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Mental Health Center

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Actor Tony Shalhoub Takes on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The star of “Monk” advocates for OCD, a type of anxiety disorder.
WebMD Magazine - Feature

This fall, USA Network will air the 100th episode of the hit detective series, Monk. “It should be a lot of fun,” says actor Tony Shalhoub, 54, who has played the title character for seven seasons. “Especially because Monk really likes the number 100.”

Adrian Monk, for those not in the know, is a warm and brokenhearted detective who has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a mental illness with specific traits that Shalhoub says are not all that hard for him to identify with. Brilliant crime fighter that Monk is, he struggles with distraction, focusing at times on the inconsequential, such as dandruff on someone’s shoulder or the arrangement of doughnuts in a box. He must touch every parking meter he passes and wipe his hands after every handshake.

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Obsessive compulsive disorder in America

For the 2 million Americans with OCD and their families, Monk has become a source of empathy and inspiration. That’s why Shalhoub and Monk co-creator David Hoberman recently teamed with the Anxiety Disorders Association of America to launch an OCD awareness campaign called “Treat It, Don’t Repeat It: Break Free From OCD.” The national campaign uses public service announcements and educational videos and materials aimed at health care professionals, people with OCD, and their families to educate, provide support, and encourage treatment. Many of those with the condition suffer in isolation, but with therapy and medication people can manage their symptoms and live full, productive lives.

Tony Shalhoub and obsessive compulsive disorder

“I certainly have those kinds of feelings and preoccupations,” says the actor of OCD. “And what I do with Monk is … think of it as uncorking the bottle and letting everything flow.” This helps Shalhoub, who has won three Emmys and a Golden Globe for Monk, understand its challenges firsthand. “For a lot of people, there is a fear and embarrassment. But people who suffer with the disorder don’t have to be outcasts. They can be and are contributing members of society.”

Reviewed on May 28, 2008

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