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Review of Obsessed

Obsessed by Allison Britz

Obsessed: A Memoir of My Life with OCD by Allison Britz

The premise:

A brave teen recounts her debilitating struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder—and brings readers through every painful step as she finds her way to the other side—in this powerful and inspiring memoir. Until sophomore year of high school, fifteen-year-old Allison Britz lived a comfortable life in an idyllic town. She was a dedicated student with tons of extracurricular activities, friends, and loving parents at home.

But after awakening from a vivid nightmare in which she was diagnosed with brain cancer, she was convinced the dream had been a warning. Allison believed that she must do something to stop the cancer in her dream from becoming a reality.

It started with avoiding sidewalk cracks and quickly grew to counting steps as loudly as possible. Over the following weeks, her brain listed more dangers and fixes. She had to avoid hair dryers, calculators, cell phones, computers, anything green, bananas, oatmeal, and most of her own clothing.

Unable to act “normal,” the once-popular Allison became an outcast. Her parents questioned her behavior, leading to explosive fights. When notebook paper, pencils, and most schoolbooks were declared dangerous to her health, her GPA imploded, along with her plans for the future.

Finally, she allowed herself to ask for help and was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This brave memoir tracks Allison’s descent and ultimately hopeful climb out of the depths.

My thoughts: 5/5 stars. Wow. This book reads like fiction in the best way. I loved the writing style. Personally, I didn’t think it was slow and the disorder continually escalating was both realistic and important for tension. The descriptions were impressively vivid. As an avid mental-health-book reader and writer, and budding psychologist, this book ticked all the boxes.

In college a professor of mine studied scrupulosity– or religious OCD– something I have rarely heard about in academia, nonetheless in fiction or popular media. This includes the “voice of God” and OCD manifesting like an eating disorder (eating less to appease God in some way), such as Allison experienced.

Few mental health books are able to convey the loneliness of psychopathology while still conveying the idea that there are other people around, wanting to help. The tensions were realistic– between the social awkwardness and the internal anxiety, friends/family desire to help and lack of understanding, Allison wanting help and not wanting anyone to know. While it would seem obvious that this realism would come out of a memoir, other from-lived-experience type books (such as Turtles All The Way Down, in my opinion) do not get there.

This book also makes an effort to point out the variance in OCD presentation, especially that it isn’t just about cleanliness/contamination or organization. It also doesn’t end when Allison gets to therapy the first time nor end on an unrealistically happy note as some mental health fiction does.

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