Monday, March 12, 2012

OCD: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed: Review of Michael Tompkins' Book for Consumers

When New Harbinger Publications asked if I would consider reviewing Michael Tompkins book, OCD: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed, I was heartened to know that there was a new book on this topic. The introduction is by Jeff Bell, who wrote an insightful memoir about OCD called Rewind, Replay Repeat, which I took to be a good sign.

The book fits nicely in the hand, and adds to the approachability for those who have just found out they have OCD. Actually, Tompkins starts with describing the process of getting a diagnosis, and I'm glad he addressed the difficulty of finding mental health professionals who are actually familiar with the many forms OCD can take. I would argue that the comprehensive diagnostic process described in this book really only happens with therapists who are specialists in OCD, or who have trained in Exposure Therapy, and have treated a lot of people with OCD. The therapist who diagnosed me basically said, yes, it sounds like you have OCD.

Tompkins does an overview of Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy(ERP), Cognitive Therapy, and medication as well as other treatments, as well as what questions to ask a potential therapist, and how to get the most out of sessions.

I particularly liked the chapter on developing a "Recovery Attitude" including accepting such things as uncertainty, imperfect outcomes, imperfect knowledge, learning to approach discomfort in order to get through to the other side, turning away from debate with your OCD, seeking support, not reassurance, and practicing everyday. As someone who has struggled with perfectionistic OCD, I constantly battled with the fear that I wasn't doing my treatment perfectly or that I didn't have perfect knowledge of my OCD. Tompkins points out that "good enough" treatment is indeed "good enough," and OCD is demanding perfection that doesn't exist.

The book closes with information about unhealthy coping, school and work issues, a list of treatment centers, and recommended reading. It's difficult to fit everything into an introductory book, an at times I wanted more detail, or found too much squeezed into a section, but overall this book would be an excellent addition to a public library's mental health collection, as well as college libraries and hospital consumer health libraries.

Michael Tompkins, PhD, is a licensed psychologist at the San Francisco Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy.


  1. Thank you for this review. I will probably read this one.

    I have a question for anyone reading this ... how do you let others know about your OCD so they can cut you some slack?

    I only recently realized how much this disorder messes with my daily and weekly functioning. I thought I had adult ADD but it's anxiety, not ADD.

    I live alone and my "circle" does not have any idea how much energy it takes me, sometimes, just to get out the door. Any advice on how to help them to help me would be great.

    Thanks very muchy.

  2. Thank you for this review, I will definitely have to read this one. I have OCD and am always looking for new information about it. One of my friends who also has OCD showed me a really great OCD website It has been really helpful for my friend and I so I hope it helps other OCD people out there.

  3. Anon--You asked a good question about how to let others know about your OCD so they can be more supportive. Since no one has chimed in, I will do a blog post asking for ideas.