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I should have written about Obsessed yesterday, but it’s taken two days to process it. The third episode of the new A&E show about people getting help for their extreme anxiety disorders seriously upped the ante, making the afflictions suffered by the first four subjects seem almost average in comparison, and probably causing millions of more mild OCD sufferers to feel better about their own disorders. Even the chick last week who was plagued by thoughts of murdering everyone can’t really compare to this week’s Nidia, whose OCD “Thing” is, and I’m just going to lay this out frankly because that’s what the show does: Nidia is so afraid of poop (the show said that: “poop”) that every time she goes to the bathroom she gets in the shower and uses an enema and a toothbrush to clean her rectum for three hours until she bleeds. She’s had to go to the emergency room twice for blood transfusions. She can’t leave the house or eat any fiber for fear of having to go number two, and her sweet, patient, loving husband can’t help but compare life with her to a prison. Doctor Shana to the rescue!

Doctor Shana begins Nidia’s exposure by taking her to a park with her husband and making her eat celery and carrots until her anxiety level reaches its highest point, and then until it falls, which shows Nidia that she’s in control of her anxiety and that it will eventually go down on its own. Then, after weeks of gradual exposures, Dr. Shana comes over to Nidia’s house on a day that Nidia is going to the bathroom, and monitors her post-bathroom shower, making sure it’s only ten minutes and that she still “feels dirty” when she gets out.

After twelve weeks of therapy, Nidia is able to throw away her enema and toothbrush (tools that, thank god, Dr. Shana doesn’t, like, touch or anything) and stop her shower ritual, because Dr. Shana is an empathetic, yet firm cognitive behavioral genius. Seriously, after just three weeks of watching Dr. Shana’s techniques, I think I know how to conquer my mortal fear of the endless, creaky, and extremely narrow escalators at the Delancey Street subway station. This show helps people! (Assuming I don’t faint and fall backwards, killing myself and the innocent people and children on the escalator behind me, which is what will probably happen.)

Anyway, the other subject of this week’s show had arguably much less acute symptoms, but unfortunately did not get well, either because his Doctor wasn’t firm enough with him, or because he just didn’t want it badly enough, but probably a mixture of the two. Rick is a writer with a wife and daughter whose OCD symptoms began when he was a child. He has several Things, like constantly turning clockwise and adding up the numbers on license plates (“I like personalized plates, because then I get a break.” Ha!), but his Main Thing is the gym. Rick believes that he needs to go to the gym 50 times per week or more to prevent the aging process, which is his ultimate fear. Rick rushes to several different gyms throughout the day and night, working out with weights at each one for about five minutes and keeping an obsessive log of the number of reps he does. One weird thing they never mention on the show is the fact that Rick does all this gym stuff in his regular button-up work shirt and slacks, so, like, he must smell really terrible!:

Rick proudly confesses that the last day he skipped the gym entirely was January 20, 1991. Rick’s doctor, John Tsilimparis, tries for twelve weeks to help Rick minimize his gym visits in the hopes of Rick getting to the point where he can even skip a day, but the entire experiment fails. Unlike Nidia, who is acutely aware that there’s nothing reasonable about three-hour rectum scrapings, Rick arrogantly believes that there’s something to his gym compulsion and vitamin habits. He really thinks that his behavior is going to lead to a longer life. Maybe instead of trying to minimize Rick’s gym trips, Doctor Tsilimparis should have told him what the audience was all thinking while watching the show: why can’t Rick just go to the gym for one hour every morning like a normal person (might/could/probably should)? It’s the frequency of his trips, not their total length, that make his habits an obvious compulsion. At his final interview, Rick summed up the reason why his treatment failed with one sentence: “Some obsessive anxieties serve people well.” A certain snooty, holier-than-thou attitude is not uncommon with OCD (“It’s other people who don’t wash their hands enough!”), but hopefully Rick will eventually figure out that there’s a saner way to stay healthy.

Also, this was never mentioned on the show, but Rick apparently has to have a toothbrush in his mouth at all times while driving:

Because this episode was so serious, I will go ahead and leave what’s funny about this in light of the entire show to the reader’s imagination. (But: heh!)

Obsessed is the best reality show on TV right now. You can watch the full episode here.

Comments (45)
  1. ElBomb  |   Posted on Jun 10th, 2009 +1

    I still call BS on Rick. That’s Rick Rosner, who has a colorful (and well-documented on the Internet) history of doing stupid crap to get attention. Including suing ABC for a faulty “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” question. I guess the producers would verify his illness, but still… something seems off.

    • okay  |   Posted on Jun 10th, 2009 +5

      I just looked up that guy and he sounds insane.
      From Wikipedia:
      “He has received some of the highest scores ever recorded on IQ tests designed to measure exceptional intelligence (Morris 1986, Prager 1997). He has become known for applying his high IQ to activities not usually associated with geniuses. Rosner has used fake IDs to repeatedly return to high school, worked as a stripper, roller-skating waiter, bouncer, and nude model…Rosner has admitted, ‘I like to do something obnoxious every few months?to make people nervous’ ”
      He’s sort of just a real-world troll. I wonder if he felt so smug when he watched the episode and saw Nidia.

  2. Lindsay, this recap blew my mind, sentence by sentence by sentence.

  3. I almost missed watching this until I walked downstairs and my younger sister yelled, “HEY! THIS LADY CLEANS HER BUTT WITH A TOOTHBRUSH!”

    Seriously, this recap adds a second level of awesome to watching this show.

    (That concludes my 7th grade recap of the recap.)

  4. For the record, it is other people who don’t wash their hands enough, and these same people also need to get used to my perfectly reasonable need to click my teeth twenty times a minute.

  5. I recognized him from the Errol Morris First Person interview! http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5935911405946587342. Now I don’t know how to feel , since it’s hard to believe that anything he says or does is genuine.

    Lindsay, thank you for blogging about this show, it occupies my every waking thought.

  6. Ah, sometimes it is so refreshing to have a totally snark-free analysis of a legitimately fascinating show. Instead of: “Last night’s ‘Intervention’, you guys. It seems like everyone is watching this show. Even your mom is watching it. She is like, “This show is really shocking! Lots Of Love.” But so why do you keep getting gym membership renewals for your boyfriend every Christmas? When you know he’s just going to go six times a day, five minutes each time, in his street clothes, because that’s something people do? He is like Professor Smelly of Change Your Outfit University. Forget it, Jake, it’s OCDtown.”

    (I didn’t have the heart to make fun of enema lady, even insincerely.)

    • Whoops, that’s Gabe’s schtick. Woof.

    • Relax, Carrie.

    • I know i mocked his perceptiveness to BS a few days ago, but, in his defense*, Gabe’s not an inhuman satire machine.
      Remember this?:
      http://videogum.com/archives/death/heaven-just-got-a-little-more-9_059601.html
      That was earnest and well-done.
      Maybe i’m giving Mr. Lapatine too much credit, but i feel like Gabe and Lindsay are supposed to be tonal foils. She the one who likes Slumdog because it’s a brilliant and touching piece of storytelling. He’s the one who hates Slumdog because it romanticizes poverty for the entertainment of entitled Westerners. TAHDAH! rational conflict between lovable rascals.
      *Gabe doesn’t need defense. Neither did I. Now we’re even maybe

      • Well, I know that, I just wanted to write that as a joke, but you’re right. I mean probably it’s good that Gabe does the really insipid shows and Lindsay tends to tackle ones that have a little bit more of an emotional thrust to them because she is good at sincerity and he is good at snark. Also I think my comment came off really bitchy when I was just trying to make a joke, and typically I find Gabe’s writing really amusing so that was not really my intention. Sometimes I am a big diaperface you guys! Sorry! Relax at dinner, Carrie!

  7. I hate to get all Freudgum here but uh… sounds like someone’s stuck in a certain psychosexual gear. Or something. I don’t know. This show and “Intervention” are indeed fascinating but I always feel a mix of guilt and disgust (with myself, and television, not the shows’ subjects) when I watch.

    • I’m the same way. My roommate used to accuse me of watching out to get my schadenfreude on, but I genuinely do watch to see if people take the help that’s offered and recover from their illnesses.

      Not trying to get all :( gum on y’all but addictions and compulsions fascinate me. I need an intervention to get me to quit watching Intervention! (I’ll go now)

  8. My sister feels mildly uncomfortable sometimes when someone touches things too lightly like someone in a previous episode, and my grandmother keeps a stock of those dental floss-stick things in her car which she uses to floss at red lights and in traffic. I think this show is so engrossing (sometimes emphasis on the GROSS) because it is a look at people with hugely exaggerated versions of everyday tensions and ticks that everyone experiences to some degree. EMMY.

  9. Erin  |   Posted on Jun 10th, 2009 +2

    I don’t know if I’d ever actually watch this show (too intense!) but I love reading your recaps. It sounds like a really sympathetic non-exploitative show that not only helps people with OCD but the people who live with them.

  10. Reading these recaps has enabled me to confront my own deepest fears… that gravity is going to break one day and we’re all just going to go spinning off into space and that there’s a shark in my kitchen at night.

  11. Randy Ricker  |   Posted on Jun 10th, 2009 -24

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • ElBomb (it is pretty clever)  |   Posted on Jun 10th, 2009 +13

      Ha, joke’s on you, Randy. I have NO intellectual integrity, and no one EVER asks my opinion on anything already! That’s why I post anonymous comments on pop culture blogs (seriously, that’s how these things work). I am sure Rick is a great man, awesome at parties, and surely smarter than 99.999999% of all people on earth. But by his own admission, he is not above pulling elaborate ruses, including enrolling in various high schools as a 26-year old:

      http://www.megasociety.org/noesis/57.htm

      I also recommend the section where he describes how to maintain the proper level of “fluffiness” while dancing naked on stage. That ritual, fortunately, did not make it to A&E.

    • Kenneth  |   Posted on Jun 12th, 2009 0

      Yeah, it must be hard being really smart? What certain difficulties does being 99.8% smarter than everyone else bring about? Poor choice-making skills?

      I watched the snippet of the interview Rick gave for Errol. I want to know how high school is like a controlled experiment. What are the variables that are limited? Because it seems to me that different teachers have different teaching styles and use different text books and set different goals for their students worldwide. And if he’s just going to high school to think and not listen to the teacher, why can’t he just sit in a library or at home staring out a window? He doesn’t make that clear. Plus, any teacher would notice you staring out of a window and not paying attention. All of mine did.

      I have not seen the documentary in full, but it seems that Errol Morris didn’t have the goal of showing off this super smart guy he found. It seemed more like he wanted to just dive into the complexity of an interesting character. But they make documentaries about anyone seemingly (but not always) interesting, not just people with IQs of 190. How does your mentioning that add insult to injury? I certainly don’t feel as though you just called me a “dork” after kicking me in the shin.

      I have no issue with Rick having as many professions as he’d like. And I have no issue with his obsession of not being the smartest person in the world. But what we’re really talking about here is his horrible attitude. I know a lot of people a lot less intelligent than Rick that have the same kind of attitude problems: they’re awful braggarts. The way he says things and admits to purposefully prank people to make them scared reminds me of a famous and certainly less intelligent person. What was his name again? Uh….ASHTON KUTCHER! That’s it. Rick likes to “punk” people to keep ‘em on their toes. Awesome. We need another one of those. Because what Rick has in IQ points, he lacks in modesty. And what upsets me really is that the reason he was on the show was to “punk” people. And the show up to this point has shown us people that actually wanted help. And by making a joke of the show and making it a prank, he is belittling the people that actually wanted help. And until I hear an explanation from Rick, I will believe that. And I don’t think he owes me an explanation; I just wanted to make sure you understood why I (and I’m guessing ELBomb) don’t care that you worked with Rick for ten years or that he’s really smart or whatever. He comes off as and has not shown himself to be anything but and asshole.

    • Kenneth  |   Posted on Jun 12th, 2009 +2

      Oh yeah, and something else that bothers me about your friend. He’s a little hypocritical. I read his defense of his “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” appearance. He claimed the question should have been phrased “Of these cities, which is the….” etc. But on the Dominos commercial, he has no problem being labeled as the world’s smartest man. But Da Vinci had a higher IQ (220). So the label should have said “The World’s Smartest Living Man”. But I don’t hear his outrage at that misleading title given to him. He’s sitting smugly on that misnomer, but can’t handle the fact that he lost out on his chance to win one million dollars. I wonder how much Dominos money he made. Don’t you? Probably more than one million.

      So yeah, I’ve thought a lot about this and I just want to make it clear so you don’t have to reply to me, Randy Ricker, that I don’t give a fuck about how smart Rick is. He’s a douche bag and an asshole, and I reiterate that the whole point about people calling BS on him is because he is full of shit. FULL OF SHIT. He clearly pulled a prank on a television show as evidenced by his admitting to enjoying pulling pranks and his inability to “cure” his “OCD”. And his general attitude adds to this venomous rage I have inside of me.

      Shit just got personal. For him and for you. Because anything you can say to “come back” at me, means nothing to me. DON’T FUCKING BOTHER! Your co-worker of ten years is a scar on society’s forearm that I, for one, wish we could just cut off, along with all the other assholes that have his same false sense of superiority over other people because of their supposed intelligence. And yeah, I’ll probably be falling off with Rick because I think I am superior to him and you because I’m fucking smarter. Where’s my fucking documentary?

      Wow, that rage just came out of no where. I think what I’m really saying here is that someone should make a documentary about me.

  12. Randy Ricker  |   Posted on Jun 10th, 2009 -10

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  13. so this woman cleans her ass with a toothbrush, and she has a loving husband. meanwhile i’m still single. i’m going to go hang myself now.

  14. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

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  16. I say “Here! here!” to that.

  17. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  18. Oh no! This show might take Kathy Griffin’s Emmy next year!

  19. Rick, especially in the last picture, reminds me of that mangy neighborhood stray doggy you try to bring inside and save. He’ll come running up to you, excitedly wagging his tail, adorable in the fact that he’s not aware of the stray sticks and cat poop stuck in his fur … i think i’m still talking about the stray dog?

  20. I just found out that Dr. Shana graduated from the same Social Work grad program I’m starting in the fall. She is officially my new idol!

  21. chris  |   Posted on Jun 11th, 2009 +4

    That show was completely inappropriate. How far will reality shows go? The theme really prodded into that woman’s inner privacy. If she were MY WIFE her behavior would sooner than later leave a bad taste in my mouth. When will our appetite to digest freak “entertainment” Crest the level of normal and lead us into a dark abysmal hole of crap TV?

  22. chris  |   Posted on Jun 16th, 2009 +1

    my strange sense of humor is my own worst enema

    Someone got it!

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