WETZSTEIN: OCD patients fight the ‘enemy within’

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In the mid-1990s, when Ed Zine was dominated by his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), he knew the thousands of rituals he was doing in the fetid basement of his father’s home were illogical, but he couldn’t help it.

He thought he had to save his loved ones from dying, and this meant he had to stop the progression of time by making sure a million rules were followed. The hat on the TV must stay in that exact spot. The spaghetti strands on his fork must twirl just right. He learned how to speak and read forward and backward so events could be undone if necessary.

But by the spring of 1999, Mr. Zine was a new man — well-groomed, normal weight, driving; in many ways, just as he was in 1992, when he first felt the waves of OCD crashing over him.

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Mr. Zine’s “escape” from the basement where he lived for three years came about for many reasons, but the most pivotal event was his epiphany that OCD was the “enemy within.” His determination to “flip the script” — control OCD instead of letting it control him — led him to do his own behavior modifications and reclaim his life.

His extraordinary story is told in “Life in Rewind: The Story of a Young Courageous Man Who Persevered Over OCD and the Harvard Doctor Who Broke All the Rules to Help Him,” written by Terry Weible Murphy with help from Mr. Zine and his psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Jenike.

Mr. Zine’s story delves into traditional OCD therapies, such as medication and hours of therapy, but it also shows the power of compassion in a doctor-patient relationship.

When Dr. Jenike first met Mr. Zine in his home, he realized the only way he could ever help this unbelievably ill man was to make house calls, an unorthodox step for most medical professionals. These on-site visits, carried out over several years, built trust between the two men and laid the foundation for Mr. Zine’s breakthrough.

Mr. Zine’s story didn’t end when he got out of the basement. His new life includes gainful employment, a loving wife and children, and a home he built himself.

Mr. Zine’s OCD has not gone away, however. He still avoids left turns, mentally repeats sentences and cares about the order of things. But he has devised clever ways of managing OCD so his life — and his children — are not overly affected. Why should anyone notice that when he plays with his children, he always swings them one way, never the other?

Mr. Zine’s main message is that even the most severe OCD patients are capable of getting better and must not be ignored.

Earlier this week, at the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation’s big conference in Minneapolis, Ms. Murphy showed a video about several people with OCD who have built successful lives. One of them is Elizabeth McIngvale, a national spokeswoman for the foundation and founder of Peace of Mind Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about OCD.

Ms. McIngvale’s OCD emerged around age 12. It causes her to care about cleanliness, numbers and religiosity. To avoid dirtying her hands, for instance, she still opens doors with her feet.

But Ms. McIngvale is determined to live life fully and purposefully.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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