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The Man Who Couldn't Stop

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  3,200 ratings  ·  411 reviews
Have you ever had a strange urge to jump from a tall building, or steer your car into oncoming traffic? You are not alone. In this captivating fusion of science, history and personal memoir, writer David Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind, and how they drive millions of us towards obsessions and compulsions.

David has suffered from OCD for twenty
Paperback, 290 pages
Published 2014 by Picador
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I like to wash my hands a lot, I admit it. I prefer a tidy home, and if my desk is a mess I have trouble concentrating at work.

I have frequently joked that I have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), usually as a way to laugh off my sudden bouts of cleaning and organizing.

But after reading this book, I think I shall retire that joke. I don't have OCD, and for that I am grateful. People who suffer from OCD are living in a hellish state — they cannot control their obsessive thoughts, and their
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book took me a few months to read partly because I was writing down quotes as I read it. I hand wrote 31 different quotes from the book in a notebook I keep for that purpose. One of the quotes was an entire page from the book.

I heard about this book from a friend who texted me to listen to NPR for a book talk with the author. The interview was really interesting so I decided to check the book out from the library. I have dealt with OCD most of my life. I found this book to be a great
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How many times have you said 'Oh, I'm a little bit OCD about that'? Maybe, like me, you like to hang out the washing using certain coloured pegs for certain garments, or maybe you have to have all your Coca Cola cans facing the same way in the fridge (just like David Beckham). Most of us have a few little rituals that we carry out, but most of us don't let the thoughts about our rituals, or what would happen if we didn't do them, take over our lives. Most of us don't have OCD, Obsessive ...more
Apr 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2016
O C D. Not only are the letters in the wrong order, but this condition is one of the biggest mental health issues affecting people after depression. Adam has suffered from this illness for a very long time now and in this book he uses all his journalistic skills to write an honest account of how it has affected him with his obsessions and compulsions.

To understand what makes people do the strangest thing he meets with other sufferers of the illness. There are all sorts of sufferers in the book,
Jonathan Mills
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gobbled up this book in less than a week - which is speedy for me, I'm a slow reader - after a friend gave it to me for my birthday.

Having suffered to a greater or lesser extent from OCD since I was a teenager, I fully recognize the peculiar and terrifying nightmare - or nightmares - it can suck you into, and, as a sufferer himself, Adam is unflinching about his own OCD (which in his case takes the form of a crippling fear of catching Aids) and also brings to bear the more objective eye of an
A lot of people have misconceptions about what OCD is. Often, they are confusing it with OCPD, where we think of people being overly clean and keeping everything in order. Those with OCPD don't see it as irrational behaviour. OCD on the other hand is obsessing over intrusive thoughts and using compulsions to counteract them. Sometimes those compulsions are cleaning or order, but often not. The book goes into the difference and similarities between anxiety and OCD, which helps put it into ...more
Amanda Patterson
Dr David Adam, a writer and editor at Nature, the world's top scientific journal has written an accessible book about Obsessive Compulsive behaviour. The book is part memoir – David has suffered from OCD- and part observation with many case studies, and stories of other OCD sufferers included in the book.
This book is easy-to-read, well-written, and interesting enough. The problem is that it meanders into medical territory, explaining possible reasons for the condition, and discussing different
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up because I have always found mental disorders an interesting topic, and I feel that I have finished this book having achieved exactly what I hoped I would; to have learnt something new. This book has given me a huge insight into the world of mental illness as well as OCD, in a personable way that provided scientific understanding that was never divorced from the human aspect.

One aspect that I loved about this book was the fact that the author offered additional reading and
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Man Who Couldn't Stop was an eye-opening experience. OCD is something I've aways wanted to learn about, at least to a greater depth to what I know of the constant-hand-washing mental deficiency portrayed in Hollywood films (which, of course, is so far from the reality of OCD it's almost embarrassing that I've even uttered the words 'a bit OCD' in a variety of contexts. They say ignorance is bliss.)

Adams, himself a long-term journeyman with OCD, writes about the history, 'causes', research,
Akhmal Aiman
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Rating: 5/5 stars

I'm not a big fan of non-fiction, but when I do read it, it has to be on the topic of my interest. In this case, psychology and abnormality.

This book by David Adam introduces the mental disorder Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - one of the many mental disorders that pique my utmost interest. To briefly explain, it is a disorder where one repeatedly does something that causes them distress - washing hands, not stepping on cracks, or flicking switches for a number of times -
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, favorites
It tought me what is to have OCD more than any lecture or medical textbook
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,5/5. I have mix felling about this one. The first half deserve a five out of five stars. It starts explaining what is OCD, gives examples and try to explain how the brain of those persons works. This part was really interesting for me, having some anxiety issue for a long time and even some very light OCD traits, it help understand that we are not alone and hoe and why we might be this way. The second half was more about treatment, therapy, pills, surgery which was well done but not as useful ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was absolutely taken by surprise with how well written this book was. I didn't have any preconceptions that it would be badly written but I did know that it could have gone either way. But David Adam did a fantastic job of keeping it simple and easy to understand, especially for those who aren't familiar with Psychology. It was interesting to fully understand what OCD was and how it presented differently in a variety of people.

I think if it hadn't been for how well it was written, it would
Zoe Hall
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
Absolutely brilliant book. Incredibly interesting and very relevant to me personally. Well written and described, this book offers a fantastic insight into OCD... sometimes I feel OCD is a little misunderstood - but this book alters that. A million thank yous! :)
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

Dr David Adam was a specialist correspondent on the Guardian for seven years, writing on science, medicine and the environment and is now a writer and editor at Nature, the world's top scientific journal. David also has OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

While most people associate OCD with excessive hand washing or counting behaviours, Adam's OCD manifests itself with obsessive thoughts about the possibility of incidental blood transfer which could lead to him contracting, or passing on AIDS
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
It is always interesting to read stories about mental health told by the ones who have actually experienced them. David Adam suffers from OCD, in particular he can't get rid of the thought about getting AIDS. The book is one part memoir about the hell Adam goes through getting better and one part hard facts about the history of the disease, the symptoms and modern and historic cures.

I have had some pretty serious intrusive thoughts in my days and while I was reading I did remember some strange
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting but also quite emotional book. I had to stop in places as it was difficult for me. There's a lot of things I am a bit odd about, all the notes in my purse must face the same way, I can't look at digital clocks without adding up the numbers, and tea has to be in certain mugs while soup has to be in different ones. I am probably only one trauma or trigger away from slipping over the edge but still it's good to know there's science and treatment out there.
Feb 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book in the sense that it educated me on the fact that OCD is a lot more (and a lot more serious) than just excessive hand washing or checking the lock. But the book lacks breadth and depth. (I’m comparing it with My Age of Anxiety.)
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Paul by: My wife
So far the best book on OCD that I have read. Some great stories, like Winston Churchill always standing behind a pillar at train stops because he was afraid he'd throw himself down on the tracks. And poor Godel, who thought he was being poisoned, so he had his wife test everything he ate, and when she died, he starved to death.

Not done yet, but looking forward to finishing.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent inquiry into OCD. The author discusses his own struggle, clinical aspects, and current research in easy-to-follow and empathetic language.

Quotes of note:
"Obsession has no regard for rational explanation. No pathology of thought can be solved with more thought." P 12

"Why I am writing this book? Obsession encourages attention to turn inward and drains focus from relationships with others. OCD cements the presence of an individual at the centre of their mind and their actions. And it
Lucy ❁♡ ★
Examining the history and science of obsessive-compulsive disorder with his own anecdotes and partial memoir intergrated, this book made an absolutely fascinating read.

I consider myself to be decently educated on the topic of OCD for a sixteen year old, but I always want to know more so finding this novel in my local library was a lovely surprise.

David Adams creates a remarkable and evidently well-research novel on not only his own authentic experiences with a crippling mental disorder, but
Nick Davies
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
A surprisingly successful attempt by an OCD sufferer to write about his condition, this was witty, honest and informative - plenty which increased my understanding of the condition, several particularly enlightening moments, and not too much (though some) of the aspects of neurology and abnormal psychology which I'd been told about too many times previously.

Most impactful were descriptions of the author's own experiences, as well as a number of case studies concerning other folk with mental
Deborah Carroll
Book #3 I chose to read from a friend's bookshelf. I've been parked in his yard in the Gracemobile for over a month, and now I'm injured and on limited duty. I've now read 3 books from his small shelf, and I've enjoyed all of them. I had never heard of two of them, and I'm glad I read them.
This is one I'd never heard of, and I haven't actually read a lot specifically about OCD.
OCD is/was part of both my parent's lives, in a small-to-moderate degree, and to a mild degree I've experienced some
John Raptor
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book for those who suffer from OCD and want to understand what is going on with their brains.

This passage describes the exaggerated sense of threat and personal responsibility that sufferers feel:

“Some people with OCD are compelled to pick up pieces of broken glass from the street. They worry that, if they don’t, then someone else might cut themselves on the glass. If the person with OCD fails to prevent that happening, they think, well I may as well have walked up to the stranger and
Marco Morano
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
Since non-fiction isn't my strong suit, I went into this one a bit hesitantly. I had a bit of difficulty reading this because the writing was completely out of my comfort zone. Reading became even more difficult when the author started using terms I have never heard of to describe how mental illnesses were diagnosed and treated. After a while, though, it did become easier to digest this book.

Overall I loved learning about OCD an how it has been treated/viewed over the ages. The novel, despite
I have suffered from severe OCD for over 15 years and I get angry every time people say "I'm a bit OCD", because OCD is a serious mental illness that destroys lives. It has taken about half of the years I have been alive away from me. I think it is important for people who have suffered from severe OCD (or any other severe mental illness) to write about their experiences and explain to people what it's like without shoving it into their throats. What I liked about this book the most were the ...more
A very deep insight of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with a personal narration from the author himself.
It was delightful to see different cases of OCD and to see OCD explained as something else than being a little uptight about cleanliness. Especially nice to see in depth explanation of intrusive thoughts and it effects on the diagnosis. Also focuses on different treatment but with explanation that what works for one case may not work for another.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
4.7/5 - stunning.

...I heard my friend say there was no space in our gang for boys who cried. I saw the older boy at assembly the next morning and he ignored me. When I saw my friend sitting a couple of rows away, I wanted to cry again. Instead I started to count.

Tell someone. If you want to kill a vampire then you can chase it with a wooden stake or holy water, or mess about with crucifixes and garlic, or throw seeds at it to count, but it's more effective to throw open the curtains and let in
Leah K
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jdk-botm, own
I've seen OCD portrayed in films and I've heard (and probably spoken) the term "You're so OCD" when someone shows a particular way things must be done. But OCD is so much more. In this book we learn that the author's struggle with OCD and the science and psychology behind it all. Very interesting. I learned a lot.
Kate Stericker
The Man Who Couldn't Stop is an engaging memoir and a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about OCD than can be found on medical websites. As someone who suffers from OCD myself, this book was both validating and deeply relatable.
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Dr David Adam is a writer and editor at Nature, the world's top scientific journal. Before that he was a specialist correspondent on the Guardian for seven years, writing on science, medicine and the environment. During this time he was named feature writer of the year by the Association of British Science Writers, and reported from Antarctica, the Arctic, China and the depths of the Amazon ...more
“It felt good to say those things out loud. It was a relief to free them from my head and expose them to the light.” 13 likes
“People who live with OCD drag a metal sea anchor around. Obsession is a break, a source of drag, not a badge of creativity, a mark of genius or an inconvenient side effect of some greater function.” 10 likes
More quotes…