A Therapist Reacts to Chuck's OCD in 'Better Call Saul'

·2 min read
Photo credit: AMC
Photo credit: AMC

Better Call Saul, the spinoff from (and prequel to) the acclaimed drama Breaking Bad, has been almost as much of a critical darling as its predecessor, thanks in large part to the central performance of Bob Odenkirk. But the supporting cast are given plenty to do as well, including character actor Michael McKean, who plays Chuck McGill.

One of the subplots of the show follows Chuck's obsessive compulsive order (OCD), a mental illness where people suffer from intrusive thoughts and compulsions. For Chuck, that manifests as the belief that he is sensitive to electrical charges, and subsequently coming up with rituals to deal with that, including insisting on removing anything which might carry a charge. In a new video on her YouTube channel, licensed therapist Georgia Dow explains that while these rituals originate as a way of lowering anxiety and calming the individual, they don't stay that way.

"The problem with OCD is that it can grow out of hand very, very quickly," she says. "It usually starts with something small, a thought or idea. What you're usually trying to do is control the uncontrollable."

"And that's what makes OCD so difficult to deal with, is that you have to deal with all those intrusive, negative thought spirals, and then you have to do exposure and response prevention," Dow continues. "Go towards things that make you feel uncomfortable, and then slowly don't do those safety behaviors or rituals that have made you feel safe. You need really good coping mechanisms, because you're going to feel worse before you feel better."

While Better Call Saul utilizes obsessive compulsive disorder for both comedic and dramatic effect, Dow credits the show with still largely treating it seriously and realistically, and demonstrating just how drastically it can affect a person's life—not to mention everyone around them.

She focuses on one particular scene which does a good job of illustrating the techniques that people can use to prevent themselves from becoming overwhelmed: when Chuck tries to enter the supermarket, he names the things he can see as a way of calming himself and interrupting those intrusive thoughts. If this were real life, however, Dow would have advised going in, getting one item, and then leaving, and trying again the next day.

"It takes a lot of work, because you need to do the journaling, you need to deal with the thoughts, and you need to deal with the rituals," she says.

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