OCD in Society: the Future of Critical OCD Studies

28 - 29 May 2021 (online)

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 actually highly misunderstood. OCD sufferers experience a pathological doubt about any theme that is relevant to their social lives, and is emotionally and morally significant for their identity. Hence, affected people can obsess about scrupulosity (e.g. fear of doing something morally wrong), health (e.g. fear of being infected or infecting others), violence (e.g. fear of causing harm to oneself or others), religion (e.g. fear of being blasphemous), relationships (e.g. fear of not truly loving parents, children or romantic partner(s)), and/or core aspects of their identity, such as sexuality (e.g. fear of being straight, LGBQ+, pedophile, zoophile) and gender identity (e.g. fear of being cis- or transgender). Although the content of obsessions is often disregarded by cognitive-behavioral therapists – the latter focus rather on the mechanisms underlying the obsessions, compulsions, doubt, and anxiety that characterize OCD – it is clear that the content is loaded with social meaning. That is, it reflects valuable aspects of social life.

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 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 second edition of OCD in Society will be hosted online by the University of Michigan with the support of the University of Michigan Initiative on Disability Studies and the following sponsors:

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