Home » EXCLUSIVE: John Green recalls how OCD struggles as a teen inspired ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

EXCLUSIVE: John Green recalls how OCD struggles as a teen inspired ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

by UNN Feed

For “Turtles All the Way Down” author John Green, life with obsessive compulsive disorder looks different from how it does on TV and in the movies.

“The first thing for me is that there’s a reason that the O comes first in obsessive compulsive disorder,” he said in an interview with Patrick McGrath, Ph.D., chief clinical officer of nOCD, which provides treatment for people with OCD. The conversation was first shared exclusively with TODAY.

“So much attention often goes to the compulsive behaviors, especially in film, because they’re very visual sometimes, and they can seem unusual to some people. But for me, at least, it begins with a lack of control over my thoughts, a sort of blizzard of thoughts.”

A desire to create a more nuanced understanding of people with OCD led him to write young adult novel “Turtles All the Way Down,” which has been made into a movie, released on Max on May 2.

“I’ve been very frustrated sometimes with the portrayal of OCD in the media, either seeing it romanticized as a disease that gives you secret superpowers, makes (you) brilliantly observational, like TV detectives,” Green said. “Or as a disease that’s highly stigmatized, that’s treated as freakish.”

What is ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ about?

The 2017 novel ‘Turtles All the Way Down” by Green follows 16-year-old Aza as she navigates teenage life and rekindles a friendship with a childhood crush while grappling with OCD and anxiety. The movie version, directed by Hannah Marks, stars Isabela Merced as Aza.

“What we were trying to do is tell Aza’s story of living with OCD, but in a way that was realistic and, hopefully, resonates with people,” Green said. 

Some of the things Aza confronts in the story mirror Green’s experiences with OCD, such as his wariness about trying exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), a type of cognitive behavioral therapy aimed at helping people with OCD.

“I was definitely highly resistant to ERP when it…

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