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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder amongst Attorneys

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Imagine, then, having a sudden rush of panic attack you. Your mind is now flooded with thoughts of what that bump in the road could have been. Did you run something or, even worse, someone over? You turn around to go back to where you hit the bump, but, of course, you see nothing. You then continue to drive around for hours on end just to ensure that the person you might have hit has not crawled off to the side of the road.

For most of us, thoughts like this rarely, if ever, cross our minds. But for Paul Jackson*, and countless others in the legal profession, these thoughts are everyday occurrences.

Jackson, along with approximately 5 million to 6 million people in the United States, is affected by what is known as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. Those affected by OCD are plagued by obsessive or recurrent thoughts, impulses, or images that are seen as intrusive and inappropriate, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV-TR (DSM-IV), the most recent edition of the book used by mental health professionals to diagnose possible mental disorders. OCD sufferers will then act out compulsions (repetitive behaviors) in order to reduce or prevent anxiety or stress brought about by those thoughts. While many people who are affected by OCD realize that their thoughts and compulsions are irrational, they are almost powerless to stop them.

Jackson was first diagnosed with OCD in 1992. His OCD manifests itself in the forms of excessive hand washing, organizing, and repetition. As with many OCD sufferers, Jackson's obsessions stem from persistent thoughts associated with guilt, such as the possibility of running someone over or contaminating his family with germs he has picked up from taking out the trash.

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