Theater group highlights struggles with OCD

October 9, 2011 6:52:57 AM PDT
A professional theater company has been performing stories about people who struggle with mental illness.

This week, the theater company "Erasing the Distance," is doing an entire show on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

OCD is the fourth-most diagnosed psychiatric disorder. It's a neuro-biological condition that causes ritualistic behaviors and thoughts. "OCD: Real Stories, Real People" will be performed Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Ann Sather Restaurant, 909 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $10 per person or $5 for students.

"We use theater to shed a light on issues of mental health, so that can be anything from depression to anxiety to things like OCD," Said Brighid O'Shaughnessy, who founded the company six years ago. "We do it by gathering true stories and then taking those tru stories and sculpting them into monologues and scenes that then come to plays."

The theater company has been working with OCD Chicago and its executive director, Ellen Sawyer.

"Unlike some of the major physical diseases like cancer and heart disorders, brain disorders aren't as popular, and a lot of people don't really want to talk about them," Sawyer said.

O'Shaughnessy said many people think OCD behaviors are visual, but many who suffer try to hide their symptoms.

"One of our story tellers has issues with germs and with the bathroom and cleanliness that's part of what his OCD surrounds and he talked about being in college and literally going to bathrooms off the beaten path."

In addition to professional actors performing, there will be people with OCD telling their personal stories as part of the performance.

"We've been working hard to raise the awareness of having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and teaching people that it's an illness and it's not their fault and that there is a treatment for it," Sawyer said. "I think more people are coming forward and feeling more comfortable about it."

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