds a disdain for iPod earphones because they must be inserted into the ear.

The combination of an ear and germ obsession results in daily laundering of pillowcases. We’re not sure why, but he prefers doing his laundry at my parents house rather than his own. He carries the laundry in a black garbage bag, clutching it tightly and never once placing it on the floor. On one winter’s afternoon, he pulled a few articles out of the dryer, carrying the heap in his arms through the kitchen, walking towards his bedroom. That’s when the pillowcase fell. The sound of it hitting the floor was thunder to my ears. He didn’t notice. This would be avoided if he could use a laundry basket, yet the plastic lattice work on nearly every basket sold translates to dozens of nooks and crannies for him to clean. Washing them upwards of 30 times a day, his hands are the only trustworthy receptacle for carrying clean laundry. After he went to his bedroom, I sat at the kitchen table and starred at that dark green pillowcase, lifelessly sprawled across the orange tile of our kitchen. It was Sophie’s Choice. Or Let’s Make A Deal, without the prizes or fun. I had a choice to make: put the pillowcase back in the dryer and lead him to think he left it there by mistake, or leave it right where it was. I couldn’t bear to lie to him. My legs turned to stone and I sat, knowing the consequences. He eventually returned to discover his error, muttering curse words under his breath. Our household suffered from a minor meltdown until dinner eased the tension. He could never use that pillowcase again. My dad has since devoted his free time to searching the internet for laundry baskets that can be easily sanitized.

Automatic Pet Door

Billie became an outdoor cat when she was six years old. Previously she had only viewed nature from the confines of an air conditioned house. She pressed her nose against the window, leaving streaks on the glass to succumb to Windex. My brother let her out to chase leaves and chew on ferns in the backyard. This didn’t bother him because dirt is clean. He doesn’t think twice about plunging his hands into soil. My dad took up gardening, elated they could share one father-son activity.

Yet as Billie’s outdoor excursions became more frequent, my brother grew more anxious about touching the door knob. After more internet research, my dad installed an automatic pet door that was triggered by a sensor on Billie’s collar. For OCD sufferers, automatic is usually a good word. An automatic object typically performs its function on its on volition. Though our 21st century lives are not as automatic as The Jetsons, many common objects perform tasks without requiring a physical touch. A cup of coffee or a quick vacuuming of the carpet can be completed without lifting a finger, thanks to automatic timers and computers. In a bathroom, we can flush, lather and rinse by waving our hands in front of sensors. However, most of this technology is found in the most avoided of all places for someone with OCD — public restrooms.

Billie’s automatic door was the perfect solution until the morning my brother awoke to find a white cat with slanted blue eyes perched on his nightstand. The pet door had malfunctioned, allowing Billie to bring home a new friend. My parent’s received a frantic call around 3 a.m., my brother in a complete state of panic. They stayed on the phone with him until he managed to chase the cat out of the house. He spent the rest of the night cleaning his carpet and nightstand, fearful of the invisible microorganisms the white devil might have left behind.

The feline harassment continued. The white cat snuck in to eat Billie’s food and claw at the wallpaper. The last straw was the day my brother came home to find the white cat urinating in his studio, ruining his canvases and paper. My mother had been recounting the saga to me through e-mail, stating that dad was going to take care of it. They searched the entire neighborhood for the white devil’s owners, but no one claimed it. I called my dad a week later and asked what became of the stray cat. “Oh, he’s a country kitty now,” he responded. I didn’t ask any further questions.

Menus/Tablecloths

Fifteen years ago, my dad converted our laundry room into an office for my mom. A row of white cabinets that once housed bottles of Tide and spot remover, now contain costuming books and folders exploding with medical histories. We’ve all had our problems. While my folder is quite thin (jaw surgery, flat feet), my mom’s is impressive (brain tumor, ruptured discs, nerve damage). Based upon appearances, we’re a healthy family. Just don’t look in those cabinets.

On the back of one cabinet door is where my mom tapes lists: emergency numbers, e-mail passwords, our history of cat ownership. Among these is a tirelessly edited list of restaurants, a jumble of typed and handwritten names. The list is a family archive of safe restaurants, that is, ones that don’t use tablecloths. 

My brother enjoys going out to eat, despite the potential disasters that might occur. When we sit as a family, he lingers, standing over his chair, examining the seat cushion and table. One of his many mental, geometric calculations plays out in his head as he determines the quickest and safest way to seat himself without touching anything. To see him attempt to negotiate a tablecloth is heart breaking. As he eases into the chair, sweat forming on his upper lip, he uses only his index fingers to scoot the chair forward. He keeps a few inches between his knees and the tablecloth. The rest of us feign interest in the menu, unable to watch that small slice of his daily suffering. I’ve never in my life seen a worse prison.

The rest of the meal rests on a fence with the possibility of tipping to one side or the other. His shoulders never relax as he is, at all times, aware of the tablecloth and the patron sitting directly behind his chair. If another diner’s chair bumps into my brother, it’s nothing short of a planetary collision. He’s our own supernova.

One afternoon we were safely seated in a tablecloth-free restaurant when I learned of my brother’s latest compulsion. Sitting to my left, I noticed him flinching each time I turned the page of my menu. I decided not to prolong the issue and quickly selected a dish. Later I learned from my parents that each turn of the page created a small breeze that barely grazed my brother’s face. His disease had reached an all time high. My brother no longer had to touch an object to be painfully affected by it. That was the moment I lost hope for his recovery.

Now I continue living the life he should’ve had in Manhattan. As I stand on the subway platform, watching happy families fan their Playbills at each other, the hot breeze of the approaching F train hits my face and I know that my brother’s life will never again coincide with mine.

Coping With the Present

When I think of my brother all alone in his pink house, surrounded by the few objects he can touch, I can’t help but weep. We were best friends. He taught me about comic books, Chevy Chase and Prismacolors. Back when he could still touch a car, he drove me to rent my first Mel Brooks movie. Though his disease — as my parents remind me — is not my responsibility, I think of him every hour. I try to remember the person he was ten years ago, but now all I see is an empty boy, surrounded by things he can’t touch.

I feel an immediate bond with anyone whose life has been affected by OCD. I’ve attended several lectures on Universal Design — the process of designing for all, including people with disabilities. While Universal Design tends to address impaired motor skills and movement, I wonder if there’s a place for my brother in that conversation. As a designer, I know that it is impossible to consider every tiny percentage of each special interest group when creating a new product. Yet every year brings new technological advances that ease the daily anxieties of OCD patients. While the iPhone may not have been designed with OCD in mind, it’s the ideal cell phone for someone like my brother. A smooth touch-screen eliminates the hours my brother would spend cleaning between the cracks of a conventional keypad. Yet to design specifically for OCD patients is an improbable challenge. To create an object for someone who fears tactility and physical interaction is the sort of assignment that turns a designer’s world upside down. 

I have just begun to consider the possibilities of designing for OCD, wondering if such such a process could result in at least the smallest amount of comfort for sufferers. To ease my brother’s pain, even for a mere five minutes, would be my greatest achievement. Now that I’ve begun to understand my brother’s daily anxieties instead of running from the pain it has caused my family, I’m beginning to think it’s possible.


For this essay, Chappell Ellison was the winner of an Education Award in the 2009 AIGA Winterhouse Awards for Design Writing & Criticism.
Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


The Interventionist's Toolkit


Collage Now, Part 2: Cut and Paste Culture


How the Banks Want to Make China Sick — and Broke


The Infinite Warehouse of Images


Status Quo or Transformation? A False Choice



RSS Subscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (20)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

a beautifully written, interesting piece from a gifted writer. glad to see it run here.
andspark
09.01.09 at 11:27

Like most people I was never aware of the real terrors that the inanimate world of stuff around us presents to OCD sufferers. Thanks for a brave and insightful look into a nightmare existence and the collateral emotional fallout for the family, and for pointing out the challenge: is it possible to design products that can adequately address the needs of those with a disease whose symptoms vary so much from person to person?
Angela
09.02.09 at 12:13

Did your brother ever have “Strep throat” when he was growing up? See this website about Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. http://intramural.nimh.nih.gov/pdn/web.htm
Carl W. Smith
09.02.09 at 01:10

delightful!

I do a great deal of work with the aging, who too are dealing with disabilities in a whole new way.

The role of design can make life so much easier for so many. Focusing design energy on this ever growing population is innovation just ready to explode in so may ways.

Last year the Sarasota International Design Conference addressed this topic in a very thorough way. So much to be learned about our whole culture as we address the needs of the disabled. For we are all disabled in some way or another, be it physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual. We all strive to overcome... Design helps us d that on so many levels..
florence Haridan
09.02.09 at 01:57

I don't know if your brother has already tried this, but brabantia make laundry bins with a removable cloth liner that can also be washed. As an OCD sufferer, that helped me.
Nikesh Patel
09.02.09 at 10:28

There is a current trend among the obsessed to make others aware that this disorder needs to be referred to in proper alphabetic order. Therefore it's now common for this to be known as CDO. The Addictionary and several other sources address this correction.
BlueStreak
09.02.09 at 01:14

Thank you for this! I can't begin to imagine how difficult it has been for you and your family. This definitely changes my perspective on life's effect on design (and vice versa). I'll never walk down a supermarket aisle the same way ever again.
Kevin
09.02.09 at 01:58

Is CDO a joke? That's how it reads to me. I will continue to refer to the condition as OCD until the medical community and my brother tell me otherwise.

Nikesh, thanks for the tip on the laundry baskets. Sounds like it might be a worthwhile investment.

Thank you to everyone for such kind words. Though it's difficult to write something so personal, it's important to remember those who live in a world that isn't designed for them. So go hug your loved ones.
Chappell
09.02.09 at 03:21

Congratulations, Chappell and thanks for a wonderful essay. You've managed to write about a much maligned disorder with sensitivity, insight and compassion. Not an easy thing to do.

I hope you continue to expand the piece. I, for one, would be interested in learning more about your parents. The roles they assume, and how they cope with the frustrations, disappointments (but also the hilarity) of having a child with OCD.

Also, you drop the tantalizing hint that your brother might be some sort of visual artist (when the white cat peed on his canvases). You should describe his work (f he is a painter). It would add another dimension to his character.

Adam Harrison Levy
09.02.09 at 11:48

Yes CDO is a joke that's been making the rounds of the OCD circles for about the last year or so. Whether it is amusing or not obviously depends on your point of view. No harm intended.
BlueStreak
09.03.09 at 09:14

You might find my book OBSESSION: A HISTORY (University of Chicago Press, 2009) helpful. I have a chapter on the relationship between OCD and the visual arts.
Best,
Lennard J. Davis
Professsor
University of Illinois at Chicago
Lennard Davis
09.03.09 at 11:03

Beautiful article. Very well done.

It's refreshing to know that there are people in the world that understand the nature of the disorder and the major impact it has on the lives of sufferers and their loved ones. I shuddered with every "Pow!"

Many people, unfortunately, think that this disorder is funny. It's torture to those who suffer from it. And the broad misunderstanding is amazing.

I never thought of sufferers of OCD as a "special interest group," or about designing specifically for them (I should have, having my own OCD issues, although minor in comparison). I had my "why didnt' I think of that" moment.

Thank you again.
Carrie Hochstrasser
09.04.09 at 08:15

During my masters study at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, I developed a number of designs and wrote a thesis on designing for individuals with OCD. Here is the outline of that work:

. . .

Idea/problem/context: Being human includes ‘peripheral’ needs: dispositions, motives and sympathies outside the mainstream definition of ‘normal’ and ‘desired’ that cannot be addressed simply through user-friendliness. This project proposes design for peripheral needs, and considers its psychological, social, and cultural consequences.

What it is: A set of designs which enable the compulsions of people (such as those who agreed to be the subjects of this study) with obsessive-compulsive disorder. For a woman who needs to repeatedly check that her electric appliances are shut off – switches she can carry with her for mental comfort. For a man who feels compelled to count patterned objects in his environment (tiles, say) – personalized maps to express his counting needs and to share with people with the same compulsion.

How it works: For the checking compulsion, soft velcro-lined RFID-tagged switches are placed on electrical appliances (equipped with an RFID tag reader) to turn them on. The switches can be removed, physically disengaging the power, and carried in various retro-fitted personal effects (handbag, keychain, pillow) that you can physically check for reassurance when away from the appliances. For the counting compulsion, customized maps built with Anoto technology (in which images, hand-drawn or written using a camera-embedded pen, may be stored or transmitted digitally) allows you to record information about countable patterns in your surroundings. These notations are sent to a server database that supports a map-location web interface allowing people to seek or avoid such patterns.

Value/Potential: Through design principles and techniques similar to those applied to mainstream needs, designing for peripheral needs declares that those needs are acceptable, as worthy of being addressed as mainstream ones. More generally, it highlights design’s ability to affect, or at least perpetuate, ideas of social acceptability.

. . .

The core example within that work is developing a system of RFID-based soft switches that allowed a woman with a switch checking compulsion (she had challenges leaving her home in a timely fashion due to her need to continue checking switches) to continue to check her switches when she was away from her home. These switches were built into common objects, like her purse, so that she could maintain a certain level of privacy when going through her checking routine away from the house.

One of the key findings that came out of that work was a deep understanding that what may seem like "problems" to individuals without OCD are in fact the day-to-day normal behaviours for someone with OCD. It requires designing not to solve a problem (as most individuals with OCD live with it for their lifetime), but to in fact enable that "problem" and improve the conditions around it.

This principle of enabling "problems" extends itself beyond the OCD community, helping to bring awareness to the short-sightedness and limitations of focusing on problem solving (so common to design) and/or user-friendly experiences – there is a broad range of dispositions, motives and qualities to being human.

(If anyone is interested, I'll put the paper and videos up online)
Christian Palino
09.04.09 at 01:21

This weblog entry is being featured on Five Star Friday -
http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2009/09/five-star-fridays-edition-69.html
schmutzie
09.04.09 at 01:47

A really moving article! Can these people be cured and live at least a semi normal life I wonder?
photo editing service
09.05.09 at 08:57

All i can do for you and your family is to pray God, May god bless your family and give you people strength that can help you to survive this situation. Thanks a lot for this well written article.
grossesse
09.09.09 at 01:35

What a beautifully written post. Oh how I wish it could be different for your brother. My daughter (28) has OCD which has moved into BDD. She has struggled for over 15 years with her disease. Reading your post about your brother I can see that my daughters OCD is not nearly as intense as his. She is attending a clinic in Los Angeles called OCDLA and they are doing cognitive theraphy. She is also on medication. This is the best she has been in years. I will pray for you, your brother and your family.
Deborah Pucci
09.18.09 at 10:56

May god bless your family and give you people strength that can help you to survive this situation. Thanks a lot for this well written article.
Lipoaspiração
10.11.09 at 12:27

One of the key findings that came out of that work was a deep understanding that what may seem like "problems" to individuals without OCD are in fact the day-to-day normal behaviours for someone with OCD. It requires designing not to solve a problem (as most individuals with OCD live with it for their lifetime), but to in fact enable that "problem" and improve the conditions around it.

Healthcare Market Research
Mark
07.01.10 at 04:22

Dear Chappell,

Like your father, I researched the Internet for clues to resolve current problems with my son who is a suffer from OCD, ADHD and BDD with some behaviors similar to Tourette's but yet not tics, just compulsions that are visual. I cried at your article. I am not sure if it was more for my son, your brother, or my family. When you live with an OCD person, it is like the "monster" in your house takes over everyone. I have a small toddler that I quit work to stay home with. Oddly enough, it was about that time we discovered my son's OCD in high school (although he now tells us he remembers doing odd things back when he was in 2nd grade) and now I seem to stay home to run his calendar of doctor appointments, which now cause me to have to work to pay for them, so I try and work from home doing small jobs to make the extra money to pay for what is now an expense of $1,000 a month which includes a monthly visit to a child pysch doctor for therapy and scripts, a twice a month visit to a cognitive therapist, and a weekly visit to an ADHD life coach, plus meds. It would be more if I would figure in the cost of gas to go back and forth into the city and the unknown cost of the time it takes out of everyone's lives, including that of my toddler. Of course, the really good doctors that are recognized are never covered by insurance and when you work "out of network" you really don't get back 50% of your doctor's fee BUT 50% of the "standard" fee for your doctor in that field. Enough....I could go on all day.

Please check out the book Saving Sammy: The Boy Who Caught OCD. Someone mentioned earlier in a post about your brother ever having strep throat. This book will show you that you can have strep in your body but NEVER have strep throat. Sammy never did. The disease is called PANDAS and stands for something very long that I cannot remember right now. Also go on to You Tube and search Saving Sammy. Choose the Today Show with Matt Lauer's interview with Sammy and his mother, a lawyer and single mother of three boys when she discovered her son, Sammy, had OCD, or so they thought. The book is so very interesting you will read it in one day. Sammy suffered for over a year and was misdiagnosed with OCD. If there are no suffers in your family, which doesn't always mean that is why you may have OCD, but that gene does give you a better chance to have it, then you have even MORE reason to check into this. It is a simple blood test. Done. Your doctor needs to know what he is looking for, titers in the blood. Strep can be caught without having strep throat. It is an infection in your blood and it attacks the basil ganglia and gives off similarities to OCD. That is the simple version. Also, Lyme's Disease can be a culprit. Oddly enough, my son had Lyme's when he was about 7 years old (2nd grade) and also he had numerous strep infections as a small child YET his blood work did not show a sign of high infection in his body so don't run off thinking your brother could be a PANDAS sufferer or vice versa. Just keep an open mind and have the blood work. Sammy was cured with HIGH doses of Augmentin, an antibiotic. Like high doses of 1,500 to 2,000 mg a day. Read the book. The mother is very open and available by email. She wrote her book to help others after a deal with God to please find a cure for her son. The book was out in 2009 I think. Sammy is not only cured but lives a normal life and attends college. He is an excellent math student.

My son still suffers, but not like your son. He did have surgery to correct a body part that has helped him tremendously. So his BBD is not off the charts because usually you are not satisfied BUT it has turned in to doing rituals to keep that body part the way it is now.

His ADHD brings on anxiety which triggers the OCD and compulsions. Many people have OCD and if they have that there is a great chance they have ADHD and then a smaller chance they also have tics (Tourette's) and BBD. But not always. OCD people are very, very smart! My son has an IQ that is above average and there are others out there MUCH smarter. However, many of them are not in classes that are advanced or getting grades they should because of several reasons and it takes a dedicated parent to keep on top of homework, teachers, and school. Sometimes they are so exhausted they cannot focus long enough to do the homework or study and that leads to the poor grades. Balancing meds to take care of the OCD but yet help the ADHD in you focus is a very sensitive and precise balance and that is hard to maintain. The ADHD brings out the forgetfullness, the inability to follow directions, the details in a project become overwehlming so you miss them, skip them, whatever, which brings about a bad grades, and so many times ADHD people lie to cover, and sometimes they just don't remember, and so much more.

PLEASE do your brother a favor, do your mother and father a favor, and do yourself a favor because everyone suffers when a loved one is mentally ill, PLEASE check in to PANDAS. Like I said, it is a blood test. IF you ahve a doctor that is not willing to even LOOK into it, GET A NEW DOCTOR! My son was not effected by PANDAS but his levels were just at the high end of normal and the doctor had no problem trying a lower dose of antibiotics to see if there was any change at all.

Let me ask you this question. What do you have to lose? What do you have to gain?

Best of luck to you!
Pam
09.03.10 at 09:11



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




|
Share This Story



Chappell Ellison is a design writer, editor and educator. She is a proud graduate of the Design Criticism MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, and previously received her BFA in Design at the University of Texas. In 2009, her essay on design issues related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder received the AIGA Winterhouse Awards for Design Writing.
More >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS