Howie Mandels OCD: The comedian opens up about his diagnosis

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Comedian, actor, and Americas Got Talent judge Howie Mandel opens up about living with OCD for decades and how his diagnosis helped change his life. thecelebrityfinder/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
  • Comedian Howie Mandel is one of the approximately 1.2% of American adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Mandel lived with OCD for decades before being diagnosed.
  • He shares his journey with OCD in hopes of helping others find help.

Famous comedian and actor Howie Mandel was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) at the age of 40 after being pressured by his wife to get help.

Intrusive thoughts and compulsions were always present in Mandel’s life, but as a child, the Americas Got Talent judge said he didn’t know how to name them.

I didn’t learn how to tie shoelaces because I didn’t want to touch the shoelaces because they touched the ground, so people bullied me and I had no friends at school because I just wanted them to think I couldn’t tie my shoelaces. himself, he told Healthline.

He recalls his younger brother holding up the lid of the laundry bin during a fight to scare him away.

I would melt and scream in terror and do anything [he] want, Mandel said.

He also practices rituals that he needs to perform, such as sitting in a certain way, and he wants others to sit in certain ways, such as not crossing their legs.

Everything bothers me. He said, I cannot continue in life unless things are done my way, not just by me but by all the people on my periphery.

But that’s just it [brushed off as] Howie’s oddity, not anything anyone diagnosed or said, this is strange. This is different. Why is he so obsessed with laundry and cleaning? and all the other things I need to do.

OCD is defined by uncontrollable and recurring thoughts or obsessions and repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

Mandel’s obsessions negatively affected his wife and children to the point that he forced them to engage in clean activities, such as:

  • wash your hands many times
  • wear gloves
  • Avoid touching their phone
  • Disinfect everything in the house

I don’t know if you can imagine what it’s like to live with someone who is trying to make my life so comfortable, keeping my husband and I so busy in this crazy world, so Ms. He made me see a psychiatrist; That was the ultimatum and I was diagnosed, which lifted a huge burden off my shoulders,” Mandel said.

Dr. Helen Blair Simpson, co-director of research for the NewYork-Presbyterian Center for Youth Mental Health and a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical, said the reality is that Mandel has been living with OCD for more than four years. decades before diagnosis. Center.

Studies show that one-third of adults with OCD first experienced symptoms as children.

[Delayed diagnosis] Simpson told Healthline both because people with OCD may not know what they have and may be hesitant to tell people about their symptoms, and because clinicians may not ask about OCD or recognizing symptoms.

Although the OCD diagnosis gave Mandel some relief and hope that there would be treatments and methods to control his condition, he initially said he felt embarrassed and ashamed.

I didn’t want to tell anyone that I had mental health problems. I think it’s a sign of weakness. It’s embarrassing, so as I sit here and talk to you today, this is 180 degrees opposite from when I was in my 40s, he said.

Much of his initial hesitation in opening up about OCD was due to the stigma surrounding mental health conditions, especially OCD.

Although Simpson said discrimination is much less in younger generations than in older generations, she believes it still exists.

What I notice today is that people sometimes still discuss mental health conditions, such as OCD, jokingly, says Simpson. Just as you would see a doctor for any physical health condition, it is important to seek medical care for any mental health concerns and to have these conditions treated serious.

Society has moved forward in reducing stigma, but Mandel said it still exists, even in the medical field.

I spoke on Capitol Hill trying to convince the insurance companies [approach] Funding mental health the same way they fund physical health, he said.

If you break your leg and have to have an X-ray, you will be treated and paid. If you have a mental health problem and you can’t see it on an X-ray, it can be difficult to get diagnosed and cared for.

Mandel has partnered with virtual platform NOCD to help connect people with OCD to resources.

One aspect of this platform is that it provides mental health professionals with training in exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.

ERP therapy prompts oneself to expose oneself to thoughts, images, objects, and situations that cause anxiety, then learn to avoid engaging in compulsive behaviors related to those things.

Patrick McGrath, PhD, clinical director of NOCD, said that, in his view, ERP is the treatment of choice for OCD because it does not attempt to treat obsessions.

He told Healthline that we all have thoughts that we consider intrusive or unwanted, but not all of us have OCD. It is the appearance of coercion that ERP is aimed at. It is the compulsion that is the source of the problem and therefore must be the goal of therapy.

He notes that people with OCD don’t want the thoughts, images, and urges that intrude on their obsessions, and telling them to stop thinking about them doesn’t help.

In fact, telling someone to stop thinking about something only makes them think about it more. So it’s not about not thinking about something. It’s about learning not to pay attention to or believe everything that comes into your head. Phobias may be disturbing, but they are not facts, he said.

Simpson said ERP has been proven to work for people of all ages.

Alone or combined with medication, ERP can help up to two-thirds of people who are struggling to reduce their OCD symptoms, she says. To achieve these excellent results, one needs a highly skilled clinician and a client dedicated to practicing the skills taught.

Mandel echoed that sentiment and said finding treatment is much easier today than when he was living with undiagnosed OCD.

Please note that if there are problems with yourself or someone you know there are always places to get help and every diagnosis is unique and what works for you may not work for me, but I promise if it doesn’t work for you there will be something else that can be tried, he said. [I] Take care of yourself and it’s worth fighting for.

Comedian Howie Mandel is one of the approximately 1.2% of American adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Mandel lived with OCD for decades before being diagnosed.

He is sharing his journey with OCD in hopes of helping others find help.

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