Glee tackles OCD: Too much info or not enough?

Critics were applauding this week’s episode of Glee which focused on many of the critical issues facing teenagers today.

The Lady Gaga-themed episode crammed a lot of feelings and information in an action-packed hour and a half. Let’s see: in and out of the closet gay issues, obesity, bullying, low self-esteem, facial disfigurement and obsessive-compulsive disorder. And down-right ugliness.

There were many great messages to take away about the importance of accepting one’s self despite some social setbacks.

All in all, the show did a pretty good job.

With one exception.

I felt the treatment of OCD was completely over-the-top. If you watch the show, you will know that Emma, the teacher, is amongst the worst OCDs on the planet. She can’t have sex, finds work challenging and polishes every grape. Her love interest, Will, is determined to get her some help, and she accepts it after watching him eat an unwashed grape.


Enter a counsellor who describes OCD quite accurately, then prescribes SSRIs (which stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). You may recognize them by their street names: Prozac, Wellbutrin, Paxel.

My friend calls them zoomers.

She is then told to come back in a week. Simple, right?

While it is terrific that the Gleeks are addressing this very real problem, they may be doing serious damage by pushing drugs as a pat solution for problems like OCD.

Also, I’m not sure they’re clear about their facts.

 Take these pills and come back in a week? These are drugs that require an “uptake” meaning it takes time for them to kick in — at least 30 days to even start working.

Also, they can have serious side effects.

Common side effects of SSRIs include gastrointestinal problems, weight gain, insomnia, drowsiness, headache, dizziness, shakiness, sexual dysfunction and an increase likelihood of mania in individuals with bipolar disorder.

And suicide.

One of my kid’s friends nearly killed himself after being put on an SSRI. He’s now self-medicating with pot.

There are too many people taking SSRIs and too many pill-happy family doctors who use these medications a means to calm often hysterical patients. I don’t think it’s useful for shows like Glee to be out there promoting their use to vulnerable teenagers.

Anti-depressants do work for many people who have been saved by them. But, in this case, one size definitely does not fit all. We all have different brain chemistry and SSRIs can often do more harm than good.

There are other options out there for people suffering from mental illness. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are excellent ways to address issues like OCD. That’s because OCD is a behavior that can be managed.

So it’s great that Glee brought this issue to the forefront, but kids need more than suggestions from a song and dance show when they are suffering from serious mental issues. At the very least, the show should direct kids to a website to learn more.

Here’s a good one. (Note: it takes a bit of time to download, but it’s worth the wait.)


2 Replies to “Glee tackles OCD: Too much info or not enough?”

  1. I totally agree about Glee’s portrayal of OCD. It has been really frustrating. While Prozac ha really helped me, it’s only working because I’m also doing CBT. Medicine doesn’t fix OCD.

    Though talk therapy isn’t effective with OCD either. Talking about it won’t make a difference. It has to be some kind of behavior therapy.

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