My friend Angie over at OCD In The Family recently posted a video of Larry King interviewing Howie Mandel about his OCD in 2012. For those of you who might not be familiar with him, Larry King was a renowned radio and television talk-show host for over 50 years.
I have to say I was really surprised at Mr. King’s lack of knowledge about OCD. I expected better from him. The video is only a couple of minutes long but it’s chock-full of typical misconceptions about the disorder:
Larry says to Howie: “It’s not a severe mental illness, is it?”
Larry asks Howie what he’s most compulsive about, obviously not understanding that tormenting obsessions drive the compulsions.
Larry says, “We all have little bits of it.”
While Howie Mandel should be commended for being open about his mental health challenges and fighting the stigma associated with them, I think he missed some teachable moments here (though I imagine it’s incredibly stressful being interviewed about his OCD, so I will cut him some slack).
I watched the video several times, at times trying to perceive what a person with no knowledge of OCD would take away from it. One thing I think might be particularly difficult for viewers, as well as for Larry King, is that Howie Mandel is obviously functioning at a high level. He is a successful comedian, host, and actor, so a natural thought is “How bad could OCD be, if he can do all that?” I’ve written before about how it’s not unusual for people who suffer from severe OCD to get up in the morning and face their responsibilities, even though they might be dealing with non-stop obsessions and hours and hours of compulsions. And while they might seem okay to the outside world, inside they are truly tortured. The bottom line is just because they are functioning, it does not mean they are okay.
While treatment options were not really discussed, Howie did mention a couple of times that he was medicated. I don’t know if he has ever tried exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy or not, but I’m always disappointed when it’s not mentioned in any discussion about OCD.
Though you probably can’t tell from this post, I really am pleased that OCD is being talked about. And I’ll be even happier still when we can better communicate the truth about what this disorder actually entails.