Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders
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by Cheryl Carmin
Da Capo Press, 2009
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H. on Dec 28th 2010

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Demystified

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Demystified is a book about obsessive-compulsive disorder ("OCD").  The author, Dr. Cheryl Carmin, is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Writing in stylistically lay reader friendly fashion, Carmin provides a rich wealth of generally instructive information about OCD.  The book is replete, likewise, with OCD centric practical advice.  The information and advice proffered by Carmin, albeit in a generalized way, may help demystify OCD.

The reader is introduced to the subject of OCD by means of:  a "Foreword" (by Dr. Gail Steketee, Dean and Professor, Boston University School of Social Work); a "Preface" (by Consulting Editor Anne Coulter); and an "Introduction" (by Carmin).

Twelve chapters comprise the mainstay structural pillars, upholding the textual foundation.  The structural anatomy of the respective chapters encompasses characteristically a "Frequently Asked Questions" appendage, joined to a chapter's end.  In this section, some questions (relating closely to a particular chapter's substantive contents) are posed, together with succinctly informative answers.

A thematic emphasis, of Chapter 1, is that OCD should properly be considered as being a serious disorder, rather than being ridiculed or trivialized in popular culture.

Painting with a broad brush, Carmin, in Chapter 2, reveals some of the distinguishing features of various obsessions and compulsions, including:  obsessions about contamination; checking compulsions; sexual or aggressive obsessions; perfectionism; obsessions involving religion; and "hoarding".

The swath cut by Carmin across the area of OCD is sized considerably.  The biology of OCD especially garners the rapt attention of Carmin, in Chapter 3.  A powerful thematic current flowing through the ocean, of the chapter's text, is that much remains to be learned about OCD.

The intellectual vision of Carmin, in Chapter 4, is focused keenly on the diagnosing of OCD.  Several OCD diagnostic "stories" are recounted anecdotally; and threads of practical advice, appertaining to the diagnosing of OCD, are sewed prominently into the chapter's fabric.

In Chapter 5, Carmin tackles gamely the challenge of grappling, intellectually, with obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders and comorbid conditions.  Depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, body dysmorphic disorder and  trichotillomania are some of  the areas falling within the expansive ken of Carmin.

The treatment of OCD is the substantive cynosure of Chapter 6.  In Carmin's view, a specialized form of cognitive behavior therapy called exposure and response prevention ("ERP") is the cornerstone of OCD treatment.  The cloth of the chapter is bound with strands of ERP treatment anecdotes.

A step by step approach, to ERP treatment, is the principal subject of Chapter 7.  In this enframing context, Carmin presents readers with:  a "Goals and Objectives Worksheet"; a "Relaxation Log"; an "Exposure Hierarchy Worksheet"; and an "Exposure Log".

In Chapter 8, Carmin expounds on OCD medications.  Serotonin reuptake inhibitors receive centerstage attention.  Anecdotally recounted experiences, concerning OCD medications, help form the chapter's substance.

Another area attracting the discerning attention of Carmin is the topic of children and OCD (in Chapter 9).

The crux of Chapter 10 is how to help a family member or loved one with OCD.  Practical ways to help (or "Strategies", as termed by Carmin) are fleshed out.  The "OCD family contract" draws practical comment similarly.

Chapter 12 identifies "resources" pertinent to OCD.  Particularly, Carmin identifies and comments pithily on selected organizations and online resources, tethered to OCD; citations for numerous OCD relevant books are given; and some information about OCD blogs is provided  also.

Additionally, a structural appendage attached to the textual body (titled "Resources") is composed of citations for resources germane to OCD.

The contents of the substantive body, however, are typically not referenced to specific research materials.

Attached to the text's far end is a "Glossary", defining tersely selected technical terms connected to OCD.  Also joined to the text is an "Appendix", in the form of "The Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (YBOCS)."

From a critical perspective, some may opine critically that neither the relatively generalized nature of the book's substantive discourse nor the book's relative stylistic informality are anchored securely to academic rigor.

There may, as well, be critical opinion that the considerable amount of anecdotal data interwoven deftly by Carmin into the textual tapestry further disempower the book academically.

Critics may chafe also that the not specifically referenced, generalized information and advice forming the book's substantive essence may possibly be misused, by particular readers, as an improper surrogate for the professional counsel of qualified medical experts.

In another vein, readers should be mindful that the frontiers of OCD clinical and research knowledge are subject to change, whereas the intellectual camera of Carmin has taken a snapshot of OCD, at a specific moment in time.  And, not least, some experts may dissent from particular suggestions and views advanced by Carmin.

With the foregoing admonitions, the text should certainly be generally helpful with respect to furthering the lay reader's knowledge and understanding of OCD.  The OCD information and advice embedded in the textual terrain may further be of absorbing professional interest to, among others:  psychiatrists, child psychiatrists, psychologists, child psychologists, psychotherapists, behavioral therapists, cognitive therapists, psychiatric nurses, neurologists, social workers, primary care physicians, pediatricians, pharmacologists, pharmacists, neuroscientists, and geneticists.


© 2010 Leo Uzych


Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.


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