Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that upsets people of all ages and walks of life, and traps one in a series of obsessions. These obsessions are extreme and unwanted; they could include intrusive thoughts, images or urges that can be strongly disturbing.
While people relate OCD with constant tics like hand-washing, locking the doors or turning on the lights, Brandon Petulla, 22, struggles through a very outlandish kind of the disorder known as ‘scrupulosity’. This particular condition focuses on religious or moral idealism.
Exhausted by thoughts of the devil, and horrified of the digit ‘6’ and red color, Brandon’s family witnessed him muttering Bible verses. Owing to his paranoia, he always kept himself surrounded by ‘blessing’ objects.
Brandon, who resides in Brooklyn, New York, said:
“I started sleeping with a crucifix and my habits at home just got incredibly weird. I’d write out Bible verses and put them on my wall and at school I would wear like a cross under my shirt, even though I’m not religious.”
He further stated, “I actually thought I was going insane, and that I’d end up being someone on the street who talks to themselves. My thoughts were so jumbled that it was almost like I had voices in my head, but it was actually just my OCD.”
Brandon’s OCD first appeared when he was only 15. Later the following year, it became worse as he tried to cave in his sexuality – and more ominous religious obsessions began to take over his soul.
During the process, he stopped eating and lost a massive amount of weight, dropping to an alarming 107 lbs.
Brandon revealed to Barcroft, “At first it kind of started with hand picking, weird habits with my skin, and then it developed into me being incredibly cautious with food, in terms of contamination.”
He further stated, “That’s the reason I stopped eating. I’d have a thought of ‘If you take this bite, it means you are selling your soul to Satan’ – which is ridiculous but in my head I was like, oh my god I can’t eat this.”
“From there it started to get more physical. I would like go around the house literally blessing objects and draw a cross on them and weird like superstitious things like that,” added Brandon.
Brandon’s father, Jimi Petula, 57, continued, “I mean, as a parent to see your son like it was, it was awful.”
He said, “When we finally brought Brandon to Dr. Gorbis for treatment, it was, he looked bad. He had lost a lot of weight. He wasn’t eating, he was crying a lot.”
There even came a point where he used to face more than 5,000 compulsions in just 24 hours. His miserable condition forced him to drop out of high school at seventeen years of age. And to finally look for treatment, he approached Dr. Eda Gorbis at the Westwood Institute of Anxiety Disorders in California.
The doctor said:
“Scrupulosity is the patient’s fear that they have done something unscrupulous. In other words, said a lie, or caused someone pain, or acted with bad intentions – it’s as though they are guilty. Brandon’s father Mr. Pitula called me in a panic and I instantly knew that this was an emergency case, but he responded to treatment so well.”
Dr. Eda Gorbis treated her patient with rather a different kind of method. She forced Brandon to undertake exercises, such as making him sit in a room with ‘Satan’ and ‘666’ written all over the walls – getting him to sell his soul to the devil by presenting a fake contract.
Brandon said: “I had to write little notes, they weren’t that long and it would just start with ‘Dear Satan, I Brandon – I have to say my name like almost signing a contract – am selling my soul to you’.”
He said, “That was like enough at that moment to get my anxiety up to like a 10, but I would just keep rewriting and rewriting it and eventually the anxiety would subside.”
The specialist also changed her mobile number so that it included ‘666’, and encouraged Brandon to dial it. She even approached a Catholic priest, Father Andrew, for the 22-year-old. He helped Brandon reform his religious perceptions.
Brandon said: “Father Andrew was probably one of the more important aspects almost of the entire therapy because when I first started, I was the against idea of doing anything related to my OCD.”
He added, “But him being there was almost like the Pope telling you that it’s fine. He helped me a lot.”
While Brandon is still struggling with OCD, the young man can now manage it well and has recently graduated from Parsons: The New School of Design, New York City. He wants to pursue his career in photography and graphic designing. When he was doing his BFA in Photography, he did a remarkable thesis project on OCD.
He said, “OCD will always be a part of me in a sense, I can’t get rid of it, so I have to deal with it.”
The boy who was once afraid of red – the color of fire, hell and Satan – now embraces it in his work.
He told the channel:
“I didn’t want it on my room, I didn’t want it on my body. I didn’t want to see it in my house. So I threw everything that was red and got rid of anything that was on my wall that was red. Even on the internet if I just even saw the color red like I would quickly shut my laptop or look away.”
“But once I started wearing it, I started to actual like the color and now I like love red. I use a lot in my work. I guess it is a symbol of recovery in a sense,” Brandon concluded.