Review 4: 4GoesMad - ‘Jon Richardson: A Little Bit OCD’
Comedian Jon Richardson doesn’t have OCD. The selling point to last night’s documentary, Jon Richardson: A Little Bit OCD, was to follow Jon on a journey to determine if he has the commonly-misunderstood disorder. Thankfully, the revealing of this was near the end, so the hope is that viewers will have gained a better insight into what OCD really is.
The common misconception is that someone is ‘a little bit OCD’ because they have a little quirk with how they like objects organised, or want to keep things clean. Jon, however, had genuine concerns about his mental health. “I have no idea if what I do would qualify as OCD”, he said.
In an extremely self-deprecating and honest display of self-awareness in the form of an article for the Guardian, Jon previously opened up about his obsessive nature. He writes: ‘I find it difficult to accept other people's shortcomings. I am not an unfair person but I do think more effort is the solution to most problems’, which sounds more like a personality trait rather than a mental health problem. But then he writes: ‘I also cannot fail to recognise many symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. I have countless habits that I know serve no purpose but am powerless to avoid. I arrange my coins into ascending size in my pockets, for example, and nothing gives me more comfort than the knowledge that my forks, knives and spoons are all in the correct place.’
The film starts with Jon briefly explaining the habits and compulsions that have led him to wonder whether he has OCD. He says that he sees a game of pool as ‘tidying a table’. He is filmed backstage at a gig, where he recoils in horror at uneven pictures on the walls and explains that he can’t read his notes until he has lined up the newspapers on the table properly.
He then meets up with comedian Tom Rosental, who has been diagnosed as having mild OCD. They share their compulsions as to which parts of the pavement they avoid. ‘I have an issue saying I have OCD as I know people suffer with it a lot more’, says Tom.
Jon then meets 16-year-old John, who has recently been diagnosed with OCD. He talks Jon through his compulsive behaviours, which take up a lot of his time. John says his OCD was triggered when he was aged 6 or 7, when he was bullied at school – indicating how long many people with mental health problems wait to get a diagnosis. His mum said: “I don’t want OCD to be what defines him”.
Jon then meets up with his old housemates, three comedians including Russell Howard. He admits to them that he slept in his car sometimes without them knowing as he couldn’t stand that the house was a mess. He says it was his compulsions, his problems, so he felt he deserved to sleep in his car. “I deserve to be unhappy for wanting it a certain way”, he said. He eventually moved out because he couldn’t stand the untidiness.
Jon then visited leading OCD charity, OCD Action. It is here that Jon makes a discovery about OCD. He begins to match up the compulsive behaviours with the thoughts that follow: “It’s the fact that the brain is telling you if you don’t do this, something bad will happen,” he says, breaking down the stigma that OCD is just about being clean.
Jon then meets 35-year-old Jemma, whose OCD has been diagnosed as ‘profound’. Jemma is virtually housebound, and her OCD has taken over her life. She admits that she can spend an entire day writing out a list. She lets Jon onto her balcony, but not inside the house. She admits that she used to dust paper, but has now stopped doing this. “You’d think that would be an improvement but my OCD just morphs into something else”.
Talking to the camera after meeting Jemma, Jon is perceptively unnerved. He says that his compulsions are controllable and that they are his choice, but it makes him nervous that this could change.
After a visit to a Mental Health Hospital in South London where he is asked to wipe a toilet seat and then himself with his hands, Jon visits his mother. She admits that after Jon’s younger sister was born, she developed OCD. “I washed my hands so much that they would bleed, because of a fear of germs and what might hurt her”, she said. “I’d be surprised if my anxiety levels didn’t have any impression on you.” Jon admits afterwards that he had no idea of her level of compulsive thoughts, and repeats that he is scared of losing control, as his compulsions currently remain ‘his choice’.
Jon then visits Joyce, who developed OCD during pregnancy, and was unable to look after her son because of the extremity of her disorder. Despite a promising academic start to life, her son committed suicide because of his OCD. She says he was unable to do anything but pace backwards and forwards. “This illness, in its worst form, kills”, she says.
Jon then goes for a two-hour assessment, which includes an extended psychological interview, to determine if he has OCD. The diagnosis is that he has ‘some of the preoccupations that go along with OCD’ but he is at the average level of people that don’t have OCD. “I do elect to do what I do and I do them because they calm my anxieties,” Jon says after the testing.
“Before this I’d never met anyone with OCD, but now I’m in no doubt how serious it can be”, says Jon. He is visibly anxious throughout the film about losing control of his compulsions, and repeats that they are ‘his choice’. It was also his choice to use his celebrity status in the most benevolent way – to break down such a common misconception of such a debilitating illness. And – without making a single joke.
If you are a young person and want more information on OCD read more here.
If you are a parent and want more information about obsessions and compulsions read more here.