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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Cinema Therapy

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) is a psychiatric anxiety disorder that is characterized by intrusive thoughts, obsessive thoughts and distressingly persistent rituals. According to the World Health Organization, obsessive-compulsive disorder is now among the top anxiety disorders. It is a disabling disorder that affects a person's daily routine and quality of life. OCD is sometimes called an exaggerated fixation or perfectionism. To clearly portray a person with OCD, one has to see movies such as As Good As It Gets and The Aviator where the characters with OCD are depicted by Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio, respectively. Melvin Udall, Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets, is a writer afraid of being touched by people, of using a brand new soap twice, stepping into cracks, and using eating utensils in restaurants.

When he walks on street, he avoids bumping into other pedestrians, makes sure he steps only on solid concrete, and brings his own spoon and fork when he plan to eat out. Normal, everyday activities stress him so much that he would rather stay inside his apartment for months than go out to a place which he considers to be unsafe. On the other hand, Leonardo DiCaprio's real-life character in the movie, The Aviator, is Howard Hughes, the billionaire aviator. Hughes was obsessive and compulsive about avoiding certain types of food for fear of contracting microbial infections. He also repeatedly washed his hands supposedly to get rid of germs.

The movie also showed how Hughes' condition deteriorated and caused anxiety or panic attacks. Like Udall and Hughes, many people today suffering from OCD need professional help. One method used to address OCD is called Cinema Therapy, a therapy session that makes use of films with characters and stories that are somewhat similar to the specific situation faced by the patient. During the session, the patient is often asked to take notes about the plot, characters, situations, and other significant images in the film. The patient is encouraged to verbalize his comments and insights into the film. After viewing the film, the therapist asks several questions that lead the patient to get an overview of his own life or situation. The objective of Cinema Therapy is to teach the patient how to become detached from his life situation. Detachment allows a person to think objectively and arrive at specific commitments or action plans to prevent obsessive-compulsive behavior. Just as most people seek to relax after a stressful event, people with anxiety disorders or OCD can also explore the benefits of Cinema Therapy and other modes of treatment. Indeed, life need not be lived under the shadow of fear and apprehension.

Watching films can be a good therapy because it serves as a mirror of who we are. By seeing other people on the screen exhibit failures and weaknesses, the patient recognizes that he too is human--- and the realization of this fact is actually the first step to real therapy.


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