Cover image for The man who couldn't stop : OCD and the true story of a life lost in thought
Title:
The man who couldn't stop : OCD and the true story of a life lost in thought
Author:
Adam, David, 1972- , author.
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.

©2014
Physical Description:
324 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
"Have you ever had a strange urge to jump from a tall building or steer your car into oncoming traffic? You are not alone. In this ... fusion of science, history, and memoir, [science editor and writer] David Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind and explains how they drive millions of us toward obsession and compulsion"--Dust jacket flap.
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780374223953
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

An intimate look at the power of intrusive thoughts, how our brains can turn against us, and living with obsessive compulsive disorder

Have you ever had a strange urge to jump from a tall building or steer your car into oncoming traffic? You are not alone. In this captivating fusion of science, history, and personal memoir, David Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind, and how they drive millions of us toward obsession and compulsion.
Adam, an editor at Nature and an accomplished science writer, has suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder for twenty years, and The Man Who Couldn't Stop is his unflinchingly honest attempt to understand the condition and his experiences. What might lead an Ethiopian schoolgirl to eat a wall of her house, piece by piece, or a pair of brothers to die beneath an avalanche of household junk that they had compulsively hoarded? At what point does a harmless idea, a snowflake in a clear summer sky, become a blinding blizzard of unwanted thoughts? Drawing on the latest research on the brain, as well as historical accounts of patients and their treatments, this is a book that will challenge the way you think about what is normal and what is mental illness.
Told with fierce clarity, humor, and urgent lyricism, this extraordinary book is both the haunting story of a personal nightmare and a fascinating doorway into the darkest corners of our minds.


Author Notes

David Adam is the auhtor of The Man Who Couldn't Stop which is a fianalist for the $53,000 prize for the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. This is the only major international prize that celebrates science-writing for a non-specialist audience.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* For people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, knowledge is not power. They may recognize that the intrusive thoughts driving them to continually check that the stove is turned off, or engage in rituals to ward off danger, are highly unlikely or even ridiculous. But that does not mean they can escape them, as Adam, a writer and editor at the scientific journal Nature, knows all too well. His own obsession, that he might contract HIV through blood or fluids left almost anywhere, has caused him to scrutinize photographs, examine paper towels, and make a series of calls daily to the National AIDS Helpline. In this riveting, at times disturbing, but always enlightening book, he shines a light on this misunderstood condition. Adam weaves his own story within a larger examination of the illness, from its possible origins and its appearance in specific cases throughout history to the way scientific understanding of it has developed over time, and its treatments, some more successful than others. For all the impressive marshaling of information, it is Adam's own story of his struggles with the condition, which his infant daughter forced him to confront instead of uneasily accepting, that is the most captivating aspect of this impressive work. Adam clearly shows both the devastating impact our thoughts can have when they turn against us, and how science is helping us fight back.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

In a wide-reaching discussion that spans the spectrum of obsession, Nature editor David Adam strikes an impressive balance between humor and poignancy, and between entertaining and informing. Adam seamlessly moves between personal stories of his own struggles with OCD and case studies of other people with the disorder. He also demonstrates that OCD isn't limited by cultural boundaries, with the chilling story of an Ethiopian girl who ate an entire mud wall and that of Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel, whose fear of poisoning led him to starve himself to death. Adam moves from these full-blown cases to more commonplace obsessions with ease, while his smooth prose ensures an enjoyable read. Not neglecting the darker nature of obsession, Adam manages to end on a note more hopeful than harrowing: the story of how he found happiness and relief from OCD. Agent: Karolina Sutton, Curtis Brown. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Writer and editor Adam (science journal Nature) spent many years overcome with worry about contracting AIDS from accidentally touching contaminated blood before fighting his intrusive thoughts with the help of medication and group therapy. In this book, which is part memoir, the author's story of his struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) serves as a backdrop for a historical and scientific exploration of the disorder, including descriptions of other cases of OCD, its possible evolutionary and genetic origins, its underlying brain abnormalities, its relationship to other psychiatric disorders, and historical and modern approaches to treatment. Rather than dwelling on the seemingly strange behaviors of individuals with OCD that are so often portrayed by the media, such as excessive hand-washing, checking, or counting, Adam emphasizes that it is the persistent unwanted thoughts that are most distressing and disabling to OCD sufferers. Verdict Although at times meandering and overly simplistic, this book is recommended for general readers who are curious about OCD, who have friends or family with the disorder, or who see tendencies toward obsessive thinking in their own lives.-Katherine G. Akers, Univ. of Michigan Libs., Ann Arbor (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

1 Our siege mentalityp. 1
2 Bad thoughtsp. 15
3 The mademoiselle and the Rat Manp. 39
4 An emerging obsessionp. 61
5 The OCD familyp. 81
6 Cruel to be kindp. 99
7 The God obsessionp. 113
8 Animals and other relativesp. 133
9 Man hands on misery to manp. 151
10 The runaway brainp. 171
11 Daddy's little helperp. 189
12 The helicopter viewp. 203
13 Long live labotomyp. 221
14 Politics and prejudicep. 245
15 A new dimensionp. 259
16 Final thoughtsp. 279
Acknowledgementsp. 291
Notes and referencesp. 293
Appendicesp. 321