We all have our own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities. But, when does a behavior cross the line from quirky to a mental illness? Most medical professionals would agree that a mental illness will manifest with specific symptoms that affect the patient’s lifestyle over an extended period of time – and they will worsen with time. Quirks are generally little habits that never worsen or increase in intensity; they are simply quirks. OCD isn’t a quirk.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is defined by psychiatrists as “a mental disorder in which people experience unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, images, or sensations (obsessions) and engage in behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) in response. Often a person with OCD carries out the compulsions to temporarily eliminate or reduce the impact of obsessions, and not performing them causes distress. OCD varies in severity, but if left untreated, it can limit one’s ability to function at work, school, or home.”
A quirk won’t interfere with your day to day life. It is simply something you do out of habit – like checking twice to make sure all the doors and windows are locked before you leave the house. Or maybe you won’t leave a room without first turning out the light, even if you are coming right back. Some quirks can seem bizarre: washing your hands more than once before a meal, eating dinner one food group at a time, refusing to walk on patterned floors, wearing a coat to protect yourself from sunlight.
While none of these particular quirks would necessarily rise to the level of OCD, these are manifestations that some celebrities with OCD struggle with. In the entertainment world, being quirky is beneficial. Actors, singers, athletes, artists, and other celebrities get publicity for allowing the public to know even the smallest details of their lives. These disclosures can create notoriety and bring certain conditions to the public’s attention. So, who are some of the most famous people who struggle with OCD?
David Beckham – International Soccer (Futbol) Star
David Beckham, originally from Britain – is a well-known, highly respected soccer star. He has led his nation’s teams to glory on the soccer pitch. He has been married more than 20 years to his wife, Victoria (a successful fashion designer, and Posh Spice in a former life), and they have four children.
But Beckham first revealed his struggles with OCD in an interview on British television in 2006. During the interview, Beckham said he tried to break his cycle of repetitive behavior but cannot stop. In the interview, broadcast on ITV1, he said: “I’ve got this obsessive compulsive disorder where I have to have everything in a straight line or everything has to be in pairs. I’ll put my Pepsi cans in the fridge and if there’s one too many then I’ll put it in another cupboard somewhere.”
This type of OCD is called symmetry, the need to have everything in a particular place, in even numbers, in straight lines.
And while fans were initially shocked by the reveal, it is not that unusual for athletes to have OCD. Being a superior athlete requires attention to detail, strategy, and knowing where everything is during the course of a game. In soccer, there are multiple factors in play during every second of the game. A superior player will know the exact position of every other player as he plans his attack.
And, in the case of soccer, a shot on goal is almost always in a straight line. Passes to teammates are in straight lines. Dribbling the ball uses a pair of feet. Successful scoring strategies usually involve two players working in concert. In order to score, everything on the pitch must be in its proper place. When the movement of the team is chaotic, the team cannot score.
OCD is still very stigmatized in society. It is seen as a weird or wonky weakness, when in fact, it is a disorder of control. A patient with OCD feels like life is out of control. They choose to control what they can to help them relieve their anxiety. OCD is a disorder, but it is also a coping mechanism. If someone with OCD alphabetizes everything and something is found out of place, putting it back into its proper space will relieve anxiety and stress.
But, there are other forms of OCD, including germaphobes like Howie Mandel.
Howie Mandel – Comedian and Entertainer
Howie Mandel, best known for his role as a judge on America’s Got Talent and as the host of Deal or No Deal, does not shake hands with people or let other people touch him. He suffers from OCD with a fear of germs. His fellow judges, and often hopefuls on the stage, exploit his fear for entertainment. Mandel is always a good sport about it, but one must wonder how anxiety-filled those moments must be.
Mandel first brought his condition to light when he released his autobiography, Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me, in 2009. In it, he describes how debilitating his condition is and how it can and has affected his career in show business. Though he has been married to his wife, Terry, for more than 30 years, and they have raised three children, Mandel still worries every day about germs.
Though he still travels across the country performing his stand-up comedy, he has real difficulties staying in hotels. This is totally understandable: hotels are hotbeds of germs, no matter how well they have been cleaned. Like others who suffer as germaphobes, Mandel has strict cleaning routines and rules around his home and office that everyone must follow.
A germaphobe will typically use heavy duty cleaners like bleach to make certain germs on surfaces don’t survive. The house is usually cleaned from top to bottom every single day. New, clean sheets have to be put on the bed every single day. Clothes are never worn two days in a row. And handwashing goes beyond a ritual – germaphobes are actually known to scald their hands in an attempt to kill every single germ that could exist on their skin.
Mandel said, in an interview with ABC News, that during “The Howie Mandel Show,” that he was still publicly shaking hands, but kept a bucket of Purell under his desk. He said that, “I would constantly be soaked with Purell. And I also had my friend as a surgeon, and I had a surgical scrub that I would do before and after the show. My hands were raw, and I had no antibodies and I started getting warts and it was — I was a mess.”
But after he signed on to do Deal or No Deal, Mandel decided it was time to raise awareness about mental health issues. He has testified before Congress and spoken about it openly. Like many other celebrities with mental health conditions, Mandel wants to educate the public to remove the stigma around OCD. Singer and actress, Katy Perry, agrees.
Katy Perry – Singer and Actress
In 2013, several publications around the globe reported that Katy Perry had gone public with her OCD. She admitted to being a germaphobe (though not on the same scale as Mandel) and having a compulsive need to alphabetize everything. She told the New Zealand Herald in September of 2013 that she has “crazy cleaning rituals.”
And, according to the New England OCD Institute, patients who are obsessed with alphabetization and putting objects in a specific order are actually known as perfectionists. They are obsessed with putting everything into an exact order with precision. This takes a lot of time. The time it takes to make sure everything is precisely where it needs to be will interfere in daily activities. If you can’t leave your house until everything is precisely in place, you are going to be late for things.
When you think about it, a singer and performer like Perry would naturally be a perfectionist. You cannot become a pop star if you are a mediocre talent or listen to a recording and decide, “Eh, that’s good enough.” Blockbuster stars like Perry are meticulous, detail-oriented, and precise because it makes them successful. It is only natural that these characteristics could lead to or be a manifestation of OCD.
But this perfectionism, while making Perry highly successful, can be a terror when she is on tour. Hotel rooms, buses, planes, concert venues – all of these are sources of terror for not only the potential germs but also for the potential chaos; rarely is anything overly organized in a tour bus or on an airplane. These are all places where an OCD patient has absolutely zero control until he or she arrives. Then, that person, like a Perry or a Mandel, has to spend time putting things in order, cleaning, or otherwise putting things to right as they would have it.
And fellow celeb Daniel Radcliffe knows all too well about how debilitating OCD can be.
Daniel Radcliffe – Actor known for his role as Harry Potter
Diagnosed as a kid, Daniel Radcliffe, star of the Harry Potter movies, has dealt with some of the more well-known obsessions publicized in television and movies. For example, many media reported the story of how he once took five minutes just to turn off a light and how he used to repeat every sentence he uttered under his breath.
Like many other celebs, Radcliffe is trying to shine a light on the disorder and encourages everyone who suffers from OCD to get professional help, whether that be medication, therapy, or a combination of both. This type of treatment has helped Radcliffe keep his OCD under control, proving that it’s possible to escape or at least reduce the obsessive thoughts and actions of OCD.
Unlike other celebs, who fight and struggle with their symptoms every day, Daniel Radcliffe is a beacon of hope. He is proof positive that people can live with OCD if they are willing to get help. His fellow actor, Jessica Alba, shares some of his OCD behaviors.
Jessica Alba – Actress and Producer
In 2006, Jessica Alba was quoted repeatedly in the media of having admitted to having OCD. According to an interview she gave to CosmoGirl in 2008, Alba said, “I used to unplug every single appliance in my house. Or I’d double-check every door in my house to make sure it was locked at night. It was like a panic came over me and I had to do something, and once I did it, I was OK. … It was really me needing to control something.”
Alba’s OCD, much like Katy Perry’s, is about perfectionism and control. She has a need to control things she can within a chaotic lifestyle and career. Alba eventually left acting because of the stress and pressure. Whether this move relieved the anxiety she felt that led to the manifestations of OCD is still a mystery. Alba has not discussed her condition publicly for several years.
But, Alba was clear in many interviews that she considered OCD a good trait for creative minds like those of actors, artists, and performers. In much the same way a performer like Katy Perry needs to be perfect in her performance as a singer, actors like Alba must be at the top of their game to keep going in the world of television and film. Performances need to be perfect to keep a scene going, to give your fellow actors what they need to play off, and to keep the audience interested in the plot.
All of these celebrities have spoken out about their OCD and how it affects their lives. Each one views the manifestations as either a helpful or a harmful quirk in their daily living. What is most important is that people realize that OCD can be dealt with, it can be controlled, and it can be either a blessing or a burden.
Thanks to these celebrities sharing their stories, the public can see that OCD doesn’t have to stop you from being successful. You can either allow OCD to rule your life, or you can seek treatment and take back the reins of your life.
If you’re a teenager dealing with OCD and you feel as though you need help, you have options. Beachside, located in sunny Southern California, is a residential treatment facility that can help! Contact us today to learn more!