Howie Mandel on misconceptions about OCD: 'It's not a joke'

Howie Mandel is talking about how he finally got help for his mental health struggles.

The comedian appeared on Mayim Bialik and Jonathan Cohen’s mental health podcast The Breakdown, where he shared what it finally took for him to seek therapy after suffering from OCD and ADD for most of his life.

The America’s Got Talent judge, who has a deep fear of germs associated with his OCD, recalled trying to control his family’s behavior in order to make himself more comfortable, and even built a guest house in case his family ever got sick. It was his wife, Terry Mandel, who finally told him that he had to find a new way to manage.

“I had never been to [therapy] before,” Mandel recalled. “She goes, ‘Listen, Howie, you spend a good part of your energy trying to control everything around you and trying to make people live in your world. But nobody has to live in your world. You have to find a way to live in everybody else’s world.’”

That allowed Mandel to take action in order to better manage his mental health issues.

Howie Mandel opens up to Mayim Bialik about living with OCD and other mental health struggles. (Photo: Phillip Faraone/FilmMagic)
Howie Mandel opens up to Mayim Bialik about living with OCD and other mental health struggles. (Photo: Phillip Faraone/FilmMagic)

“The only person you really have control over is yourself,” he explained. “Your happiness or contentment comes from within you. It’s not about what other people think of you, it’s not about how they act around you, it’s you. That’s what I’ve been, for the last 20-something years, have been working on.”

Mandel and Bialik, who also has OCD, also spoke about how hurtful it can be to hear people joke about the condition, or likening it to being clean or organized.

“When I am suffering in the midst of whatever issue I’m dealing with, I can’t deal with life,” Mandel, who launched his own podcast Howie Mandel Does Stuff with his daughter Jackelyn Shultz, said. “I’ve missed appointments, I’ve missed productions. It stops my f****** life. I understand why Howard Hughes, at the end of his life, was naked and pissing in a bottle. I tell people, you have no idea how many times I am close to that. It’s not a joke.”

He added, “Hearing someone say, ‘Well, I have OCD, too,’ doesn’t make me more comfortable in my life. I don’t know why they’re telling me that. I always say, ‘Well, I hope you’re exaggerating, because I wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy.’ I really do suffer.”

Mandel has previously opened up about how the coronavirus pandemic has made living with his intense phobia of germs much more challenging. He told People, "There isn't a waking moment of my life when 'we could die' doesn't come into my psyche. But the solace I would get would be the fact that everybody around me was OK. It's good to latch onto OK. But [during the pandemic] the whole world was not OK. And it was absolute hell."

Listen to the rest of Mandel's interview with Bialik below: