March 20, 2013

TheaI've got a great new idea for a TV programme that I think Channel 4 may just be interested in. The programme would seek to tackle the national obesity epidemic by getting together a group of people with eating disorders to share their weight-loss tips with obese people.

Sounds sick?

Yes, of course, it does.

But really, what makes this idea so very different from what we were subjected to with C4's Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying it's a perfect analogy but I'm trying to point out that just as we wouldn't seek to exploit or undermine the severity of other mental health issues, neither should we do this to OCD.

I only got about half way through before I decided I shouldn't waste my evening on something which made me so frustrated. However, in the half I saw, a range of people were introduced by the narrator as 'compulsive cleaners'; including one who spent 4 months of every year cleaning, and another who disinfected all her fruit before eating.

The title itself is obviously a ratings-puller

Whether a psychologist would diagnose these people as having OCD or not (and I'm pretty sure at least some of them definitely would), this show makes me angry either way. Just the title - Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners - instantly stereotypes and generalises this mental health issue. The title itself is obviously a ratings-puller - after the success of programmes like (the more sensitive) 'Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder', now putting OCD in the title appears to be an instant puller.

Is anyone else who struggles with this disorder beginning to feel like the latest freak show?

While aforementioned shows - and C4’s own brilliant 4 goes mad series last year - have done a lot to educate the wider public on these issues, this programme has gone far too far.

The last thing people who live with OCD needed was a programme which reinforces the idea that obsessive compulsive traits are 'quirky', or even helpful, idiosyncrasies.

We don't need to be told that a mental health issue which imprisons, constrains and consumes us has the ‘benefit’ of helping untidy Brits to clean up.

Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners reinforces stereotypes

This doesn't even cover the fact that this programme wholly reinforces the stereotypes commonly associated with OCD; that all people living with OCD are obsessed with cleanliness. As I said in my blog last year, these programmes reinforce common assumptions surrounding OCD but do not educate people on the realities of the disorder.

And yes, this form of OCD is probably a lot more common than mine. I'm not saying I want a programme to be made focusing on my specific form of OCD. I'm just getting tired of seeing the same old programmes repeatedly churned out for public amusement.

It turns OCD into something entertaining and quirky

This sort of programme turns OCD into something entertaining, quirky, and even at times amusing. This does nothing to express the seriousness of this condition. One viewer even tweeted, "I want OCD!" after watching the programme. I think Channel 4 made a foolish and insulting mistake by airing something which so undermines the severity and complexity of this issue.

OCD is not a helpful and useful quirk. It is destructive, consuming and sometimes paralysing.

Please, British media, stop treating it like the latest freak show and reinforcing uneducated views on the reality of OCD.

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