OCD and Humor

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.

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13 Responses to OCD and Humor

  1. Tina Barbour says:

    I agree wholeheartedly, Janet. There are some funny things about OCD and the way we express it sometimes. And laughter is good for all of us. But I am tired of the characterizations of OCD. I don’t think Monk did much good. Seldom did the show reveal the pain that goes with the disease (at least in the episodes I watched.)

    • ocdtalk says:

      I’ve seen Monk only once or twice and was not impressed. I could see how it is an engaging show, but as far as depicting OCD,…not good. Couldn’t agree with you more.

  2. Humor saves me alot of the time…I do so many things in my mind and one thing that sometimes gives me the distance from the thoughts is making fun of myself. I’m sure laughing at yourself has done more people good than harm 🙂

  3. ocdtalk says:

    I think you’re right……….we need to be able to laugh at ourselves. I do it daily 🙂 Thanks for your insights!

  4. 71º & Sunny says:

    Oh yes, I agree. Humor played a large part (and still does) in my recovery. It was my psychologist that first taught me how to laugh at myself and see the humor in the craziness of OCD. When I was really in the depths of despair, I made it a point to watch a funny show every single night before bed. It really helped to set my mood for the end of the day and helped me to sleep better. I think this is a very helpful post Janet, and I sure hope everyone who reads it takes the suggestion to include humor in their recovery too. It really does make a difference.

    • 71º & Sunny says:

      Oh, I just read the comments above about Monk. Actually, funny enough, my family and I loved that show. We watched most seasons. It actually was a sweet and poignant portrayal of a man with terrible struggles. BUT, I have to agree, that it didn’t really quite nail down the pain of the OCD itself. It showcased more of the pain of his losing his wife than the pain of living with OCD. I think most portrayals in the media are pretty one dimensional. Even though I struggle with contamination, I know plenty of people with OCD that do not. OCD is so much more than “the washing disease.”

      • ocdtalk says:

        Thanks for commenting, Sunny. Like I said, I only saw Monk a couple of times, not enough to really begin to “care” about the character. I agree with you on the general depiction of OCD in the media…..it’s disappointing and one of my pet peeves!

  5. Marenii says:

    My son has OCD (really severe at times) and sometimes humor helps and other times it doesn’t. He says it depends on what kind of mood he is in, but over all, he has a great sense of humor. We liked the show “Monk”. Especially the one in the doctors office with the other patient with OCD where they kept rearranging the magazines. It helps sometimes to see that other people have ‘rituals’ they must do. I liked Monk because it showed some of what people who love someone with OCD go through. My son has really good friends, sometimes they will have to wait quite a long time on video games for him to set up his character (every thing HAS to be perfect), but they accept him for who he is.

  6. ocdtalk says:

    Thank you for your insights, Marenii. I am sure it’s helpful that your son has a great sense of humor to help him through the tough times (usually 🙂 ). I appreciate your comments!

  7. Brooke says:

    I totally agree. Humor was and is a huge part of my recovery. I am naturally a very clumsy person and often I am a bit of a “blonde”… so I’m used to laughing at myself. It took a while before I realized I could laugh at my OCD-isms but after I did it really helped.

  8. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for your comment, Brooke. I think there’s something about making fun of “OCD-ism” that somehow take its power away. Glad humor helps you too!

  9. We, as a family, use humour to help my son cope with his OCD. At first I was horrified when my husband said John was late because he was ‘spinning around on his head’ (He went through a spell of looking around over his shoulder, first one way, then the other). Then John laughed and I realised that the mood had been lightened and the stress relieved. He was right and I was wrong. Humour has its place in coping with this horrific condition. Perhaps those living with it are forgiven more than the outsider. If John (on a good day) can laugh at himself, then that can only be good. On the bad days, after all, we do enough crying!

  10. ocdtalk says:

    So true! There is so much heartache and misery for OCD sufferers and their families, that if we can get a laugh in here and there, that has to be a positive thing. Thanks for commenting!

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