Dax Shepard’s OCD comments called out by therapist for being ‘grossly’ misrepresenting

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A therapist has called out Dax Shepard for “grossly” misrepresenting obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) on his podcast.

In a recent episode of his Armchair Expert podcast, Shepard and his co-host Monica Padman spoke with Camila Cabello about her struggles with the disorder. Cabello has been open about her diagnosis, with her making comments in 2020 that she had been “experiencing what felt like constant, unwavering, relentless anxiety that made day-to-day life painfully hard”.

Cabello explained that instead of calling it a disorder, she and her therapist call it an “obsessionality” because she finds the term “disorder” to be triggering. Padman commented: “You have an obsessive nature,” prompting Shepard to pipe in with the claim that it “is a superpower”.

“Part of me is like, stop trying to euphemize everything,” Shepard added, drawing from his personal experience as someone who claims to have struggled with OCD since childhood. “It is weird to call OCD a disorder because it’s a personality type and it’s super beneficial.”

In a video, Alegra Kastens, a licensed therapist and the founder of the Center for OCD, Anxiety, and Eating Disorders, said: “Dax Shepard grossly misrepresented OCD in his interview with Camila Cabello in front of millions of listeners.”

“OCD is not a personality type,” she continued. “It is a mental health condition. People tend to misrepresent OCD and say things like: ‘Oh, we’re all a little bit OCD’ because they think that OCD is an adjective to describe being organized, often confusing OCD with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.”

Kastens broke down how OCD works and affects people, and cited a 2017 Swedish study that found those afflicted with OCD are 10 times more likely to commit suicide as opposed to those without OCD.

“OCD involves obsessions,” she explained. “So repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts and images that are distressing to the person. Things like: ‘What if I’m attracted to animals? What if I’m a pedophile? I could snap and hurt someone right now.’ Compulsions [are] excessive and time-consuming mental or physical acts performed to alleviate anxiety, get rid of the thoughts, or prevent something bad from happening.”

She described the disorder as “ego-dystonic,” which occurs when a disorder fundamentally opposes someone’s personhood. She said: “The obsessions and compulsions are opposite to a person’s values and self-concept. They are distressing to the person. Imagine having the scariest thing that you could ever think of replaying in your head all day long. How beneficial is that to someone?”

In a recent episode of his podcast ‘Armchair Expert,’ Shepard (pictured) claimed obsessive-compulsive disorder was a ‘superpower’ (Getty Images for Feld Entertainm)
In a recent episode of his podcast ‘Armchair Expert,’ Shepard (pictured) claimed obsessive-compulsive disorder was a ‘superpower’ (Getty Images for Feld Entertainm)

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Kastens clarified that Shepard may be making the common mistake of confusing OCD with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Although she couldn’t speak to Shepard’s intentions, she stressed that calling either of the disorders a “superpower” would contradict the complicated and often difficult experiences of those afflicted.

“OCPD can also be very distressing for a person or the people around the person. I think even characterizing OCPD as something that’s super beneficial would be inaccurate,” she explained. “People with OCPD, who might be preoccupied with orderliness, perfectionism, and control, tend to align with that.”

The therapist added that by mischaracterizing the disorder, Shepard could inadvertently be making it more difficult for the public to gain a better understanding of an already misunderstood disorder.

The National Health Institute describes OCD as a long-lasting disorder with people often experiencing symptoms such as uncontrollable and recurring thoughts, engaging in repetitive behaviors, or both. The organization noted that the disorder can be incredibly distressing to those experiencing it and interfere with their day-to-day lives.

Meanwhile, the International OCD Foundation says that OCPD consists of a “rigid adherence” to following the rules, an inability to delegate responsibilities to others, a distinct sense of righteousness about completing tasks, and an “overwhelming need for order”.

The Independent has contacted Shepard for comment.