Excavating the Hidden Artifact of a Mental Illness: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Is it possible to view the fossilized structure and cryptic impact of something as convoluted as a mental disorder?  Can we unearth the artifactual structure as plainly as the statues on Freud’s desk?  Let’s look at obsessive compulsive disorder and see if we can dust off some of its more ancient underpinnings.

Our assumption is that obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is the bastard offspring of Tourette’s syndrome.  In the latter a surging dopaminergic blanket is punctured by bursts of acetylcholinergic effort in the form of involuntary tics or jerking movements.  The muscular activity itself served to buffer dopamine’s heft.  Once language appeared on the scene some 50,000 years ago, these involuntary movements became semi-voluntary with the fortunate salve of  obsessive ideas, albeit delusional, that coaxed the dopaminergic suppressive action forward.  The sufferer not only had a repetitive dance but a faulty rationale such as, “I must keep checking the door locks ten times or I’ll be robbed blind and living on the streets.”  Thus it was the addition of language which saturated the cudgel of Tourette’s into something quite different.  This took place in the dawn of civilization, a bastard child of language’s scintillating impact on the mind of a Homo sapiens which became more focused, less diffuse and intently more capable of socializing.  A la developmental psychology’s dictums, our minds differentiated, with individuation of parts, differentiation and hierarchical structuring.  Civilization gestated in its combat with the disorganized catcall of jungle living into an antropic carnival of structure, organization, cleanliness and repetitive order, all traits of the good OCD devotee.

Thus it is quite possible that OCD was at least a significant part of the tornadic weaponization of civilization’s underbelly, by idolizing order and repetition and cleanliness in a brusk rejection of jungle chaos.  A difficult and vexing disorder may have been an underlying bulwark in the muscular effort at abandoning jungle entropy behind and embracing an orderly, functionally controlled civilization with its mores and laws, education and science all of which was heartily endorsed by mother evolution since the benefits of far outweighed any drawbacks.   For example, no longer did we have to expends thousands of calories of effort to snag a paltry dinner plate of ripe fruit, veggie roots or a squawking chicken which often did not repay our outlay of effort.  Thanks to OCD we now only have to climb into our Lexus’ and piddle down to the local Piggly Wiggly.

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