The Woman on the Bus

Yesterday I was riding the bus to campus and sat across from a woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder. At least, I believe she had the disorder. For at least 10 minutes she combed her hair in one spot on the back of her head. Over and over and over she combed. Occasionally she would switch hands but she kept combing for about 10 minutes. Then she stopped. It was so interesting to see these compulsions in real life. I’ve seen them in videos and read about them but hadn’t yet seen them in real life. It’s possible that she was just combing her hair or that she had a tic disorder that manifested itself through combing over and over but it sure looked like OCD. I really felt sorry for her. Sorry isn’t quite the right word but OCD is not easy to deal with. She didn’t even look like she really was paying attention to what she was doing – her movements were so robotic. Anyway, that was one interesting experience yesterday.

One Reply to “The Woman on the Bus”

  1. What’s really difficult for people who suffer from OCD (and certainly trying to treat it, especially during the early stages) is that the compulsive behavior actually serves to soothe the anxiety being experienced. As frustrating as acting out the compulsion is (be it grooming, checking, collecting, etc.) the alternative (resisting the urge to act out the compulsion) actually makes the individual feel far worse – at least in the short term.

    Working in correctional settings has been a bit of an eye-opener in terms of OCD (among other things!). First, inmates don’t have free reign to act out compulsions as they would on the street. Some adapt, “hoarding” in their own ways (i.e. ways where they don’t run afoul of the rules – sanitation of cells, timed showers for washing, etc). Others have actually used the restrictive nature of prison to curb their OCD – the environmental restriction of their behavior serves to extinguish (or at least lessen) their compulsion. Interesting stuff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.