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by Lee Baer
Plume, 2000
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Oct 13th 2002

Getting Control

Getting Control is a guide in plain English for those wanting to end their obsessions and compulsions. It explains what Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is, what it feels like, and what forms of therapy tend to work best. It contains a chapter on medications, but the main focus of the book is behavior therapy. The fundamental message of the book is that it is possible to get control of one’s behavior, even though it is far more difficult to change one’s thoughts and feelings.

The book contains several lists of questions for readers to tell whether they have OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder or related disorders, including trichotillomania (pulling out one’s head or body hairs) and skin picking. These questions cover a wide range of anxieties and fears, include those abut self-harm, harming others, blurting out inappropriate words, doing something embarrassing, stealing things, bodily waste or secretions, dirt, germs, animals, illness, perverse or taboo sexual impulses, and losing things. They also include questions about feeling the need to hoard useless items, be symmetrical or exact, know or remember certain things, wash oneself, clean household items, check that one did not harm oneself or others, check that one did not make a mistake, reread or rewrite things, repeat routine activities, perform counting or other mental rituals compulsions, tell, ask or confess things, touch, tap or rub things, eat food in certain ways, pull out one’s hair, or carry out superstitious actions. Given this wide range of emotions and behaviors, it seems likely that most people have a slight tendency to obsession or compulsion, and the book gives a helpful guide to understanding how severe one’s problem is.

In advising readers on how to deal with their problems, Baer recommends working on one major symptom at a time, setting realistic goals, and provides suggestions on how to go about getting control. He also provides guidance about how to achieve long-term results and provides examples of how some of his patients struggled and finally won in their battle with their disorder. He gives answers to many commonly-asked questions concerning OCD and related disorders. The book ends with a useful chapter aimed at family, friends and helpers of sufferers with a number of suggestions for how best to help.

I’m not a clinician and I have not (yet!) received any diagnosis or treatment for OCD, and so I cannot offer an informed opinion about whether the suggestions offered in Getting Control are helpful, although it’s worth noting that Baer is an Associate Professor of Psychology in the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Director of Research at the OCD Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital and the OCD Clinic at McLean Hospital. I can say that the book is clearly written and sensibly structured. It might well be useful to people who struggle with obsessions and compulsions.

 

 

© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.