Obsessed: Shit Just Got Real. (No, Literally.)

Lindsay Robertson | June 10, 2009 - 4:02 pm

I should have written about Obsessed yesterday, but it’s taken two days to process it. The third episode of the new A&E show about people getting help for their extreme anxiety disorders seriously upped the ante, making the afflictions suffered by the first four subjects seem almost average in comparison, and probably causing millions of more mild OCD sufferers to feel better about their own disorders. Even the chick last week who was plagued by thoughts of murdering everyone can’t really compare to this week’s Nidia, whose OCD “Thing” is, and I’m just going to lay this out frankly because that’s what the show does: Nidia is so afraid of poop (the show said that: “poop”) that every time she goes to the bathroom she gets in the shower and uses an enema and a toothbrush to clean her rectum for three hours until she bleeds. She’s had to go to the emergency room twice for blood transfusions. She can’t leave the house or eat any fiber for fear of having to go number two, and her sweet, patient, loving husband can’t help but compare life with her to a prison. Doctor Shana to the rescue!

Doctor Shana begins Nidia’s exposure by taking her to a park with her husband and making her eat celery and carrots until her anxiety level reaches its highest point, and then until it falls, which shows Nidia that she’s in control of her anxiety and that it will eventually go down on its own. Then, after weeks of gradual exposures, Dr. Shana comes over to Nidia’s house on a day that Nidia is going to the bathroom, and monitors her post-bathroom shower, making sure it’s only ten minutes and that she still “feels dirty” when she gets out.

After twelve weeks of therapy, Nidia is able to throw away her enema and toothbrush (tools that, thank god, Dr. Shana doesn’t, like, touch or anything) and stop her shower ritual, because Dr. Shana is an empathetic, yet firm cognitive behavioral genius. Seriously, after just three weeks of watching Dr. Shana’s techniques, I think I know how to conquer my mortal fear of the endless, creaky, and extremely narrow escalators at the Delancey Street subway station. This show helps people! (Assuming I don’t faint and fall backwards, killing myself and the innocent people and children on the escalator behind me, which is what will probably happen.)

Anyway, the other subject of this week’s show had arguably much less acute symptoms, but unfortunately did not get well, either because his Doctor wasn’t firm enough with him, or because he just didn’t want it badly enough, but probably a mixture of the two. Rick is a writer with a wife and daughter whose OCD symptoms began when he was a child. He has several Things, like constantly turning clockwise and adding up the numbers on license plates (“I like personalized plates, because then I get a break.” Ha!), but his Main Thing is the gym. Rick believes that he needs to go to the gym 50 times per week or more to prevent the aging process, which is his ultimate fear. Rick rushes to several different gyms throughout the day and night, working out with weights at each one for about five minutes and keeping an obsessive log of the number of reps he does. One weird thing they never mention on the show is the fact that Rick does all this gym stuff in his regular button-up work shirt and slacks, so, like, he must smell really terrible!:

Rick proudly confesses that the last day he skipped the gym entirely was January 20, 1991. Rick’s doctor, John Tsilimparis, tries for twelve weeks to help Rick minimize his gym visits in the hopes of Rick getting to the point where he can even skip a day, but the entire experiment fails. Unlike Nidia, who is acutely aware that there’s nothing reasonable about three-hour rectum scrapings, Rick arrogantly believes that there’s something to his gym compulsion and vitamin habits. He really thinks that his behavior is going to lead to a longer life. Maybe instead of trying to minimize Rick’s gym trips, Doctor Tsilimparis should have told him what the audience was all thinking while watching the show: why can’t Rick just go to the gym for one hour every morning like a normal person (might/could/probably should)? It’s the frequency of his trips, not their total length, that make his habits an obvious compulsion. At his final interview, Rick summed up the reason why his treatment failed with one sentence: “Some obsessive anxieties serve people well.” A certain snooty, holier-than-thou attitude is not uncommon with OCD (“It’s other people who don’t wash their hands enough!”), but hopefully Rick will eventually figure out that there’s a saner way to stay healthy.

Also, this was never mentioned on the show, but Rick apparently has to have a toothbrush in his mouth at all times while driving:

Because this episode was so serious, I will go ahead and leave what’s funny about this in light of the entire show to the reader’s imagination. (But: heh!)

Obsessed is the best reality show on TV right now. You can watch the full episode here.