DR. HOOK- Compulsion: Gotta get it signed, gotta get it....

David Sedaris is– um– an interesting author. I was able to read 1.25 of his books (I read about a fourth of his second book, and that was enough). But the first book I read was hilarious– and shocking. When Sedaris was in Charlottesville for a reading, I brought my book for him to autograph. Personally, I think autographs are useless because what do you do with them? However, for me to meet him face to face, I knew I had to bring a book for an autograph.

To make things interesting, I pre-signed my book, "To Dr. John Hong, My favorite doctor media star! Sincerely,  _______" and I drew an arrow at the line saying, "Sign Here." So I'm all excited while waiting in line for him to sign my book, as well as to see what he will think about my funny "sign here" message. But while waiting in line, I noticed he seemed kind of serious while signing books and talking to fans. In fact, there were signs surrounding him asking that fans not photograph him.

I started to get nervous about my "To Dr. John..." I turned to my partner and suggested we make a break for it, but he encouraged me to get the autograph.

 "Hi, Mr. Sedaris. I really enjoyed your book, and to make things easier for you...." Tada! Er, no tada! He looked at my writing in the book, looked confused, and said, "Oh... oh. Next!" 

I was so humiliated. I obsessed about this failed attempt at humor for weeks.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects 2-3 percent of Americans. Anxiety-provoking intrusive thoughts (obsession) and repetitive behaviors (compulsion) occur in folks with OCD. Many of us have traits of OCD, but having real OCD can be devastating. 

Can you imagine having a recurrent thought enter your mind over and over and over, even though you realize the thoughts have no merit? It's like a Woody Allen movie on steroids. Fears can invade the mind: fear of germs/dirt (like Howard Hughes) or fear someone will be harmed, fear a small oversight will lead to disaster, or a fear of disorganization and neatness. 

In an attempt to ease the obsessive thoughts, a compulsive behavior is done, such as washing the hands over and over (sounds like Lady Macbeth), repeatedly making sure the door is locked, counting things like the tiles in a room, biting the nails, and picking the skin. 

Sedaris wrote in his book that he sometimes needs to touch a stranger's head. So when he gets up to go down the aisle in an airplane, he puts his hand on the chair ahead of him and simultaneously touches the person's head. Sounds OCD'ish to me (but then again he didn't shake my hand or touch my head when he didn't sign my book). 

OCD symptoms overlap with some other mental disorders. For example trichotillomania (sounds like a ride at the State Fair) is an unfortunate compulsive behavior of pulling out hair. So a person with trichotillomania can have bald spots, no eyebrows, etc. Gambling addiction, hypochondria, kleptomania, autism, Tourrett's Syndrome, body dysmorphic disorder, and anorexia nervosa all share OCD symptoms.

OCD appears to be a lifelong illness. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and medications can be helpful, but the biggest step for people with OCD is to tell their physician in order to get help. 

One day I hope to be a big author like David Sedaris. If I ever get a chance to do a book signing, I will allow pictures to be taken and ask that everyone pre-dedicate their books so all I have to do is write my name. But really, as I asked above, what good is an autograph– especially mine, when my signature looks like a seismograph during an earthquake?

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.


1 comment

I have mixed feelings about this article.