The Man With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
He lives in Bali, on the Indonesian island. He suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. His particular obsession is glass. More accurately, broken glass.
Should he break a glass, then he writes down in a special notebook, the exact time he broke it, the hour, day, month and year, what type of glass it was. He double checks all this information with the utmost care and only when he’s completely satisfied, does he close his notebook and put it away.
Recording broken glass is far from his only obsession. He must know the name of every person who passes his house, and if he sees dead chickens lying along the road, he must visit them and inspect them in the most minute detail. If he fails to find the name of someone who has passed his house, his obsession is so strong that he wants to commit suicide.
The terrible tragedy is that his condition is completely ignored, as is that of people with other mental illnesses. He works for the Government, but receives no help from them for his crippling condition.
There are healers to whom he can go. One of them told him that he was the victim of black magic. The cure was to give him a gold amulet, imbued with white magic, and he had to undergo a purification ceremony. As may be expected, these treatments left him feeling no better.
Researchers are studying the ways in which mental illness in general affects people in other countries. For instance, the OCD suffered by this man is totally different from that of an American. It’s vital to know the culture of the patient you’re treating.
If a native from the island of Tonga walks into the psychiatrist’s waiting room, it’s no good whatever for the doctor to treat him in the same way as he would a Westerner. Supposing the patient comes from a land where demons seem to reign supreme and are all-powerful. To Western eyes, the poor man would appear to be psychotic, but perfectly normal in his own country, where he’s fighting real demons.
As I’ve pointed out, OCD varies from country to country. In the West, cleanliness seems to be a major problem, whereas in the Middle East, the observance of religious ritual is of vital importance. Another Western fear is that the person with OCD will commit some terrible sexual act. In effect, they need to be guarded against themselves.
It’s estimated that around 3 million Americans suffer from OCD. These ‘rituals’ that victims of OCD put themselves through; repeated hand-washing, or hoarding useless items, are found mainly in the West.
The key is to try to join the meanings of OCD and other mental illnesses from the West to other countries.
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