Q: An acquaintance with a long history of symptoms of OCD has suddenly landed in jail. How does someone who is entrenched in ritualistic behaviors (and has never been treated) cope when suddenly put into a prison environment? Will they plunge into suicidal depression? This is someone for whom simple tasks like showering take hours because they must be completed in specific steps. They haven’t held down a job for decades so any sense of adhering to someone else’s schedule is alien to them.
A: There is no easy or certain answer to a question like this one. People respond to adversity in all kinds of unique ways. I can imagine that some people like the person you describe would indeed become seriously depressed. But I’ve also known people to dissociate in these kinds of circumstances, finding a way to numb themselves until it’s over. I don’t know the situation in Canada. In the U.S., there are often mental health specialists on staff at prisons. Sometimes the best outcome of prison is that a person gets treatment they never were able to afford or could not bring themselves to do. I hope your acquaintance is one of the lucky ones and finds himself in a place where there are staff who can help. I do hope that his friends and family have alerted his lawyer to the problem so that the lawyer can be a helpful advocate.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Sep 2008
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). How will an OCD sufferer cope with incarceration?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 7, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/09/03/how-will-an-ocd-sufferer-cope-with-incarceration/