When he was 10-years old, Jared Douglas Kant became overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts and unusual behaviors. He worried incessantly about virus infections, his physical appearance, and catastrophic events. He entered and exited buildings according to rigid travel routes and started washing his hands repetitively. It wasn't until years later that he was diagnosed as having obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). This book is his vivid account of understanding and ultimately coping with OCD.
Kant is joined by Martin Franklin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in OCD treatment, and Linda Wasmer Andrews, a journalist who writes about mental health topics. Together, they present an exacting analysis of OCD that is grounded in solid scientific evidence. As much as this information is detailed and factual, it is Kant's personal story that conveys the debilitating effects from OCD and a young person's struggle to overcome a lifelong condition.
The book is one of several publications sponsored by the Adolescent Mental Health Initiative and the Annenberg Foundation Trust. It is aimed at youth who have, or think they have, OCD, their parents, and supportive professionals. To that end, middle school and high school students will find it easy to read.
Kant gets high marks for his sensitive portrayal of the phenomenology of OCD. He describes how his obsessions made it difficult to pay attention in school. At home, he could not deal adequately with his parents or the rigors of everyday life. His time-consuming compulsions made him late for scheduled events and were energy-depleting. These and similar depictions will resonate with any youth trying to confront OCD.
Also instructive are Kant's trials and tribulations in seeking treatment. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, attended a residential school, saw several psychiatrists, and received pharmacotherapy. He eventually found success with a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and antidepressant medication. Treatment, as he details, may be difficult to come by but with persistence, "it can take your life back."
In addition to sound advice about OCD, the book features a glossary of terms that will help a young reader or parents looking for professional help. There is a listing of support organizations with accompanying toll-free telephone numbers and internet addresses. The authors also recommend popular press books and a few academic references for further inquiry into OCD. These resources add to the educative function of the book.
The Thought That Counts is not a self-help book. Rather, it is the story of one person's life with OCD, in part memoir, but equally a guide for getting treatment and staying focused on the goal of conquering illness. Reading the book certainly will inform and answer questions. I suspect, however, that Kant's purpose is to inspire young people who are confused about their condition and want to find a better life. He does just that in a book filled with courage, optimism, and hope.
© 2008 James K. Luiselli
James K. Luiselli, Ed.D., ABPP, BCBA is a psychologist affiliated with May Institute and a private practice clinician. Among his publications are 6 books and more than 200 journal articles. He reviews books for The New England Psychologist.