July 26, 2009
I’ve never seen anything better than this (adapted from Leslie Packer’s handout on schoolbehavior.com) to help people without obsessive-compulsive disorder understand what OCD is like.
As you read the paragraph below, count all the times the letter “e” occurs. You must count and read simultaneously–you can’t read and then go back and count, and you can’t keep track on a piece of paper. You have to do the counting in your head for this exercise. If at any point you lose track of the count or aren’t 100% sure that you’ve counted correctly, you’ll have to go back to the beginning of the paragraph and start again. If you end up with the wrong number, or if you don’t completely understand the content of the paragraph when you’re done, you’ve failed, and you don’t get another chance.
Children who have OCD often have hidden or silent compulsive rituals. These hidden rituals often (You’d better get this right, or else.) confuse teachers who may look at a child and not (Do you have the right number of “e”s?) realize what is going on internally that may make (24, 23, 25, 26) it almost (If you get this wrong you are going to die.) impossible for the child to function normally at (If you don’t die, everyone you love will come to hate you.) times. Young children often don’t realize that what they are (Or maybe it’ll be your brother or mother who dies. And it’ll be your fault.) doing is “abnormal,” and older children, teens, or adults are often (Wait, was it 48 or 50? Or 36?) embarrassed by their rituals and won’t tell you about (Would you wager the thing you value most in the world that you have the correct number?) them. (Are you absolutely sure? Absolutely? Really? What if you got it wrong? 37, 56, 28, 95, 46, 37, 75, how about now?)
Now go and make a joke about how OCD you are about your carpet being straight.