shades of microserfs:
January 5, 2001 9:29 AM   Subscribe

shades of microserfs: man locked himself in his parents bathroom two years ago and refuses to come out. is fed by flat food slipped under the door.
posted by palegirl (35 comments total)
 
I saw this last night on 48 Hours, and I know he has a serious mental problem. I had to wonder though, how the parents sort of fed into his paranoia instead of just dragging him outside?
posted by owillis at 9:53 AM on January 5, 2001


This qualifies as news??
posted by rschram at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2001


Does anyone have a copy of the show? My 14-year-old cousin started developing severe OCD within the last few months. (She can't be around glitter, or anyone/anything who has or might have touched any glitter, including her family and friends. It's really, really bad and not at all funny.)

If anyone has it or knows someone who does, please let me know. If not, I'll order a copy from CBS, but it's $30 and takes two months.
posted by waxpancake at 10:30 AM on January 5, 2001


Usually big city libraries have all the copies, they have them pre-ordered, the only place I could find Erroll Morris' Brief History of the Universe.
posted by tiaka at 10:38 AM on January 5, 2001


waxpancake,

I have a copy -- email me. FWIW, my son's the same age and suffers from a host of psychiatric disorders. We thought he had Tourette's since age seven, but it might actually be OCD because his movements are too ritualistic and elaborate to qualify as tics.

People, OCD can be severely disabling and as a parent who's watching a son loose all the opportunities life has to offer him because of OCD and severe bipolar, it's ugly and heartbreaking. Please, don't talk about "dragging him outside" if you haven't ever watch someone melt down so completely that you don't know how much of your loved one is coming home to you after the doctors finish putting the individual back together again. I've been there, done that, and even help the emergency staff put my son in four-point restraints once.

As it is, I live in a state with exceptional medical provisions, thanks to an equal parity law, exceptional clinical hospital schools, and exceptional doctors and teachers. And even that isn't enough to restore normalcy.

Just today I had to accept that some of my son's symptoms may never go away, that he may well suffer some level of disorder every day, forever. And that we might be filling out disability papers instead of college apps a couple of years from now.

But waxpancake, email me -- there's a lot that can be done and it isn't hopeless. Your daughter may very well recover completely, depending on she's affected and the absence of other psychiatric conditions. Fortunately, there's a wide range of affectation and lesser cases can be successfully and completely treated.
posted by debrahyde at 10:46 AM on January 5, 2001


She's my cousin, not my daughter. But thanks. I'll contact you off-site.
posted by waxpancake at 10:52 AM on January 5, 2001


I'm tired of this whole thing about how asocial behavior must be a brain problem. Their brain's not working just like everyone else's so we have to go in there and fix their brain, or fill them with drugs so they'll be more like us. Sheesh!

Hasn't anyone who treats OCDs ever actually read about bacteria? You can't see it, but where you are right now is covered in little microbes. Everywhere. They're on your skin. You can bathe daily, but that doesn't make them go away. The water that comes out of your tap? Do you take for granted that your local utilities company cleans out 100% of all microbe life from your tap water? They don't. The water you drink? Or the water that's in bottled drinks you consume? Might've been a few decades ago, or it might've been a few months ago, but at one time or another that water was in someone else's toilet.

Try cleaning your entire computer area with antiseptic stuff. In less than a day all those little monsters creep right back. Most bacteria is harmless to the human body, but a small percentage of known bacteria can be dangerous or even deadly. Ever hear about the times someone goes swimming in a public lake, and an amoeba or something makes it into their ear? And they die? Granted, you don't have to get obsessive about it, but I can understand why some people's brains would start thinking that way. I mean just thinking about it is gross.

Maybe it's irrational behavior from our perspective, but try walking a mile in their shoes. Or try spending a year locked in a bathroom as the case may be. What they need to do is lock the guy in the bathroom from the outside, then pour mud in through the window and let him scream for a couple hours. Then prove to him that he's gonna live.

Medication and psychoanalysis treats the symptoms. Finding out how these people tick and attacking the issue at the source, THAT's how ya do it.

Oh and that glitter person? Waxpancake, I can't stand being around glitter either. It gets on everything and it's worse than bacteria not cuz it's dangerous but cuz you CAN see it. Try this: don't use glitter around your cousin. It's stupid, useless gunk anyway. Weeks after a party where you used it, you're still sleeping in it. You can wash your sheets but you still find the junk. Vacuum for hours and there's still glitter. I mean have you considered that maybe she just doesn't like glitter? Why is that so bad?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2001


Zach, you're forgetting something extremely important. Bacteria? We need it to live. Do you know what processes our food for us? Bacteria. There are several forms of bacteria that are essential to the body's natural functions. In other words, they're here for a reason. Some bacteria are good, some are neutral and don't really affect us one way or another, and others are bad. But there is a reason why they are in everything. The American obsession with ridding ourselves of microscopic dirtiness is causing us to lose immunity to things, making us more susceptible to colds, etc, and also creating new, resistant strains of bacteria that are harmful. Granted, I have been known to carry around wet naps and wipe down public phones before using them, but that's as obsessive as I get about it, and I do it mostly to avoid colds which inevitably turn into bronchitis or pneumonia for me.

And this guy that we're all talking about? He's not afraid that he's going to be contaminated, he's afraid he's contaminating others. This is a psychological problem, not fear of dirt or bacteria. You fill his bathroom with mud and he'll probably feel sorry for the mud he's contaminating, not the other way around.
posted by annathea at 11:43 AM on January 5, 2001


Actually Zach, the difference between "just doesn't like glitter" and a real OCD response to glitter is like night and day. You must not have experienced OCD firsthand to see how absolutely incapacitated someone can be, for what appears to others as a harmless thing.

No one knows why people have intense anxiety about things like glitter or germs, why people obsess over it, and can't do anything else (like this guy stashed in a room for two years). Medication sometimes alleviates symptoms enough so you can be productive again. The fact is no one has really gotten to the "source" of the problems, but I strongly doubt they are behavioral or environmental in nature. My guess would be chemical imbalances in the brain, something that medication is good at solving, btw.
posted by mathowie at 11:43 AM on January 5, 2001


Hmm.. I wanted to ask this for a long time, who are those people that can't throw trash away? Herders? Or? Is it at all similar to OCD?
posted by tiaka at 11:46 AM on January 5, 2001


Yeah, good Zach, give someone a fucking heart attack because their brains are wired differently then yours to proove a point.

I know, Zach, next time you get the Flu, how bout I just pick you up and drop you off 100 miles outside Dallas just to proove to you that you can actually walk while sick.

There's a massive difference between normal asocial behaviour and an actual brain 'wiring' problem.
posted by cCranium at 11:49 AM on January 5, 2001


Thanks, Matt. It goes far beyond a simple dislike of glitter. She literally breaks down crying if someone with a visible speck of glitter tries to approach her. She can't sit on furniture or go into rooms/buildings/cars that have been "contaminated," no matter how many times they've been clean by her desperate family. She's thrown away all of her sheets and blankets, and many of her clothes and personal belongings because they're "contaminated" and can't be cleaned.

The hardest part is that she's a very intelligent, rational person. She understands that it's totally irrational behavior, but she's still bound to the elaborate rules of her condition. The fact that they're illogical doesn't make them any easier to fight.
posted by waxpancake at 11:55 AM on January 5, 2001


Indeed. Best of luck with that, for what it's worth.

Debra, based on your comments, and I hate to ask this, but have you considered having your son evaluated for a mild case of autism? The repetitive motion thing sounds vaguely familiar (I have a friend who teaches special-ed; me 'at's off to her, cause I know *I* don't have the patience to do that).
posted by baylink at 12:10 PM on January 5, 2001


What they need to do is lock the guy in the bathroom from the outside, then pour mud in through the window and let him scream for a couple hours. Then prove to him that he's gonna live.

This obviously comes from someone who has no experience first hand working with someone who has OCD. I have, and this mental illness is no different than any other, and should be treated with compassion.
posted by milnak at 12:12 PM on January 5, 2001


Tiaka, I think you mean hoarders. As it happens, the local paper ran a number of stories just this week.
posted by harmful at 12:18 PM on January 5, 2001


milnak: Maybe Zach had compassionate conservatism in mind?
posted by ed at 12:21 PM on January 5, 2001


baylink,

Yeah, we have and PDD as well. It's not either of those and "tickers" are basically elaborate counters. They use body movement instead of numbers, that's all.

Believe me, if I'm not working with teachers, I'm talking to doctors. We've been deep into mental illnesses resources for three years now. We've done a lot, accomplished a lot, but my son's multiply-affected and it's not going to go away easily because he's suffering from more than OCD.

BTW, folks, there's some evidence that OCD in children is triggered (not caused by, but triggered) by certain strep strains and at least one doctor's looking into viral triggers for other mental illnesses as well. Might well be true, but after my son became ill, my parents opened a certain closet door and I learned my mother's family has a 25% incident of serious mental illness while my father's had 10%.

Deb
posted by debrahyde at 1:23 PM on January 5, 2001


My comment was actually meaning, how do the parents resist the urge to drag him out of the bathroom. While I know OCD is real, a lot of the industry around it seems like the same hysteria that pumps kids full of drugs because they're "diagnosed" with ADD.
posted by owillis at 1:32 PM on January 5, 2001


Zach, I hope your knowledge is seriously lacking on the subject of counseling or therapy for mental illness. Mental disorders are disorders because they incapacitate a person, keeping them from doing their daily duties in life--work, chores--whatever.

While in some cases, rationalizing problems may work, but your solution sounds like you want to just "tell the person to stop their behavior." That'd be like telling someone with depression to just "cheer up," or someone with acne to just "stop breaking out." Many times the problems are not under the person's control. But with therapy, and yes, sometimes drugs, people can learn to control or extinguish their problems.
posted by gramcracker at 1:36 PM on January 5, 2001


Aw, OCD's no big deal. You just have to fall in love and your symptoms will start to disappear. That's what happened in As Good As It Gets!
posted by daveadams at 1:43 PM on January 5, 2001


Zach, I'm sorry, but this is not a subject on which intelligent people can honestly disagree. Your statements above are wrong, factually incorrect. There's a difference between going to a therapist because of your emotions - "feeling unfulfilled," "I'm afraid of whatever," etc - and actual physical disorders of the brain which cause symptoms like debrahyde's son is experiencing. The medications do not "treat the symptoms," they attack the problem, just as much as if you were taking Prevacid for heartburn. And sure, some psychoanalysis is worthless, but there are tons of bad doctors in every other medicinal specialty as well. And misdiagnoses. And treatments that don't work for you even though they worked for the last guy.

ed: Find somewhere else to make your irrelevant hateful political jabs. This thread has nothing to do with that stuff.

debrahyde: Don't ever give up hope. New treatments are discovered every day. Hopefully, one or more of those discoveries will prove to be the right treatments for your son.
posted by aaron at 3:12 PM on January 5, 2001



What they need to do is lock the guy in the bathroom from the outside, then pour mud in through the window and let him scream for a couple hours. Then prove to him that he's gonna live.
I don't read all of the comments, so i don't know if someone has pointed this out. But, Zach, if you read the article you see that the guy does not fear being contaminated himself, but fears contaminating others...
So what good would mud through a window do??


posted by pehtes at 3:18 PM on January 5, 2001


Aw, OCD's no big deal. You just have to fall in love and your symptoms will start to disappear. That's what happened in As Good As It Gets!

No it's not. Unless taking medication equals falling in love. (Which is entirely possible, depending on the medication.)

The overdiagnosis of mental problems, and the eagerness of some doctors to prescribe drugs to treat them, is a problem. A small problem, I like to think. I'd hate to have us go back to the days when there was a stigma attached to the idea of therapy - drug or talk therapy. I mean, Prosac helps people. Even people that don't need it.

But then again, doctors are gods.

posted by Jart at 3:43 PM on January 5, 2001


There's a great book written from the perspective of a woman who suffered from OCD--Just Checking, by Emily Colas. It's a quick, funny read that manages never to play down the seriousness of the disease.
posted by shylock at 4:35 PM on January 5, 2001


Humorist David Sedaris describes having OCD-like symptoms as a boy in one of his short stories...

In ``A Plague of Tics,'' Sedaris delivered an over-the-top performance of a story about his own childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder that included demonstrations of eye rolling and head thrashing, which turned him into a one-man mosh pit at the podium. ``The kid's wound too tight,'' Sedaris offered in his mother's drunken deadpan. In high school, Sedaris said he [thought he was] ``considered eccentric instead of simply retarded. I was wrong.''

(From a Times Union story on Sedaris.)

I've always wondered how he managed to get over it. The story doesn't really say.
posted by wiremommy at 5:34 PM on January 5, 2001


Found it.
Sedaris: "When I was on a radio show recently, a woman from the Tourette's Syndrome Association called in to say that the Tics chapter read like a textbook case of juvenile Tourette's, which comes on at age seven. It had a big effect on my life -- it lasted until I was 20 -- and went away little by little when I started smoking. (The woman from the Tourette's Association said that lots of Tourette's patients improve when they wear nicotine patches. So I think I'm entitled to have a medical statement that says that for medical reasons I need to smoke cigarettes in restaurants.)"
posted by wiremommy at 5:44 PM on January 5, 2001


<rant invitation>

With disorders like OCD, most doctors have as little idea how to treat them as ZachsMind, you, or I do. All they have is theories and studies written by other people. I would think it's nearly impossible to understand an alien (meaning very different) mindset enough to attempt to change it...

I think Zachs whole point was to show that people tend to blindly believe in the benefits of conventional medicine.

</ rant invitation>
posted by Neb at 6:00 PM on January 5, 2001


There's certainly room to debate the efficacy of various treatments, but I don't think returning to the days of mental-illness-as-character-flaw is an especially auspicious way of going about it.

I used to work with someone who had an Asperger's-Syndrome type of OCD. He was the hardware/inventory geek at my job, and you literally could not deviate from the script without freaking him out. The hard drive you were given doesn't work? Can't grab one from the cabinet and fill out the paperwork later -- it would be a disaster! Fill it out now, dot the i's, cross the t's, and while you're at it call up the vendor for the RMA on the bad one, and before you know it it's lunchtime and the user is cooling her heels, but hey -- the script is being followed.

Drove me crazy until my sidekick and I learned how to work with him. He was tremendously focused and productive, if you let him follow his procedures. After a while he actually loosened up around us, too, and was extremely helpful and generous.

For a fictional treatment, in some ways very disturbing, check into A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. In that far-future sf story, someone develops a way to deliberately "Focus" people, i.e. turn them into idiot savant slaves, rationally aware of their situation but completely unable to break out of it. They would be used as human computers. Not necessarily relevant, but interesting particularly due to my personal experience.
posted by dhartung at 7:44 PM on January 5, 2001


Semi-tangent: There's a movie called House of Cards (starring Kathleen Turner and Tommie Lee Jones) which deals with autism - it's not a GREAT movie, but it was interesting in its own way - very psychological, not necessarily psychiatrical though. :-) "When Ruth Matthews's husband is killed in a fall at an archaeological dig, her daughter Sally handles her father's death in a very odd manner. As Sally's condition worsens, Ruth takes her to see Jake, an expert in childhood autism. Jake attempts to bring Sally out of her mental disarray through traditional therapy methods, but Ruth takes a different route. She risks her own sanity by attempting to enter her daughter's mind and make sense of the seemingly bizarre things that Sally does, including building a wondrous house of cards."
posted by thunder at 8:31 PM on January 5, 2001


Semi-tangent: There's a movie called House of Cards (starring Kathleen Turner and Tommie Lee Jones) which deals with autism - it's not a GREAT movie, but it was interesting in its own way - very psychological, not necessarily psychiatrical though. :-) "When Ruth Matthews's husband is killed in a fall at an archaeological dig, her daughter Sally handles her father's death in a very odd manner. As Sally's condition worsens, Ruth takes her to see Jake, an expert in childhood autism. Jake attempts to bring Sally out of her mental disarray through traditional therapy methods, but Ruth takes a different route. She risks her own sanity by attempting to enter her daughter's mind and make sense of the seemingly bizarre things that Sally does, including building a wondrous house of cards."
posted by thunder at 8:32 PM on January 5, 2001


Wish that previous comment really HAD been good enough to post twice - sorry - technical difficulties. :-/
posted by thunder at 8:33 PM on January 5, 2001


I've always been fascinated by mental illnesses, in particular the way they illuminate the way a healthy mind works. Some of my favorite books on the topic are Daniel Keyes's The Minds of Billy Milligan, Temple Grandin's Thinking in Pictures, and Oliver Sacks's An Anthropologist on Mars. (The last discusses the autism of the author of the second book.) There are others, but I can't put my mind on them at the moment...
posted by kindall at 9:08 PM on January 5, 2001


Hmm. I had a problem with buses that was probably an extension of agoraphobia[sp]. I just found the whole idea terrifying. Bear in mind that I'm English. We don't have the same car culture as US types do. I don't have a car (or a driving license) so the only way for me to travel anywhere was to either be driven (which I didn't like much either) or to go on the bus. It's hard to describe what it's like but there is nothing rational involved. I'm not sure whether what I had was related to OCD and I'm largely over it now (though I think the underlying causes are still there). The point being that this stuff (like bulimia) is not a disease of the rational part of the mind so rationalization will not cure it.
And don't be to hard on Zach. Before I had the condition I knew a guy who was phobic about balloons. I regret waving balloons in his face. A lot. Admittedly I acted like an asshole a lot back then but I can understand how this sort of thing can seem absurd from an exterior perspective.
posted by davidgentle at 10:04 PM on January 5, 2001


That was the evil anti-Zach what posted before. Actually Neb got close to what I was trying to say. My ex-wife and I went through years with doctors trying to diagnose her neurological condition. It's kinda like rheumatoid arthritis, kinda like multiple sclerosis, kinda like ankylosing spondilitis. I don't even know what some of these words mean and I know how to spell them.. sorta. Anyway they treated her with all this stuff including steroids and crap and all they did was add other discomforting symptoms in replace of the ones we were trying to get rid of. Or they'd make her all loopy to the point that she didn't care about the pain she was still in anymore. She'd sleep a lot.. I just no longer have any faith in conventional medicine.

So I diagnosed the guy wrong, and misunderstood. Okay. Put me in the house with him. By the end of a month he'd wish he could contaminate me with something so I'd die. But he would learn consciously that his irrational unconscious fear that his germs might get on someone else would be irrelevant, and it would bring him one step closer to recovery. Of course he'd be insane after putting up with me. Just ask my wife. buh-doo-bum-ching.

Ultimately what my previous post was trying to do was to inject some humor into this situation. We're not going to solve all of the world's problems here in MeFi. I hate to break it to ya. It is fun to try, but sometimes MeFi reads like the transcript for an episode of Montel or Oprah. I failed to take into account two things. 1) I'm really not all that funny. I try but I just ain't, which is why I post in places like this instead of write for Jay Leno. And 2) a lot of people in MeFi tend to forget their sense of humor when they read my words anyway.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:18 PM on January 6, 2001


"Even if you have a job that you hate, you still have income from it, and you can still better your life in some way. But there's really no benefit whatsoever to just doing mindless, repetitive, painful cleaning rituals," David said.

That's all the comedy this story had to offer me.
posted by subpixel at 7:05 PM on January 6, 2001


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