Glee and OCD

Did you see last night’s Glee? As you know I am a huge Gleek, so I think all episodes are awesome, but this one was particularly good. I especially liked the way they addressed Emma Pillsbury’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is an easy disorder to make fun of. Furious hand washing, repeated checking of light switches, constant organizing of canned goods – the possibilities for showing the disorder in a “humorous” light are endless. Thankfully, Glee has chosen not to take the easy path of humor, but has instead chosen to seriously discuss the disorder.

OCD is a type of anxiety disorder (which was nicely pointed out on the show) that can affect people in many ways. Obsessive, constant thoughts and worries; Compulsions to engage in certain behaviors over and over; A combination of both; OCD is expressed in many ways. However one’s OCD is expressed, a common point is that it is disruptive to life in some way. OCD can make performing one’s job difficult, maintaining relationships a struggle (as in the case of Ms. Pillsbury), or simply enjoying things you used to impossible.

Luckily, there is treatment for OCD. As the psychiatrist on Glee pointed out: a combination of medication therapy and psychotherapy are typically the best bet for effective treatment. It takes work and time to enjoy a relief in symptoms, but it is possible – and in fact likely – that with consistent treatment the disorder will become less severe.

Some resources:

International OCD Foundation

American Psychological Association

12 thoughts on “Glee and OCD

  1. Randye Kaye says:

    Thanks for a great post! I also loved the way Glee handled OCD in this episode- the stigma, the symptoms and the road to treatment. My only bone to pick: the psychiatrist played by Kathleen Quinlan – I’m assuming her vocation, as she was able to prescribe the SSRIs for Emma – spoke beautifully about acceptance in mental illness, mentioning every diagnosis except for schizophrenia. That, too, deserves an open forum. As the mother of a child with this illness, I know that he deserves the same understanding and respect.

    Still, it’s a start.
    thanks for your info and follow-up comments. Beautifully put!
    Randye Kaye
    author, “Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey from the chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope”

  2. Leah says:

    Do you think facebook addiction is a form of OCD? Either constantly checking your newsfeed. Or always clicking on your farm?? I have a friend that lost her job, because she was on facebook instead of doing her work. She got warnings, but was unable to stop the behavior, and they ended up firing her. Now she stays home and plays on facebook 🙁

  3. Litehearted says:

    Dr. Stephanie, I too enjoyed the “Born this way” Glee episode.

    I don’t have OCD, however, it does strike a chord. I liked how the character Will Schuester, encouraged Emma Pillsbury to recognize that OCD is not who she is, but an illness that is treatable. Eating the unwashed fruit in front of her was too aggressive, but otherwise he was very thoughtful and sensitive in how he approached it. I could relate to Will’s quote that went something along the lines of “you are so busy helping everyone else, that you don’t work on your own problems”. Also, Dr. Shane = Kathleen Quinlan (Emma’s therapist), was amazing. I wished that the script was published.

    I live in Toronto, Canada, and have been to Denver once and loved it. There are a lot of great American cities that I enjoy (NYC, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Washington DC, etc.), but Denver still ranks as one of my favourites. 🙂

  4. Amanda says:

    I saw the episode and I was thrilled they touched on the subject. I feel they did so in a kind way, which was then enjoyable to watch. I was also glad they touched on the stigma of mental illness, which is rarely done on television.

    I admit I got a little teary as ‘Emma’ went into her thoughts a bit. Being in that chair is something I’m familiar with – the vulnerability sometimes just stinks.

    I love the way they portrayed it.

  5. drstephaniesmith says:

    Thanks for your comment! I agree that perhaps Will eating unwashed fruit was a bit too tough, but probably accurately reflects the emotions of those who love someone with mental illness. Sometimes more supportive than others. And glad you caught Dr. Shane’s name – hope to see more of her in upcoming episodes!

  6. drstephaniesmith says:

    What an interesting topic to bring up. I’m not sure if checking Facebook can be “officially” considered a symptom of OCD, but I know that Facebook use can certainly be destructive. I have written several posts on the perils of Facebook, as I believe it can be a slippery slope to unhealthy behaviors and decisions sometimes. Thanks for your comment and best wishes to your friend! And check back for a post on “Facebook Addiction” – you’ve got me thinking about it a lot now!

  7. drstephaniesmith says:

    Thanks for your comments! I agree that schizophrenia is a confusing and not well understood disorder. As such, we don’t see it portrayed in an honest, sensitive way very often. Perhaps now that Glee has opened the door with OCD, maybe they will start talking about a broader range of mental health topics?!

  8. leah o'brien says:

    I look forward to your consideration of facebook addiction! I have “googled” this, but find the topic is not taken seriously. It is more of a joke “Haha, she is so addicted to facebook.” But honestly, I think there should be a very serious look at the issue, and a recovery program for people whose lives are negatively affected by their compulsion to exist on facebook, not only the facebook platform, but the applications that run on it, such as the Zynga games.

    Thank you for your reply 🙂

  9. drstephaniesmith says:

    You are welcome! Look for the post next week – when CREATE Mental Health is over!

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