Although he is best known his perfect shots on the field, the soccer star David Beckham also suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). As he describes it,
Ihavegot this obsessive-compulsivedisorder whereIhaveto haveeverything in a straight line or everything has to bein pairs. I’ll put myPepsi cans in thefridgeand if there’s onetoo many then I’ll put it in another cupboard somewhere.I’vegot that problem. I’ll go into a hotel room. BeforeI can relax, Ihaveto moveall theleaflets and all thebooks and put them in a drawer.Everything has to beperfect.(Dolan, 2006) 1
David Beckham’s experience with obsessive behavior is not unusual. We a ll get a little obsessive at times. We may continuously replay a favorite song in our heads, worry about getting the right outfit for an upcoming party, or find ourselves analyzing a series of numbers that seem to have a certain pattern. And our everyday compulsions can be useful. Going back inside the house once more to be sure that we really did turn off the sink faucet or checking the mirror a couple of times to be sure that our hair is combed are not necessarily bad ideas.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychological disorder that is diagnosed when an individual continuously experiences distressing or frightening thoughts, and engages in obsessions (repetitive thoughts)or compulsions (repetitive behaviors)in an attempt to calm these thoughts. OCD is diagnosed when the obsessive thoughts are so disturbing and the compulsive behaviors are so time consuming that they cause distress and significant dysfunction in a person’s everyday life. Washing your hands once or even twice to make sure that they are clean is normal; washing them 20 times is not. Keeping your fridge neat is a good idea; spending hours a day on it is not. The sufferers know that these rituals are senseless, but they cannot bring themselves to stop them, in part because the relief that they feel after they perform them acts as a reinforcer, making the behavior more likely to occur again.
Sufferers of OCD may avoid certain places that trigger the obsessive thoughts, or use alcohol or drugs to try to calm themselves down. OCD has a low prevalence rate (about 1% of the population in a given year) in relation to other anxiety disorders, and usually develops in adolescence or early adulthood (Horwath & Weissman, 2000; Samuels & Nestadt, 1997). 2 The course of OCD varies from person to person. Symptoms can come and go, decrease, or worsen over time.