Eight Famous OCD Sufferers

Everyone knows Howard Hughes was obsessive-compulsive (among other things) and I bet lots of us who grew up on Double Dare shudder to think of the OCD Marc Summers dealing with all of the goo and muck as the host of the messy game show.

Although these celebrities have shared their battles rather publicly, there are a few out there who suffer from OCD quietly. Like who? Read on to find out…

Cameron Diaz

Despite her memorable "hair gel" scene in There's Something About Mary, Cameron Diaz can't stand germs and other people's "fluids", as she puts it. She says she rubs doorknobs so hard to get them clean before opening them that the paint wears off. She washes her hands and floors "many times" every day and uses her elbows to open doors so she won't get germs on her hands.

Billy Bob Thornton

Billy Bob Thornton became good friends with neighbor Warren Zevon when Warren saw Billy Bob return to the mailbox three times in the span of a couple of minutes. Warren identified Billy Bob as a fellow obsessive-compulsive and the two of them bonded over their phobias. Among Billy Bob's is a phobia of antique furniture, which he wrote into a character in Sling Blade. He also fears some kinds of silverware, which shows up in his Monster's Ball character.

David Beckham

Sure, he's good looking, talented, funny, has great hair and lots of money, but David Beckham has his struggles, too. He hates odd numbers and is obsessed with symmetry - if there's three of something, he has to hide the third somewhere out of sight. If something's slightly askew, he can't rest until the row has been straightened. Before he can settle into a hotel room, he says he puts all of the books and pamphlets together in a drawer. You have to wonder, though, if his odd number phobia means he and Posh will be adding to their brood – currently three boys – soon.

Leonardo DiCaprio

You know the old saying, "Step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back"? Leonardo DiCaprio used to take that little rhyme very seriously. As a kid, he could not step on cracks or other designated spots. He overcame this particular disorder until he played Howard Hughes in The Aviator. He revisited his old ways to try to get into Hughes' famously phobic character and ended up falling back into the habit – he was frequently late for filming because he had a specific way he had to walk to get to the set and would have to retrace his steps if anything went awry.

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin says he has developed quite the fixation on cleanliness over the years. He says he can come home and immediately tell if a book is out of place and insists on doing household chores before his housekeeper does, even to the point that he will miss a plane if it means getting his dishes done.

Jennifer Love Hewitt

I can relate to this one – Jennifer Love Hewitt says she can't go to sleep if there are any doors open in the house – including cabinet doors and closet doors. She thinks she inherited her OCD from her mother, who counts steps. I do that, too.

Charles Darwin

It's not just contemporary celebrities who suffer from OCD – evidence shows that Darwin may have suffered from OCD, among a laundry list of other possible disorders, including panic disorder, agoraphobia and hypochondria. This may be one of the causes of his detailed accounts of things – he even recorded how loud and strong the ringing in his ears was on a daily basis.

Nikola Tesla

No doubt Nikola Tesla was a genius – he was an inventor, physicist, mechanical and electrical engineer.
He was also an extreme germophobe – he hated hair unless it was his own and found jewelry disgusting. He did things in three or numbers divisible by three; he always used 18 napkins, estimated the mass of everything he was going to eat and would not eat with a woman if it was just the two of them.

Of course, this is by no means an inclusive list - in addition to the previously mentioned Howard Hughes and Marc Summers, there's also Delta Burke, Zach Braff, Howie Mandel, David Sedaris, Joey Ramone and more.

I'm just glad I am not the only one. Though I am not as extreme as most cases, I definitely have a germophobe streak and it's always creepy for me to take the Tube anywhere in summer because I am not wearing gloves to touch the handles in the train or the railings on the stairs. And that's not all...
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Evilbeagle - not sure if it's OCD, but I have a strange habit of adding things up. Specifically license plates and the numbers on the board at church that show what hymns are on the day's lineup.
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Billy Bob Thornton's fear of antique furniture was written into Bandits, not Sling Blade. It's the scene where he and Cate Blanchett lists their phobias to each other.

(my movie nerd just reared its ugly head, sorry)
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Seems like there's a lot of things being associated with OCD. I know there's a spectrum but I too hate unlevel things enough to adjust them regularly but I don't count it as OCD, more like a preference..also, avoiding touching surfaces to avoid germs is pretty standard. Someone who washes their hands a hundred times a day in scalding water? OCD.
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I dislike odd numbers, prefer symmetry, and I have to will myself not to count things. And I get squeamish around leftovers if they're more than a day old, because food poisoning scares the everloving heck out of me. And if an activity involves even the remotest chance of parasitic infection, I will avoid whatever it is like death itself.

Oh, and--I HATE stepping on cracks!

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I'm not sure these things are actual Obsessive Copulsive Disorder, as would be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, but they are definately compulsions.
And I relate to quite a few! Especially the Open Doors thing. And I HATE jewelry and buttons. I find them disgusting and nauseating. My dad absolutely hates odd numbers unless they are divisible by five.
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I have a bit of symmetry/evenness OCD. For example, if my right elbow touches something cold, I have to touch my left elbow to the cold thing too. I'm also quite fidgety, and if I raise one eyebrow, I must raise the other one too; and if they still feel different I have to keep raising them to make them both feel the same.
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Becoming a biologist cured me of my OCD. I reached the point where I knew I would be touching disgusting things every day and just had to deal with it. Nothing cures germophobia like a hospital internship
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I hate odd numbers unless they're divisible by 5. It absolutely drives me insane to see them and I have to either look away or somehow change it. I think it's probably more of a quirk than OCD, though my mother is a compulsive hand washer. Her hands are permanently dry and scaly from all the washing she does.

My friend is much much worse than me. She can't step on cracks or go in circles. We were walking in a circular cul-de-sac the other day and she started hunching over and swaying from side to side to "undo" the circle.
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Apparently a mild (and usually temporary) form of OCD where there is a compulsion to try to make everything symmetrical on the body is very common in children. I used to be like that when I was a child. It would reach the point where if I accidentally hit one shoulder, I would intentionally hit the other because I didn't like having that sensation on one side but not the other.
This is interesting because in adulthood, OCD is the most debilitating of all the anxiety disorders and it is very difficult to reduce symptoms.
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Also remember, you can't be officially diagnosed with OCD unless the symptoms are having a significant impact on your life.
So many of you who are describing OCD symptoms wouldn't necessarily actually have OCD.
E.g. having a "fear" of open doors at night, resulting in closing them behind you isn't OCD.
Lying awake at night obsessing and thinking about whether or not you remembered to close all the doors and the complulsion to repeatedly get up to check that they are closed to the point where you lose so much sleep that your are unable to live your life properly - that's OCD.
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I was diagnosed by psychiatrists as having OCD. I was told it was caused by a chemical imbalance (serotonin). No form of lab test was used in the diagnosis because none exist and no cause is known. I was prescribed medication to correct the imbalance. The Psych's had no lab test to check if the imbalance was corrected.

I gave up on psychiatry as quackery. Through a long process I just challenged the way I thought and my obsessive behavior and over 18 months, I cured myself. It seems fairly straight forward to me, just work on your thought process and change it. The only one who can control your mind is yourself.
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Trry, a seretonin imbalance does indeed contribute to OCD, and SSRIs and other drugs that increase seretonin levels (the same drugs used to treat depression) can be used to treat this imbalance.
However a GOOD psychologist/psychiatrist should begin treatment using cognitive behavioural therapy (like what you describe you achieved yourself - by changing your thoughts to change your behaviours). Only if this is unsuccessful, should they resport to pescribing drugs (in combination with the therapy).
Not everyone is capable of changing their own thoughts to eliminate the deep seeded-problem behaviours that are involved with OCD, and often people will need an experienced professional to guide them through this process.
Should the cognitive-behavioural therapy not help, psychiatrists do indeed have every justification to pescribe drugs as there is a vast body of literature out there that indicates that on average, they do significantly improve OCD symptoms.
Don't completely discount psychology/psychiatry based on your one experience.
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I don't know why but this reminds me of a man who stayed at the hotel I work at. He called the front desk for 2 wakeup calls. One at 6:41 AM and one at 7:08 AM. I told him that was weird and he said he likes to throw people off. I will do that from now on at any hotel I stay at...
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lol priscilla, a wake-up call/snooze button.

Oh, and I must raise my movie-nerd dragon head as well and say that Slingblade does indeed have Dwight Yoakam's character, Doyle, profess a fear of "retards and antique furniture." That movie rocks.
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Welcome to my world. Can't leave the house without an even number of earrings in, cant touch glass right out of the dishwasher- the feeling is wrong. Just like checking to make sure I have everything three times, and that everything is in it's place.
You never know when they're watching.
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"psychiatrists do indeed have every justification to pescribe drugs as there is a vast body of literature out there that indicates that on average, they do significantly improve OCD symptoms."

In double blind tests, drugs used to treat OCD are no more effective than placebo.
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@ Trry,

While you may have read that on some anti-drug/psychiatry website, it's simply not true.
If you actually have access to a database of peer-reviewed journals, and you do a little research, you'll find that the overwhelming majority of studies (double blind)on SSRIs suggest that OCD patients who take SSRIs have a significantly greater reduction in symptoms than placebo control groups.
E.g., A meta-analysis of 12 studies which included the data from 1,044 individuals by Geller et al (2003) revealed that all types of SSRIs are significantly more effective than placebo controls in treating paediatric OCD.
Any drug which is potentially going to be prescribed by psychiatrists have to undergo rigorous testing to determine that a) they are unlikely to cause any major harm; and b) that their prescription can be justified – that is, that they are more effective than placebos.
If the literature suggested otherwise, psychiatrists would never be allowed to prescribe them.
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I'm well read on the topic and you are wrong. It's really not the place to have a debate about it. I've spoken publicly about my views on psychiatry a number of times. I'll save my steam for those occasions as those times are the most effective. And No, I'm not a scientologist.
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You know a meta-analysis is just about the most powerful way to provide evidence for or against an argument.
Well I guess that depends on whether you want to objectively look at the evidence for both sides (and that includes actually having access to studies on the topic rather than just a few publically-available abstracts), or if, biased by your own subjective negative experience you go out there looking for (not particularly reliable) evidence to support your argument.
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Oh, and don't think that having "spoken publically about your views on psychiatry" automatically makes you more qualified to assert your view on the topic.
I have a degree in psychology. I know you think that must make me biased too, but we are trained to be objective and always consider the weaknesses for all theories and practices within the field.
(sorry everyone for dominating the forum)
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I could not possibly care less about psychiatry.

I've got my fair share of such tendencies, though in an unusual fashion. I can't stand things that are perfect, my pictures must be askew, I don't like even numbers, I never buy new things, and if I do buy somthing new I'll carefully break it so it's not perfect anymore. I loosened the bolts on one half of my car's bumper so it would hang at an odd angle and rattle as I went over bumps. I loosen my lightbulbs so they'll flicker when I turn them on. I even cracked the crystal on my watch. And whereas I repair my own clothing I purposefully sew crooked, obvious stitches.
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I saw true OCD once- and it was so overwhelming and numbing that it totally consumed the life of the people involved. A lot of what's mentioned here seems to me to be quirks instead (or publicity stunts, like someone else mentioned). Real OCD is debilitating.
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I already knew every one of them are not right in the head. You forgot Sheryl Crow who has shrunk her brain with pot so much that nothing she says is real. (example, wanted to pass a law to make everyone just one one sheet of toilet paper not knowing that paper is harvested like corn)
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I think part of the problem here is the wording. Perhaps these people have obsessive compulsive tendencies. But that's a far cry from obsessive compulsive disorder. The fact that they have been able to work in their chosen fields well enough and long enough to become famous suggests that they are not completely debilitated by the condition.
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Here is a perfect example of a person with OCD. It may be hard to see, but count how many times the motions are repeated.

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OCD is simply the way the person's brain is wired. The problem comes when people feel less about themselves, or feel stained because of the OCD. It is not just the handwashing, or need for symmetry like Beckham, the REAL suffering is in one's thoughts. Atleast that is true for me. So many people misunderstand and misrepresent those of us who have OCD. Well that is my two cents. I found great help and understanding, for the first time in my life at www.obsessive-compulsive-disorder-help.com
I wish everyone could learn more about OCD and I'm glad to see an article about people we all know who have OCD, so we know we're not alone. It is actually quite controllable when you know what works and doesn't.
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As an individual who has struggled with OCD for 45 years, I felt compelled to validate some of the comments that made a distinction between behavior attributed to OCD (such as idiosyncrasies, quirks or phobias) and the repetitive rituals of the OCD sufferor. OCD rituals, such as checking locks or washing hands are a response to an unreasonable fear. The best way I can describe the disorder is that when engaging in a particular ritual, one's brain is akin to a skipping record. And, although the person with OCD is quite aware that their concerns are irrational, it takes an extraordinary effort to stop their current episode of 'brain skipping.' Which takes me to the subject of medication. Ten years ago I was introduced to Zoloft, an SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor). For those of you who can remember, Zoloft was the proverbial coin placed on the record player needle. No more skips.
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Well, I am not a FREAK then.
I have to do things four times.
1 on the left 2-3 on the right and 4 back on the left to even it out................
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The cure for OCD, the most vital part!

I had OCD my whole life, then four years ago I started to do a lot of research on it. I started looking up other people who had 'really' cured it and here are some of the things we did, and they really work! Let's talk about them now...

I remember, when I was afraid to put my finger prints on anything because I was afraid that if a crime was committed around where I left my finger print, that I may be wrongfully accused.

I remember someone had let me borrow some dvd's. I grabbed them without thinking and then I thought of my finger prints.

I got a lot of anxiety and then said to myself, "What a minute! I'm afraid that if I leave my finger prints on these dvd's that if a crime ever happens at my friends house, they're going to dust for prints on the dvd's and I'm going to go to jail for something I didn't do! Ha!

When I said it to myself, out loud is better, you hear how ridiculous it is and you can't help but laugh. Also telling someone else really helps your brain to look at it in a different way. So one secret to curing OCD is to cause your brain to see it in a different way by making it look ridiculous to you, which will make your brain naturally question your actions.

At this point you are then able to retrain your brain a different way, because you have opened your brain up to the possibility that what you are doing may be the wrong thing.

So when I looked back down at the dvd's I not only refused to do my ritual of using the end of my sleeves to handle the dvd's, I defied my ritual and put an excessive amount of prints on them.

This huge wave of anxiety came over me like, ya, this is fun, but I have to wipe those off later. Then I said, no, and I touched the inside of the case and the cd and everywhere so that I couldn't possibly remember where are the finger prints were, now I was past the point of no return. I could not control it and I had to "let it go."

So I just said to myself, "What's done is done!" and "I don't care, I know this is not productive and I'm tired of doing things I don't want to do and I refuse to give into rituals anymore, lol I don't care, do your worst fear!"

I then realized that I just feared fear itself and I got this feeling like, man this is going to bother me, but I find that whenever I said that to myself, It never bothered me as long as I thought it would and I would eventually forget and that's the key.

After I defied my ritual with the dvd's and did what was most uncomfortable to me, which was exposing myself to my fear and going through it, once I went through it, I came out on the other side a free man! I felt like I was free, that I could do anything!

It's the most exhilarating experience and now, if OCD ever tries to come up during high anxiety situations, I get excited because I get to use this at will and I have used it to overcome numerous fears with lasting success.

This is not some therapy you need to pay someone for, this is a technique that you can have in your toolbox that you can use anytime you may feel OCD come up.

At first it will be hard, but after a while it gets so easy, and then you may spend several months forgetting you even had OCD, it's crazy. I know this works, it's not theory, it worked for me, it's worked for my colleagues. This is the real deal.

Stop looking for the answer, this is it. If you skip this over, you have just skipped over the most vital part of the cure...

Derek J. Soto

you can find me at

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Reading all your comments makes me realise how many different varieties of OCD there is. I would give anything to worry about odd numbers, or symmetry, or cracked pavements... But instead I've been graded a 10 out of 10 on the OCD intensity scale but 4 different psychiatrists. I need things to be clean, i know that doesnt sound much but when you consider I mean EVERYTHING needs to be clean, it's ruined my life. I cant make physical contact with people, friends or family. I am secluded to one chair in my house, and my bed. I have to have a full body wash, i.e. a shower EVERY time I step outside, even my own garden. I cant have anyone over to my house. I cant eat without washing afterwards. I'm just so lonely and scared that I'll be like this forever. And I appreciate people saying you'll get through this, or just adjust your thought-train, but the truth is I wont get over this and regardless what I tell brain I'll still do these things. I've accepted I'll live a lonely and secluded life. I just wish I had someone to talk to...
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This is for Scotty. Have you tried Paxil? I must add that Paxil caused me anxiety so I had to take Xanax with it. I only took half the regular dose for an 8 month period. My ocd consisted of not being able to walk around my house or anywhere barefoot, if I did I had to wash my feet because I could feel the dirt. Also, I washed my hands about 50 times a day. Additionally, if anyone came over who wasn't "clean" I had to scrub the couch and floor where they walked or anything they touched, even the doorknobs and walls. I never thought I would get rid of it but it just took time for the neural connections to weaken-I think the Xanax really helped too because it got rid of the anxiety response. I'm not cured, I have to wash my hands or use a wipe if I touch a garbage can to throw something away. I also have straight obsessions or thoughts that repeat in my head but I am 95% better than I used to be.
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