OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER
Ranks in the top 10 of the most
disabling illnesses of any kind,
in terms of lost earnings and
diminished quality of life.
Affects males and females equally.
On average begins for men during
late adolescence and women during
their early twenties.
A person often waits an average
of 10–15 years between symptoms
developing and seeking treatment.
50% of all cases, will fall into the
severe category, with less than 25%
being classed as mild cases.
Obsessions = persistent and
uncontrollable thoughts, images,
impulses, worries, fears or doubts
Thoughts interfere with the ability
to function on a daily basis because
they are difficult to ignore.
Compulsions = repetitive physical
behaviors or mental thought rituals
that are performed in an attempt to
relieve the anxiety from obsessions
Irrational worry about dirt, germs,
Excessive concern with order,
arrangement, or symmetry
Preoccupation with losing or
throwing away objects with little
or no value
Feeling overly responsible for the
safety of others
Cleaning - Repeatedly washing
one’s hands, bathing, or cleaning
household items, often for hours
at a time
Checking - Checking and several
to hundreds of times a day that
the doors are locked, the stove is
turned off, etc
Repeating - Inability to
stop repeating a name, phrase, or
Hoarding - Difficulty throwing
away useless items such as old
newspapers or magazines, bottle
caps, or rubber bands
Touching and arranging
Mental rituals - Endless reviewing
of conversations, counting
“It’s a full time job for me to live.”
15-year-old fears her whole family is
contaminated and can’t sit near her
mother let alone touch or hug her
family members. She had to move
out of her house because the fear
and anxiety was so overwhelming.
A man feared touching others
because he believed he would
contaminate them and if they were
to get sick he would be at fault.
A boy has obsessions where he must
gnaw at doors, floors, or other dirty
surfaces to relieve the anxiety from
intrusive thoughts that if he doesn’t
he or his family will be kidnapped or
A man’s rituals of cleaning
(showering multiple times, washing
hands multiple times, doing laundry
5+ times), and counting (how
much money he has/spent when
shopping) led him to depression.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
(CBT) = focuses on examining the
relationships between obsessive
thoughts and compulsions
Exposure & Response Prevention
Therapy (ERP) = type of CBT that
treats OCD by habituating sufferers
to their anxieties through repeated
exposure until they are no longer
Sessions last from 50-90 minutes
with 12-20 sessions until recovery.
Patients are prevented from
engaging in rituals or compulsions
during the exposure.
Exposure exercises in session allow
the patient and therapist to process
anxieties and behaviors in real time.
The more anxious one is the more
helpful the therapist can be in
There are little to no products
available for sufferers of OCD. Most
products are organization products
that use the term colloquially, not
I began sketching with the idea of supporting the behaviors of people with OCD including touch avoidance,
hoarding tendencies, and desires for order, exactness, and cleanliness.
C. Smooth Forms for easy cleaning
B. Storage with removable pieces for easy cleaning
A. Coverable storage for reduced clutter
D. Modular storage units
E. Modular storage F. Seating and storage
“Those suffering from obsessions or compulsions want to know one thing and one thing only; how to stop
OCD.” Reading this changed the trajectory of concept development from supporting OCD behaviors to helping
treat them through exposure and response prevention therapy.
A. Beginning piece is neat, but non-functional. Person must
remove pieces to make the piece functional, but reveals a
B. Person must tilt to off-balance, anxiety inducing direction to
make shelf functional.
C. Play with sense of
balance to induce
D. Therapy seat has feared/contaminated person sit near patient, as patient
progresses in treatment they can fold down pieces of the seat to be
closer to the feared person.
E. Person must work with another to reorder
and assemble this unit to make it functional
The basis of Exposure & Response Prevention Therapy is to have the person with
OCD directly confront their anxieties. The concept of VW is to provide hands
on exposure to nonfunctional chaos in order to help overcome debilitating
obsessions and compulsions.
Because one of the most common obsessions is contamination I centered the
design around person-person interaction. I chose to create a shelving unit
to limit and organize the behavior of hoarding. The crooked, non-functional
shelving provides the motive to touch and move the shelves (addressing fear of
contamination), while the labor involved in assembling the piece to its resolved
form requires another person (addressing the fear of contamination from other
people). The interaction is intended to take place with a therapist present to
help discuss anxieties as they are encountered.
Confront obsessions with cleanliness, hoarding, and order by
providing an interactive furniture unit that exposes the patient to
Use one obsession (desire for neatness & order) to conquer
another (fear of contamination).
Make movable pieces easy to move and fit together.
Create a resolved form that is safe, functional, and aesthetically
Task may be too easy for 2 people to carry out, want them to
communicate while working together, perhaps instructions
should be minimal.
Involves working with another person. This allows them to
face a common anxiety of thinking they will or will be
contaminated by another person, or will do harm to them.
Currently it sits on top of a table but that poses too many
unforeseeable errors with the variability of where people
choose to place it.
Maple plywood 3/4 in
Maple plywood 1/2 in
Maple plywood 1/4 in
Bungee cords 18 in
Screws for support beams CAD FRONT VIEW CAD SIDE VIEW
This form idea came
from turning the card-
board model upward
to make interaction
and assembly more
BOTTOM & TOP SHELF
SUPPORT BEAMS TOP SHELF CLOSEUP TOP SHELF SLOT
A safety precaution to prevent
pinching and injuries if a door
were to close on the user’s hand.
The bungee stretches causing the
door to move around the hand,
rather than compressing it.
Because the bungees stretch, the doors move flexibly and the top shelves
wobble from side to side. This instability creates a level of anxiety the
user has to confront while the piece is in its resolved form.
Person 2 removes crooked shelves to make the piece functional:
Person 2 has to confront fear of unfamiliar object contamination while resolving anxiety from disorder2
Person 1 (assistant/source of contamination) opens and holds door for Person 2 (patient with OCD)
Can use shelves as benchmarks of
progress and break points if overwhelmed
Assembly becomes easier from 1st to 3rd
shelf as anxiety increases
Person with OCD overcomes
Person 1 and 2 assemble shelves:
Person 2 must confront fear of contamination by another person through close interaction
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ABCNews. (May. 2014). “Overcoming OCD: The Children Who Break Away.” ABCNews. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/over-
ABCNews. (Nov. 2013). “The Strange Rituals of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” ABCNews. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/
ADAA. (2010). Symptoms of OCD. Anxiety and Depression Association for America.
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der on quality of life. Comprehensive Psychiatry. 47 (4) 270-275.
Ellison, C. (Aug, 2009). “Compulsion: Where Object Meets Anxiety.” The Design Observer Group. http://designobserver.com/fea-
Goodman, W. (1989). The Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale. Arch Gen Psychiatry. http://www.stlocd.org/handouts/
OCD-UK. (2013). Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD-United Kingdom. http://www.ocduk.org/ocd
Kelly, Owen. (2013). “Exposure Therapy for OCD.” About Health. http://ocd.about.com/od/treatment/a/Exposure-Therapy-For-Ocd.
Stengler-Wenzke, K., Kroll, M., Riedel-Heller, S., Matschinger, H., & Angermeyer, M. (2007). Quality of Life in Obsessive-Compulsive
Disorder: The Different Impact of Obsessions and Compulsions. Psychopathology. 40(5), 282-9.
WThe name VW was chosen for the similarity between the form
of the letters and the form of the piece. The piece looks like a V
and an inverted V. However, the extra lines on the W throw off
the symmetry. Much like the piece itself the letters are almost
perfectly aligned, but slightly off.