Sunday, February 12, 2012

Addiction to weather channel - an interesting manifestation of OCD

A woman in her mid-thirties, who suffers from Down's Syndrome, was brought to my office to be put on medications to stop her "ornery and feisty behavior".

Questioning led to the revelation that she is a "weather nut". Her caretaker - she lives in a Group Home - and her cousin, who came to the session as well, to explain her problems, claimed that the epithet was justified because the patient is constantly searching for news on storms, thunders, lightening and other natural disasters and then worrying about the havoc these events are causing. She is glued 24/7 either to the TV or the  radio or the newspaper for reports on weather and its aftermath. The cousin  who had brought her to the office said you can do only so much to prevent her from watching the TV or listening to the radio and getting upset over the terrible weather conditions. If you do too much to prevent her from worrying about disasters happening to others she goes in to panic and then becomes mean and fightsy.

The patient was immediately diagnosed as suffering from obsessional neurosis, and the cousin, a little surprised and impressed, confirmed that she is obsessive. She demands everything to be straight, in line and neatly organized. She had other quirks of obsessive-compulsive problems as well.

One wonders if the people who are glued to their radio and TV to get the latest report on the weather are not using it to block out the fear of disaster coming to themselves by worrying about it happening to others.  We know that obsessional neurotics worry about their ability to cause destruction by merely thinking about it, and therefore are highly vigilant to not think in those lines.  In order to not indulge in disastrous thoughts, but unable to stop them, they often find an interesting compromise. They allow their mind to think of all kinds of destructive thoughts, but instead of owning up to their authorship, they see it as being caused by others, including  nature. This projection acts as a balm to the sense of guilt. The reasoning goes like this," It is not I who is thinking (causing) this destruction, it is nature that is doing it. I am innocent. Yes I do watch all kinds of disasters happening at the hands of cruel nature, but primarily to prevent it from happening, not to cause it. If you will see me in front of the TV watching all those people getting killed by lightening or hurricane or tsunami it is not to derive any pleasure but to feel bad for those people. I even pray for them to survive and sometimes send donations." The affect of pleasure as a rule is overlaid by the affect of remorse and contrition.

I will not be surprised that folks who listen to talk stations all the time or addicted to news channels may also not be suffering from a milder variation of this obsessional neurosis. Here too, the purpose is to be on lookout for some bad thing happening somewhere and to identify with those unfortunate people and to feel bad about it as if somehow one is responsible for it, even if very minutely.

A friend of mine, who did residency with me in Norfolk, where he had quite a few friend, moved to another state where he was very lonely. The loneliness drove him into obsessive worrying, and he began spending all his lonely hours listening to news. Only when he went to India and got married and found a new and more pleasurable outlet of making love to his wife did his libido found freedom from the obsessional neurosis of  worrying about all the assorted problems of the world. Problems about which he could not do a thing anyway. 

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