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The Most Debilitating Cases of OCD Ever Recorded

Obsessive compulsive disorder, more commonly known as OCD, came to be known officially by its name in the late nineteenth century, but it most likely has existed for as long as humans have been around. This anxiety disorder, characterized by strange rituals, repetitive behavior, and obsessive, mostly irrational, worrying can make normal life and responsibilities difficult for those who suffer from it. OCD becomes a problem when it interferes with everyday life. In addition, OCD often not only affects sufferers but affects those around them. Here are some of the most debilitating cases of OCD ever recorded:

Great inventor Nikola Tesla, who created the foundations for X-Rays, radar, and radio, had a very obsessive mind. Although he had a fantastic memory, he suffered with chronic OCD. Not only did Tesla have a serious germ phobia, but he really liked the number three, so he would often walk around the block three times before entering a building. Tesla also was scared of round objects, especially women’s jewelry, and refused to shake hands with people or touch anyone’s hair. Not only did he count his jaw movements during dinnertime, which guests found disruptive, but he would always require eighteen napkins and would never eat with only a woman present.

The William Hammond case was one of the earliest compulsive hand washing cases in history. Hammond was a physician and neurologist who saw a female patient who was completely obsessed and worried about being contaminated. After some time, the patient’s OCD got so bad that she couldn’t come into contact with any surface without having to wash her hands. Imagine how she would have functioned at work. Her mother stated the girl washed her hands more than 200 times every day, and keep in mind, this was in the nineteenth century when people were not nearly as concerned about germs as they are today. The girl even considered other people sources of contamination; imagine not being able to hug your family or significant other without having to wash your hands right after—how embarrassing it must have been.

More recently, a British man named Richard Wallace was found to be suffering from an extreme case of compulsive hoarding. In 2011, he had a junk collection larger than the space in his home—so large, in fact, that it was visible on Google Earth. The collection included thirty-four years of newspapers and six rusting classic cars, just to name a few of the items that could be found in his garden. The state of the inside of his house was even worse. Imagine having to live, sleep, and eat out of a single chair. That is what Mr. Wallace did, because every other inch of his home was covered in junk. His neighbours have since helped him remove 30 tons of junk from his garden, and he is now seeking help from a psychologist.

One of the first compulsive checking behaviors ever described by a medical authority presents another debilitating OCD case. Mad’lle F one day, upon heading home from her aunt’s house, suddenly pondered the idea that she might take something from her relative that wasn’t hers. She quickly found herself wrapped up in a series of weird rituals, the sheer force of which exhausted her. Not only would she not wear her apron to her aunt’s house ever again, but she would rub her feet for a whole ten minutes upon waking up to check that nothing of her aunt’s was caught on her nails or between her tows and she would examine the insides of her slippers for any “items of value” that she might have stolen and put there. She would have her maid double check the slippers before combing her hair multiple times to check for items there. Last but not least, she would rub her fingers and shake her hands vigorously in case something might be hiding on them. If you have worried about your morning routine being unusual, you’ll be thankful to learn it’s probably nowhere near as debilitating as Ms. Mad’lle’s.

Perhaps the strangest and most debilitating case of all is one of a little girl who learned from her doctor that she had large calcium deposits in her hips. She became obsessively worried about the sensitivity of her calcium deposits to the point that she created her own way of walking to avoid them being hurt in the possibility that she were to fall or trip on something. She consistently stepped so that her hips were positioned at a right angle, in line with linear surfaces. How annoying it must have been for her and what a sight she must have been to see!