Vail Daily column: What’s the logic behind OCD? |

Vail Daily column: What’s the logic behind OCD?

Robert Valko
Dear Darwin
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – Had I known that she also would feel safeguarded against the plague, Ebola virus, and dengue fever if she could only walk around Denver in shrink-wrap; or, that she takes a blowtorch to doorknobs before turning them; or that she’s not the only one who shakes hands with her elbows, I would have invited Cameron Diaz to my annual Run-for-Your- Lives-‘Cause-Someone-Sneezed Convention.

Or, had I known that he too sees sidewalks with squished gum-spots as Twister game-boards, where every spot must be stepped on; or, that he feels the need to walk under doorways at least 231 times before actually passing through them, I would have invited Leonardo deCaprio to the convention, also known as Shrink-Fest.

Shrink-Fest ’09 was a hoot. It took place on the north side of the moon and we accepted walk-ins, but only after they’d been hosed down in a special holding cell.

Most attendees dressed in the society’s traditional garb – aluminum foil with an opening near the mouth for shots of isopropyl alcohol – but a few daring souls showed up in the newer, hipper, day-glow hazmat suits. People mingled, sipped on their iso-tinis (garnished with cotton swabs), and danced until the cows came home irradiated.

To RSVP for next year’s event, contact Steriliza Minnelli at

Actually, Cameron Diaz has only admitted that she cleans doorknobs excessively before touching them and that she washes her hands many times a day. And yes, Leonardo deCaprio has admitted to stepping on every gum-spot he sees on the sidewalk. It’s reported on the web that they may have OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder. But who’s to say?

If they do, what might the evolutionary basis be for a condition be that compels people to check things repeatedly or that drives them to wash their hands 150 times a day, as is the case with Graham, a man with OCD who appeared on good morning America.

First, we’ll check with Tom Cruise, and get Scientology’s perspective with a pseudo interview.

“So Tom, why do some people feel the need to wash their hands to the point of injury?”

Tom would probably start by shaking his head: “Bob Bob Bob… You people just don’t get it. What you call OCD – a phrase and concept invented by psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies for the purpose of getting people to spend money on their dugs and services – is not a disabling condition.

“You see Bob, it’s a behavioral fossil left over from a past life. People who feel the need to wash their hands and stay super clean in this life probably contracted a debilitating disease in a previous life. Lots of greens, vitamins C and D, and a few scientology counseling sessions should clear it up.”

I reply: “Could be, Tom. But isn’t it possible that a robust fear of germs and micro-organisms in this life may have an evolutionary basis?”

Tom shoots back: “We are not the products of evolution, Bob. We are spiritual beings.”

But, I shoot back: “But our bodies had to come from somewhere, my fair guru. A healthy fear of microorganisms would have served our ancestors well, as it would have kept them disease free. Certain repetitive behaviors would have also served our ancestors well. The checking and re-checking of supplies, food, kin, mates, territory, and possessions would have helped our ancestors in the harsh and competitive environment they grew up in.

“And, Tom, it’s also hypothesized that excessive ‘checking’ behaviors exist to ensure a person is not rejected by his group or those in authority. Psychiatrists Anthony Stevens and John Price have noted that people with OCD often reveal that not getting things right could lead to the loss of respect, relationships, and may result in total rejection.”

Tom, pondering, says, “Interesting point Bob. Maybe everyone should have OCD.”

Robert Valko is a graduate of Northwestern University. For the academic sources used to write this piece, or for new column ideas, e-mail Robert at

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