The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought
By David Adam
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 324 pages.
There was a reason I had to pause periodically and take a deep breath as I read science reporter David Adam’s personal account of his struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought. It’s because I’ve also battled the unstoppable ruminations that characterize the disorder, and Adam’s spot-on descriptions of their imprisoning grip hit me with a shudder of recognition. Fortunately, ongoing treatment allows me to manage symptoms that would otherwise be overwhelming. But for Adam, as for me, finding that help proved painfully difficult—and not for want of trying or the efforts of well-intentioned therapists whose ministrations simply couldn’t break the symptoms’ stubborn hold.
That difficulty speaks to what Adam believes is a continuing disconnect between the reality of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and our understanding of it. OCD affects between two and three percent of the population, making it the fourth most common psychological disorder after depression, substance abuse, and anxiety. But even today, with so much more information available than in the past about so many other illnesses, OCD remains relatively elusive and misunderstood.
With that in mind, Adam has produced a…