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The Language of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
7 June 2024
University of Lausanne, SWITZERLAND

The conference will be in English and it will LIVE STREAMED for those who cannot be present (see below to get a Zoom link). It will also be RECORDED and made available on our YOUTUBE channel at a later date.

Participation is free but registration is mandatory.

Please register here and receive a Zoom link in the confirmation mail.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects up to 3% of the general population and is considered to be one of the most debilitating mental disorders. While OCD is a well-known disorder for its stereotypical representations (e.g. excessive urges for cleanliness, perfection, and order), it is often misunderstood. Starting in 2019, the goal of OCD in Society has been to provide a platform to explore the social meanings constituting the obsessions, the nosology of OCD, and the lives of affected people. What can we learn about society and selfhood through a critical engagement with OCD? How do specific ideologies interact with sufferers' obsessions? How is OCD represented in different artistic forms, and what are the challenges in translating a mental disorder into different artistic modalities? How can our understandings of OCD change by focusing on the social aspect of the disorder? And ultimately, what profits can therapists gain from such explorations? The conference thus joins OCD sufferers, artists, charities, and academics who work in the humanities and qualitative social sciences to investigate these issues.


The theme of the fourth OCD in Society Conference is 'The Language of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder'

Linguists generally agree that language has a social and representational function. That is, people not only use language to communicate with each other, but they also use it along other semiotic tools to construe social and psychic realities through different modalities. For the 4th edition of the conference, we would like to scrutinize how language is used in different contexts to achieve different purposes in relation to OCD. For instance, how is language used in the DSM 5 to describe the classification of OCD and what are the presuppositions behind the used language? How does the interaction between a psychologist and an OCD sufferer play out during therapy sessions? What kind of correlations exist between the sufferer’s use of language and their emotional mental state? How do OCD sufferers use language to describe their symptoms? What kind of metaphors are employed in such task? How do sufferers use language to perform (aspects of) their identity in relation to the feared possible selves that the OCD represents? What are the different ideologies that are drawn from to construct their identity? How is OCD discursively represented in the media or in literary works? What kind of discourses circulate on social media? What kind of language do OCD charities use in their advocacy work? What are the linguistic mechanisms involved in all of these different contexts (e.g., a focus on lexical choice, rhetorical strategies, linguistic transitivity, nominalization, narrative structure, appraisal/evaluative strategies, collocation, stance-taking, conceptual metaphors, recipient design, registers, genres, etc.). And finally, what can therapists gain from such interdisciplinary explorations?

Proposals that explore these questions are extremely welcomed. However, please do not hesitate to send proposals of qualitative work that does not necessarily fall within the suggested line of inquiry. Proposals might thus include, but are not limited to:

  • Conceptual histories of OCD

  • Reflections on OCD through the uncertain future

  • Representations of OCD in literature, film or media

  • Alternative (historical, anthropological, social, artistic) theories and interpretations of OCD

  • Spatial practices of OCD

  • Practice-based approaches to OCD

  • Ritual and regulation

  • OCD and self/identity (and its intersection with gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, etc.)

  • OCD and linguistic practices (narratives, metaphors, stance-taking, lexical choice, etc.)

  • OCD as a diagnostic label (e.g. its implications and usefulness for sufferers, therapists, society)

  • Critical theory and OCD (e.g. Marxism, Feminism, Queer Theory, Crip Theory, Mad Theory, etc.)

  • Stigma and OCD

  • OCD and emotions

  • OCD and its interaction with social norms

  • OCD’s interference with social relationships

  • OCD community’s/charities’ involvement in raising awareness

  • Questioning therapeutic assumptions in treating OCD

  • OCD sufferers’ access to treatment


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