Review 5: 4GoesMad - 'Jon Richardson: A Little Bit OCD'
As the title suggests, this programme is about comedian Jon Richardson exploring whether he is just very tidy and likes order, or has a mental health problem called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This programme is part of the 4 Goes Mad series on Channel 4. The focus is interesting as in some respects; most of us have our own little obsessions or compulsions that are quirky rather than a serious problem and the programme explores the difference.
The programme was a journey for Jon. He obviously realised that his need for tidiness and order is more extreme than in most people, but he didn’t know very much about OCD, or whether he had OCD. Not surprisingly he was a bit frightened that he might have a disorder, and this thought concerned him more than living with his behaviours.
He started off talking about his own behaviours, and I suppose because he is a comedian, he presented them in quite an amusing way. For instance, he was backstage at a gig and said something along the lines of they put me in here and look at those pictures. They aren’t symmetrical, and one has something missing.
This programme was his first experience of meeting other people who he knew had OCD. He met a number of different people with OCD. Some had mild problems and others had more severe difficulties to extent of being house bound. It was interesting that they had a mixture of people and didn’t just focus on the more severe cases. All of the meetings with people with OCD were very respectful and the focus was on trying to understand the condition.
Most people filter out or don’t think about things such as how symmetrical things are, or whether they will be contaminated by ‘normal’ levels of dust or bacteria in their environment. What struck me about Jon and all of the people he met was that they were constantly on the alert and thinking about their obsessions and compulsions; and how stressed or anxious they felt if they didn’t follow them through. Jon and many of the people he spoke to talked about how their problems got worse when they were stressed.
As the programme went on, he spoke in more detail about his problems. Whilst he is now living with and managing his obsessions and compulsions, he was a lot worse a few years back. There was a clip where he was talking to ex-flatmates. Anyone who has shared a house with anyone will know that this can be a nightmare at the best of times. For Jon, it really was a bit of a nightmare as he was very upset by how untidy his flatmates were, to extent that one night he slept in his car. What was particularly interesting was that his flatmates didn’t know how upset he was or that he slept in the car. He said that his obsessions and compulsions were his problem, and that it was his own fault. This is obviously very sad, and suggests that his way of dealing with it was to internalise these feelings.
It was good that they also looked at treatments. Part of the problem is that people with OCD think that something bad will happen if they don’t carry out their compulsions. One of the treatments is to encourage a person to face their fears, which helps them realise that nothing bad will happen to them if they don’t follow out their obsessions or compulsions. So for instance, in the programme a psychiatrist demonstrated how they encouraged people with issues about contamination, to put their hand around the toilet seat and then spread their hands across their body. The psychiatrist encouraged Jon to do this and not surprising he wasn’t that keen, and to be honest I wouldn’t be either.
The programme was well rounded, and ended up with him having an assessment for OCD, which found that he didn’t have OCD. He did score high for obsessive behaviours, but crucially he didn’t experience significant distress. He said at the end that he could live with his obsessions and compulsions, and that they were his choice.