clap clap blog: we have moved

Thursday, July 03, 2003
OK, just one more:

I'm sitting on the couch watching Dr. Phil, and he has this woman on who is obviously obsessive-compulsive. Like: she cleans every Saturday and has to vaccuum in a certain order, has a place for her purse and it has to be there, counts syllables in other people's speech and if it doesn't come out "right" she has to rephrase it in her head. I mean, she is fucking textbook. And now her 2-year-old daughter's doing it, sorting her clothes by color, cleaning voluntarily, etc., so it's clearly hereditary. So we go through all this and it's like, duh, OCD.

But Dr. Phil goes on and on for a while about...well, at first he's got the OCD question, i.e. "What do you think would happen if you didn't follow these rituals?" But then just on and on about anxiety and relaxing and taking walks and fingerpainting, and that's fine, but it's clear that this woman has a nearly debilitating case of OCD that demands treatment. But he doesn't even say OCD, let alone mention possible medication.

And I'm just thinking: why? Why the hell would you do this? And then I remember that it's entertainment, and I remember who the audience is, and I think that maybe the mainstream has, shall we say, a bit of a bias towards the organic (psychological) rather than biologic (medical) interpretation of mental illness.

Remember when Prozak became widespread and there were all these weird reactions against it in pop culture? They amounted to, you know, you're taking these happy pills to make everything OK and you can't face reality, man. God forbid they understand the history of medication for debilitating depression (i.e., "Here's some tranquilizers!") and know how big of a breakthrough Prozak was for people who've been dealing with this illness for years and years. God forbid they have something that helps them live their lives.

It's just such a strange thing, especially given how widespread use of psychotropics is. But people seem to want these stories, these narratives that explain their essentially unexplainable and illogical condition, stories with root causes ("She does X because she was abused, he does X because of his mother...") and with redemption narratives that spring from the self rather than from science, from a pill. But sometimes the process of getting treated is reasonably triumphant in and of itself, and a lot of times medical treatment (in addition to therapy) allows you to get on with your life a lot better. It's less self-indulgant. The bias sucks, if you ask me.

Well, my girlfriend is yelling at me to go and watch more Dr. Phil, so off I go.