Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Overwhelmed By Obsessed

I have very mixed feelings about the TV show "Obsessed" that profiles people dealing with OCD. I tried to watch last night, but ended up crying and turning it off. Once, I was as sick as those extreme cases. The pain of full-time, all consuming OCD is unimaginable. I feel so much compassion for fellow sufferers. It overwhelms me, and angers me, to think of the huge number of people who are homebound or living in terror, shut off from the world. I literally 'cannot watch'.

I wonder what people who've never experienced OCD get from watching the show. Is it a form of voyeurism? Are they thinking how "together" they are by comparison? I am sure there are some people who have OCD and finally see themselves reflected here. Perhaps they will be inspired to get help. Perhaps some viewers are educated by the show and will respond to OCD'ers with more compassion and understanding.

Finally, I wonder, why are these individuals agreeing to go on the show? Is it that they are desperate for help, but can't afford it, otherwise. If that is the case, it's an example of exploitation. I had so much shame about my disease and the thoughts it put in my head. I can't imagine having to reveal myself at my most vulnerable moments in order to satisfy a probing director.

Interestingly, I don't have this reaction to Intervention, even though I am also a recovering alcoholic.

So, my fellow OCD companions - How do you feel about this show?


  1. I used to like this show until I started watching The OCD Project. There is just so much we don't see on Obsessed because of the time constraint, and so I don't think that the outside world gets a good view of what OCD or CBT entails, which can be very deceiving. We don't actually start seeing CBT until the fifth or sixth week in most cases. You don't see what went on or how hard the person worked to get to that point. I am about two inches from not watching Obsessed again.

  2. Interesting post. I haven't seen Obsessed, but I did watch The OCD Project and had the impression that it was much more sensational and less realistic/educational than Obsessed. But maybe not? Did you watch The OCD Project?

    I often wonder what other people think when they see shows like this about OCD, too. I've admittedly watched other programs where they try to help people overcome addictions and such and have since wondered what I got out if it in an attempt to better understand what non-OCD sufferers might be thinking when they watch OCD treatment shows.

    The best I could come up with was curiosity. Is that the same as voyeurism? I'm not sure. Frankly I think I was just curious about struggles these people faced and wanted to better understand what led them to their addictions and what worked/didn't work in trying to overcome them. But then it was also somewhat fascinating and intriguing to see how their addictions could lead them to behave so erratically. Is that the same as watching someone perform compulsions at their lowest moments, when they are probably embarrassed enough about their behavior without having the additional challenge of having those moments recorded on camera and publicly broadcast?

    I think part of the problem with OCD is that it is not well understood by the general public. Whereas people see the erratic behavior of addicts as the effect of drugs and the power they can hold over those who become chemically addicted, the strange behavior of people with OCD is less easy for people to understand. There is no finite outside thing to point to as the cause of the behavior, and thus, I think people are more likely to look at OCD sufferers in their lowest moments as just being plain weird and crazy.

    But maybe not. Maybe the general population does understand. But I can see how non-sufferers would find the OCD sufferer's behavior as strange and confusing, because even to the sufferer himself, his behaviors often don't seem to make sense!

    Anyways, those are just some of my thoughts. The televising and viewing of people struggling involuntarily with disorders of a mental nature, people who really need help and are suffering pretty severely, is definitely an interesting moral and ethical topic.

  3. I actually have enjoyed the shows I've seen this season. One thing they do that I wish they wouldn't is the "will she won't she?" arc. Midway through it always appears that the client is making no progress, then boom! Complete success. That was the case for both of the people on the show I watched the other day at least. I'd rather see the struggle play out more gradually, as I assume it does.

  4. I'm like you. I sympathize too much with other OCDers' struggles to enjoy watching it. I mean, it's one thing to read a blog, where everything is left at the discretion of the writer. But when they make a show with a "reality" twist to it, it just really bugs me that they are sensationalizing something that hits so close to home. Sure, go ahead and dramatize a home renovation, or a dating game, or whatever, but when it comes to OCD, it's too much for me.

  5. I have watched parts of both shows and have had the same thoughts. I was angry thinking it was exploitation. And then other times was thinking well maybe they have no other help and this is their only chance.

    I actually sent a letter into the Obsessed. I can say as hard as it is for me to watch them sometimes and think of all the whys and what ifs I am glad the people on these shows are able to get some help.