Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has filtered its way into colloquial conversations (“I have OCD about the way my desk looks” “I have to wash my hands, I’m so OCD”). But as the more than 2 million American adult sufferers know, there is way more to the disorder than having an aversion to messiness or germs.
At its core, OCD is deeply rooted in anxiety. Individuals who suffer from the disorder experience frequent, upsetting thoughts known as obsessions. To find relief from the anxiety the compulsions bring, they feel the need to repeat certain rituals — like washing their hands or locking doors multiple times — which are known as compulsions.
The disorder can have a severe impact on daily life — and not just for the average American. Pop culture icons who suffer from the disorder also have to find ways to manage, all while remaining in the public eye. But even with the disorder’s prominence in society, many people remain in the dark about what it’s really like to suffer from the illness. Below are 10 celebrities — from actors and singers to TV personalities and athletes — who will prompt you to rethink what it means to deal with OCD.
The quick-witted writer and actress, whose character Hannah Horvath on HBO’s “Girls” also struggled with OCD, has gone to therapy to help her manage the disorder. In an essay published in The New Yorker, Dunham bravely detailed what exactly contributes to her OCD, which includes a range of factors from health complications to the subway.
With the recent release of her book, Not That Kind of Girl, Dunham hopes her personal story will shed a light on mental health issues.
“There is a conversion about mental health that needs to happen in the country that we’re just at the beginning of, and all of us sharing the struggles in the world inside our heads whether big or small can help us normalize mental health problems,” she told Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts. “I was very lucky to have parents who had a forward-thinking attitude about putting me in therapy and giving me the tools I need to move forward. They had the foresight to put me in therapy and encourage me to create, and the book is dedicated to them for that reason.”
The “America’s Got Talent” judge has been open about his battle with the disorder, which manifests in a fear of germs. The TV personality penned a book called “Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me,” which addresses his impulses. He also speaks out about the stigma attached to anxiety disorders.
“We take care of our dental health,” he told CNN in February. “We don’t take care of our mental health … I think the solution to making this world better is if we would just be healthy, mentally.”
When the actor stepped into the role of Howard Hughes in “The Aviator” — another famous sufferer of OCD — the part brought back a lot of memories of his own struggle with the disorder as a child. “I remember as a child, stepping on cracks on the way to school and having to walk back a block and step on that same crack or that gum stain,” he told About.com in an interview about the movie.
Timberlake is best known for his captivating tunes and charisma on the big screen, but off screen he deals with a different kind of reality. The singer revealed to Collider.com in a 2008 interview that he struggles with OCD as well as ADD.
The soccer star confessed in 2006 that he suffers from OCD, noting that he has a compulsive need for everything to be in a proper place. “I’ll go into a hotel room and before I can relax, I have to move all the leaflets and all the books and put them in a drawer,” he said in an ITV1 interview. “Everything has to be perfect.” He also revealed that while dealing with the disorder is a challenge, he is constantly working on managing it.
Fox revealed to Allure magazine in 2010 that she suffers from the disorder, stating that most of her intrusive thoughts come from a fear of germs. “This is a sickness, I have an illness — this is not OK anymore,” she told the magazine.
The Oscar-winning actress told the Daily Mail that she has OCD and really struggles with the idea of unexpected mess, and the thought of it can sometimes keep her awake at night. “I have a problem with cabinets being messy and people just shoving things in cabinets and closing the door,” she told the publication while speaking out about the disorder. “I will literally lie in bed and not be able to sleep because I’ll be like, ‘I think I saw something in that cabinet that just shouldn’t be there.'”
The ’90s singer told ELLE magazine that OCD controlled her life and even disrupted her sleep. “At its worst, I was compelled to leave my house at three o’clock in the morning and go out in the alley because I just knew that the paper-towel roll I threw in the recycling bin was uncomfortable, like it was lying the wrong way, and I would be down in the garbage,” she said. After becoming frustrated with the disorder, she learned to create in spite of her OCD and even leaves herself little reminders that encourage her to embrace it.
In 2011, the actress explained in an interview that her OCD about checking doors and appliances used to bring intense anxiety, ABC News reported. “It was like a panic come over me and I had to do something, and once I did it, I was OK. … It was really me needing to control something,” she said.
Regarded as an innovative and honest comedian who features her OCD as a central part of her stand up, Maria Bamford has been speaking out about dealing with the disorder since her rise to fame. She told NPR’s Fresh Air that while most people focus on the compulsive actions, it’s the obsessive thoughts that drive her anxiety:
What it is, it’s the equivalent of washing your hands, thinking you’re going to be dirty or that you’re somehow dirty, but it’s with thoughts. So as soon as you try to not think of the thought, the thought pops up again. Most of us have weird thoughts floating through our heads once in a while. I heard a comedian once say, ‘You ever think, “Hey, my dog looks kind of sexy today.” ‘ Things where it’s kind of like, ‘That’s wrong,’ but usually nobody thinks twice about that. You just go, ‘Oh, that’s weird.’ If you are an anxious person and somehow on high alert, you think, ‘I just thought my dog looked sexy, that must mean I’m somehow a dangerous person’ — sort of this spiraling effect.