The Man Who Couldn’t Stop

David Adam

Why I looked at this book

This has been shortlisted for the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books

First impressions

The book starts with an introduction to OCD, telling of some of the different forms it takes, and that it is more widespread than most people think. It tells of behaviour that seems so illogical to our rational part, yet another part of our minds says, yes, I can understand why they do that. Looks to be an interesting read.

Note:Sample 1st chapter available here, but the sample at Amazon gets on to the start of the 2nd chapter as well (where Adam tells of the start of his OCD)

Main review

As the book progresses we find out about how the author's life was dominated by his condition. Presumably outward observers saw little of this, but the worry of Aids always always central to his thoughts. There are chapters on how OCD compares with other forms of obsession, for instance the similarities to fervent religious behaviour. There's also a look at whether any animals have OCD like conditions.

Adam tells of 'treatment' of snapping an elastic band on his wrist, but it was ineffectual, and it seemed that he would have to live with his condition indefinitely. On the birth of his daughter, however, he decided to seek treatment again and by that time it was more effective. As well as medication, more helpful behavioural advice was available, such as trying to leave worries unresolved so that they fade by themselves eventually, and getting away from the idea of total responsibility for what happens to you. But the problem didn't go away completely, he continued to be prone to bouts of obsession if there was something to trigger it.

I found the book very interesting, but I also thought that the chapters on the science of OCD were left until rather late in the book. At the start it is much more about anecdotes and autobiography, indeed the library I borrowed it from classified it in the 'biography' rather than 'science' section. The Winton Prize is aimed at popular science books, and for this reason I wouldn't pick this book as a the 2015 winner.
Coming soon:
Reviews Elsewhere
Why not follow the Twitter feed?