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The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Washing...


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Dr. Judith L. Rapoport is Chief of the child Psychiatry Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health. A graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Mediacl School, she has been the recipient of the Outstanding Service Award from the U.S. Public Health Service and the Ittleson Prize in Child Psychiatry from the American Psychiatric Association. She lives with her family in Washington D.C.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a widespread psychiatric disease yet one virtually unknown to the public, according to Rapoport, a child psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health. She cites surveys indicating that as many as four million Americans are afflicted with a need to perform complex, pointless rituals, or are burdened by crippling obsessions with petty thoughts. Some sufferers check light-switches or doors endlessly; others spend hours creating trivial symmetryshoelaces exactly matching, eyebrows identical; still others have a compulsion to touch, count, hoard or confess; some enact toilet or eating rituals. Very few of the afflicted seek professional treatment: most attempt to conceal their condition even from friends and family. Rapoport holds that psychoanalysis usually fails to uncover the underlying causes of an obsessional pattern; she leans toward a behavioral approach, noting that the disorder often runs in families and pointing to biological factors. Casebook, shocking report and support tool all in one, this excellent volume is highly readable and free of jargon. (Jan.)

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