The Man Who Couldn’t Stop – If You Had OCD

Think of your brain as a computer. As thoughts pop up, windows pop up too. You can choose to shrink these windows, move them, and close them. But an obsessive thought cannot be closed.

David Adam, author of the book The Man Who Couldn’t Stop suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The book explores the weird thoughts in our minds and the causes of OCD. He gives countless examples and tells short stories of people all around the world that has OCD.

The opening and leading story of this book is about an Ethiopian schoolgirl named Bira, how she ate an entire wall of her house, and had to seek professional help from a psychiatrist. Soon after, the author tells how common intrusive thoughts are to people. “Most people have these kinds of strange thoughts. Most shake them off. Some people don’t. When we cannot make our strange thoughts go away they can lead to misery and mental illness.” (Adam 3). He mentioned that an average person has about four thousand thoughts per day, some rational, some are just thoughts that randomly pop up. Like most people, I also have obsessive and intrusive thoughts.

I have minor obsessive and compulsive thoughts such as spotting a black dot on the white board that the teacher missed would make me think about it the entire time uncomfortably when the teacher is talking, with the urge of erasing it with my own hands. Having to step on the same colored stones on the sidewalks or floor in school just because it makes me feel satisfied or complete, walking in a special rhythm. Things like turning off my light switch multiple times so that it pops out completely in a certain time, feeling like I have to crack my knuckles or any other joint to stop the unease. Doing a weird and specific routine once per day has become a habit that I cannot break. Afraid that germs would contaminate my cloths if I sit on my bed after I sat on my chair, sometimes feeling disgusted or resist skin ship with others, cannot accept starting paragraphs of an essay with the same word twice. All of these insignificant things can be built up to the big ones that David Adam talked about in his book, the serious ones that need to seek professional help and treatment. “In a few people this universal (and culturally acceptable) ability might malfunction, and lead them to construct meaningless and idiosyncratic (culturally unacceptable) rituals on their own. That would be OCD.” (138). I am clearly not at that stage, but these compulsive thoughts would not go away easily.

David Adam has also talked about bad thoughts that people always have. “‘How easy it would be for me to stick this kitchen knife into him.’ Most people have thoughts like that. They are called intrusive thoughts. Most people don’t talk about their intrusive thoughts.” (15). He stated that surveys have shown that about nine out of ten people experience intrusive thoughts that shocks themselves. “Most people have thoughts about driving their car off the road… More than four in ten get an urge to jump from a high place, an impulse so common that it has its own scientific name: the high-place phenomenon.” (15). These intrusive thoughts are really common and appears everywhere. OCD can begin with an intrusive thought then turn into an obsessive thought.

Concluding the book, David Adam explains his own OCD that was the starting point of this book, a book that he hopes connects and guides others and makes his strange thoughts mean something. “Not everyone who wants professional help can get it. Tell someone about your thoughts, a friend or a relative. If you’re worried about their reaction then show them this book first. Most likely, they will have those kinds of thoughts too… If you find it hard to talk about your thoughts then you are not alone.” (282). To David Adam, this book holds personal nightmares and what he has attempted to overcome ever since he first got OCD. Writing this book helped him address his OCD and is reminded him of his experience. “This book and the journey it involves have proven to me that OCD no longer holds my thoughts captive. They are free to dissolve to glorious mess. And from that, they can begin again.” (290).