An intriguing primer on obsessive complusive disorder, chock-full of case studies, and complete with pointers on diagnosis....


THE BOY WHO COULDN'T STOP WASHING: The Experience and Treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

An intriguing primer on obsessive complusive disorder, chock-full of case studies, and complete with pointers on diagnosis. Rapoport is a sound source: Chief of the Child Psychiatry Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, she has been researching and treating the disorder since 1972. Defined here as ""the sustained experience of obsessions and/or compulsions,"" obsessive compulsive disorder is ""a strange and fascinating sickness of ritual and doubts run wild."" When the rituals and doubts are severe, says Rapoport, ""the victim's work and home life disintegrate. . .The most crippling obsessions create absurd, embarrassing, or frightening thoughts that repeat in the mind in an endless loop."" Rapoport feels the disease is serious, and much more common than previously thought. She has also found that most sufferers try to hide their affliction, feel isolated, don't know much about the disease, and are often ineffectively and incorrectly treated (there are some effective drug treatments available). Rapoport groups her detailed, curious case reports into three parts: ""The Patients Speak: Parents""; ""The Patients Speak: Children""; and ""A Doctor's Perspective."" Here, we learn of people whose compulsion for cleanliness led from continual house-cleaning to eventual homelessness: ""I had to vacuum until it felt right. Just being there in the room made it feel dirty. . .It was all right in places that I didn't have to take care of. So school, park benches, anyplace away from my apartment seemed okay."" We encounter cases of religious obsession, extremes of ""checking"" (whether doors are locked, for example), and super-superstition: ""I must make sure that I do not repeat something 6 or 13 times, or 60, 66 or 130 times."" Rapoport then looks at ""On the Boundaries""--how do lesser forms of such behaviors (readers will certainly recognize themselves here!) fit into the picture? And, finally, she offers guidelines for diagnosis and suggests resources for sufferers. Not just an introduction for the medically curious, then, but support for those so afflicted. Rapoport is a knowledgeable, sympathetic guide in an unusual field.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988