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OCD Onscreen: Entertaining, Educational, Or Both?

When I think of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in the media, one word (actually, one show) comes to mind: Monk.

I don’t even watch the show, but it’s no surprise I should think of it when I think of OCD used for entertainment. I mean, Adrian Monk’s OCD “quirks” are pretty infamous at this point, aren’t they? Not only are they used to help him in his usually unorthodox methods of solving crimes, but they’re also big reasons why so many fans (and even fellow characters) find him endearing.

The USA Network even offers Germicide: Outbreak, an interactive game that – in addition to being a blatant advertisement for such products as Windex Antibacterial (as if folks with mental health issues don’t have enough advertisements thrown at them, ha) – gives fans the chance to get things as clean as Monk needs them to be.

However, despite Hollywood’s knack for capitalizing on the condition, the mental and physical stresses OCD causes aren’t always endearing or worthy of a chuckle – however good-natured that chuckle may be. The obsessions and compulsions people with OCD endure can literally cripple their abilities to function in every day life. People often joke about their own “OCD tendencies,” but sometimes those tendencies are so severe there’s no room for laughter.

The Irish Times recently ran an article, Cycle of Obsessive Thoughts, that touches on OCD in various entertainment venues (for example, Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets and Michael J. Fox’s guest appearances as a surgeon obsessed with hygiene in Scrubs); however, the piece also does an excellent job of introducing the layperson to obsessive-compulsive disorder in real life, including what it is and who suffers from it; the various symptoms and how they can disrupt life; and diagnosis and treatment options.

All in all, a good read and one worthy of a Celebrity Psychings stamp of approval. I’m glad the publication also offered the article in its print format.

So, what do you think? Is the entertainment business skewing people’s understanding of mental health conditions? Helping people better understand these issues, with a bit of humor on the side? Or is it a mix of both?

OCD Onscreen: Entertaining, Educational, Or Both?

Alicia Sparks

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2009). OCD Onscreen: Entertaining, Educational, Or Both?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 17, 2018, from


Last updated: 13 Jan 2009
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Jan 2009
Published on All rights reserved.