Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dining With OCD

In this recent article in the NY Times, Jeff Bell came out of the closet as someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder. He writes:

Some of us obsess about contamination, others about hurting people, and still others about symmetry. Almost all of us can find something to obsess about at a restaurant.

... restaurants are designed to be calming and relaxing. That is one of the main reasons people like to eat out.

To many of us with [OCD], those pleasures are invisible. We walk into a calm and civilized dining room and see things we won’t be able to control. This feeds directly into one of the unifying themes of the disorder: an often crushing inability to handle the unknown.

... [Matt] Solomon is a 39-year-old lawyer in Fort Worth with order compulsions. To enjoy a meal he needs to separate the salt and pepper shakers, and, ideally, place a napkin holder or other divider midway between them.

Why? He can no more answer that than [Carole] Johnson can tell you why she needs to chew her food in sets of three bites or drink her beverages three sips at a time. Three is her magic number. That is about as refined an explanation as any of us can give for our compulsions, rituals that we understand are entirely illogical.
I have a friend who seems to eat one item on his plate at a time. The wilted spinach is eaten in its entirety, then perhaps the veal cutlet. Once the cutlet is gone, it's on to the garlic mashed potatoes. There have been a few exceptions, but that's his eating pattern. Maybe it depends on where he is dining.

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