First things first. There is nothing funny about obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a potentially debilitating, often severe, anxiety disorder that routinely wreaks havoc on sufferer’s lives. As with all illnesses, mental or physical, it is serious business, and certainly nothing to laugh at.
But wait. Maybe that last part isn’t completely true. Maybe it is something to laugh at. I mean, come on. What OCD sufferer couldn’t tell an amusing story or two relating to the disorder? So while OCD is no laughing matter, the situations that often arise from having the disorder can be downright funny. It’s all how you look at it. A stressful situation looked at from a humorous perspective will surely reduce anxiety, or at least keep it from over-taking the sufferer. And laughter is good for us. It relaxes us, helps us recharge, and can even boost our immune systems.
My son Dan has always had a quick wit and a great sense of humor, and his ability to see the comical, and often absurd, aspects of OCD has certainly helped in his recovery. But, understandably, the more severe his OCD was, the less his sense of humor emerged. So I tried to help. For example, Dan had a hard time driving for a while as he was not only afraid of hitting someone, he was afraid of upsetting other drivers (maybe he was making them late because he was driving too slowly, or maybe he hurt someone’s feeling when he inadvertently cut them off). I suggested we write down all the license plate numbers of all the cars he came in contact with, try to track these people down, and then send them all letters of apology when he got home. Conversations like this helped Dan get a little distance from his own thoughts, and often made him aware of how ludicrous his reasoning had become.
While I feel humor is a good weapon in the fight against obsessive-compulsive disorder, I feel differently when it comes to treating OCD lightly in the media. The disorder is already often misrepresented, and portraying sufferers as quirky, cutesy, funny characters does no good in our fight to educate the public as to what OCD really is and is not. I guess it all comes back to what I said originally. While OCD is not funny, humor is an effective tool in dealing with the disorder.
Come to think of it, isn’t humor an effective tool in dealing with almost anything? I’d love to hear your thoughts.