Harm OCD Was Finally Talked About on British TV, but It Wasn't All Good
A few hours ago, I woke up to several messages from friends telling me the British television show “This Morning” covered harm OCD as one of their topics today. I was both delighted and relieved such a popular show should finally discuss a part of obsessive-compulsive disorder so rarely covered in mainstream media.
Sadly, the kind messages from my friends weren’t the only things that poured in today. Viewers took to Twitter to mock interviewee Adam Shaw for his appearance on “This Morning,” with many saying they too want to murder their partner sometimes so therefore they must have OCD.
As hurtful as these comments are to read — especially as a person with severe OCD who is housebound due to my intense fears I could harm someone — I don’t blame the individuals who responded in such a way. I believe the responsibility lies with the show itself for its incredibly distasteful language and attitude surrounding such a debilitating mental illness.
Hosts and married couple Eamon Holmes and Ruth Langsford opened the show by joking with each other about OCD, as opposed to introducing the illness with the seriousness it deserves.
“I thought OCD was about, you know, lining up the towels or the salt and pepper pot,” says Eamon.
“…Yeah. Like I do,” laughs Ruth.
“Yeah! Your form of OCD.”
“I don’t even have OCD and I want to murder you sometimes.”
When you open such a serious topic by mocking it, you are inviting others to do the same. The saddest thing here is these hosts have power and influence over their viewers. Because of this, they have a responsibility and moral duty, not only to their audience but also to their guest to handle such matters correctly, sensitively and respectfully.
Mental health advocate and author Adam Shaw has struggled with OCD since the age of five. While it started off as a need to protect his family, Adam’s OCD became so severe that he lived with the terrifying belief he was capable of murdering his wife.
Adam explains with great clarity that OCD is a “worry problem” and no one with OCD ever carries out these thoughts. Despite this, Ruth uses language such as “want” as opposed to “fear,” which not only shows a lack of research but a lack of compassion and understanding.
“How did this present itself?” Ruth asks. “Would you be in the house and suddenly think ‘I just want to put my hands around her neck or push her down the stairs.’ What do you mean you want to kill her?”
“Everybody has thoughts, the difference with OCD is you think those thoughts are very real,” Adam replies. “I would avoid knives. I used to walk around with handcuffs in my pocket so if I had the ‘urge’ to strangle someone I could call for someone to handcuff me.”
The biggest problem with the interview is neither Ruth nor Eamon were prepared to talk about OCD in a serious manner. It appears no prior research had been conducted and this is not the first time this has happened. The show received widespread criticism over their flippant commentary of OCD back in December 2014 when they mocked the illness after English actor and comedian Johnny Vegas “admitted he has OCD when it comes to decorating his Christmas tree.”
While it is, of course, fantastic to see coverage of OCD on mainstream media, I wonder if by not being prepared and by making jokes about it, shows like “This Morning” are perhaps doing more harm than good. You only have to look on Twitter to know the jokes and language used have impacted viewer opinions severely, with most people saying Adam wanted to kill his wife as opposed to fearing he would. When it comes to OCD, this distinction is crucial.
I do not want to harm a child, but it is my greatest fear I might. Adam never wanted to kill his wife, he was scared he could. That is why, like Adam, I use avoidance. I have spent 17 years avoiding children, hiding away in my home, because of a fear, not a desire.
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Photo from “This Morning” Facebook