Social performance and secret ritual: Battling against obsessive-compulsive disorder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This autoethnography offers an account of my experience with mental illness and provides an analysis of the performative aspects of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is a genetic disorder triggered by environmental stressors involving a chemical imbalance in the brain. The resulting biologically altered state leaves individuals to steer themselves among and between "appropriate" performance and secret rituals. Analyzing my own communication practices through a performance lens highlights the importance of image management for people struggling with disability. In telling my own story, this article provides readers an in-depth look at OCD as a traumatic brain disorder whose sufferers rely on communicative performance to maintain their public and private identities, and as a disease that impedes social life for its sufferers. Implications of this account for those struggling with mental disability and for practitioners aiming to help them are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-261
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • autoethnography
  • lived experience
  • mental health and illness
  • narrative analysis
  • ritual
  • stigma
  • stories
  • storytelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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