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The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the…

The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in… (2014)

by David Adam

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Showing 5 of 5
This was a very informative read. A combination of memoir, commentary, case studies, and science. I learned a lot about OCD and hope to read some more books about this subject. B/c David Adam is from the UK, a lot of the resources he mentions are not available here in the US, but nonetheless, he offers some helpful insights and recommendations, including a few sample letters to give to a therapist should you need to seek professional help. ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Mar 31, 2018 |
Six-word review: Imagine that you can never stop.

Extended review:

Everyone has odd notions and intrusive, unwelcome thoughts from time to time. What if your life were dominated by them, indeed governed by them, and you could never, ever shut them off? What if they were so far from socially acceptable that you couldn't discuss them with anyone, and yet you were powerless to halt the behaviors they provoked? What if their very nature posed a virtually insurmountable obstacle to seeking help?

Then you might be in a position to identify with the author of this book, a recognized science writer who for more than twenty years has kept his painful condition a secret, even from his family.

The author describes with unsparing candor the reality of obsessive-compulsive disorder as others have reported it, both practitioners and sufferers, and as he himself experiences it. He gives an account of public perceptions of OCD, relating it to other mental health conditions and to inner states, and discusses the history of its treatment up to the present, from barbaric surgeries to behavior modification.

Something like OCD in a mild form seems to run in my family, though nothing--as far as I know--that resembles Adam's experience. Nonetheless, I found his research and especially his personal narrative both compelling and illuminating. It's a quick medium-weight read that both heightens awareness and leaves much to ponder. ( )
2 vote Meredy | Aug 7, 2016 |
Told by a patient afflicted with OCD, an examination of what the disorder is, the range of treatment options, and theories as to what causes it. Well written, but I got sidetracked by other books in my pile and abandoned it. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Sep 14, 2015 |
If you are like most people you probably think OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is funny; if so this book is for you. Also, this book is definitely for sufferers of OCD who will be relieved to know that they are in good company.
David Adam has written a clinical yet human story of his battle with OCD and the result is a very well-written account of the condition. One telling comment he makes is when he describes OCD as comparable to dragging a mental sea anchor around all the time. Not a light read by any means but a worthwhile one. ( )
  Writermala | May 9, 2015 |
Dr David Adam was a specialist correspondent on the Guardian for seven years, writing on science, medicine and the environment and is now a writer and editor at Nature, the world's top scientific journal. David also has OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

While most people associate OCD with excessive hand washing or counting behaviours, Adam's OCD manifests itself with obsessive thoughts about the possibility of incidental blood transfer which could lead to him contracting, or passing on AIDS (despite not being infected). It began when he was eighteen after a throwaway comment by a friend and quickly developed into a crippling obsession which resulted in him studying doorknobs and AstroTurf for traces of blood, despite his understanding the minuscule risk of AIDS being transferred in this manner. Though temporarily eased by checking behaviours including daily calls to the AIDS hotline, wiping cups and bottles and applying multiple plasters to any scrape or cut, the thoughts and behaviours threaten to overwhelm him almost every minute of every day.

Adam's primary motivation for writing The Man Who Couldn't Stop stems from his desire to confront the condition that has been his constant companion for 20 years. In a manner accessible to a layperson, David shares what little is understood about the disorder, which has no definitive cause, and no cure.

From Freud's theories (predictably the psychiatrist blamed the illness on masturbatory guilt) to the latest information gleaned from MRI's of the basal ganglia, Adam explores the evolution of the disorder that has been treated variously, but rarely conclusively, by immersive therapy, lobotomy, electric shock and psychotropic drugs.

OCD, Adam insists, is not just a 'quirk' but a serious illness with the potential to cause mental and physical harm. A young Ethiopian schoolgirl, Bira, developed an obsession with mud that saw her eat eight square metres of a mud brick wall that supported her house, a Brazillian man named Marcus was obsessed with the shape of his eye sockets and his prodding resulted in blindness. Sufferers can spend upwards of six hours a day catering to their obsessive compulsions, alienating family and friends, destroying careers and ruining lives.

The Man Who Couldn't Stop is a fascinating study of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with a narrative that combines David Adam's personal story with science and history. It took ten years for David to seek treatment and cognitive behavioural therapy, and a daily dose of antidepressants, now allows him some control over his intrusive thoughts, but there is, at present, no cure. ( )
  shelleyraec | Apr 27, 2014 |
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"Have you ever had a strange urge to jump from a tall building or steer your car into oncoming traffic? You are not alone. In this ... fusion of science, history, and memoir, [science editor and writer] David Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind and explains how they drive millions of us toward obsession and compulsion"--Dust jacket flap.… (more)

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