John Green’s OCD Was 'Terrifying' and 'Debilitating' Growing Up, Says It’s Often 'Treated As Freakish'

“When I’m really sick, I can’t read a menu let alone function in the world,” said ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ author

<p>Eric Charbonneau/Getty</p> John Green

Eric Charbonneau/Getty

John Green

YouTube personality and bestselling YA author John Green is opening up about navigating life with OCD.

The novelist — known for his books The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns — spoke to TODAY about some of the struggles he had growing up, sharing that he’s had OCD “for pretty much my whole conscious life.”

“When I was a teenager, I thought of what I was going through as just utterly unique and terrifying and disgusting and horrible,” he told the outlet.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) features a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress."

Green, 46, said being diagnosed with OCD as an adult was a “big relief,” adding, “I had a name for it.” But the author admitted that he still experienced a lot of highs and lows with the disorder.

“I also have a really good life, and I have periods where I’m quite sick, and I’ve had periods over the last 10 years where I was debilitatingly sick and where I wasn’t able to function,” he said. “That’s very frustrating. I don’t want to minimize how hard it is and how painful it is, and yet also I have a good life, and those things can co-exist.”

Related: YouTube Star Hank Green Reveals Hodgkin's Lymphoma Diagnosis: 'It's Gonna Be Really Unpleasant'

<p>Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty</p> John Green

Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty

John Green

In order to manage, Green has taken medications and tried exposure and response prevention therapy, which is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. The two are the most effective treatments for OCD, according to the International OCD Foundation.

Green said his motivation for treating the disorder is his family — wife Sarah and their two children.

“There have been times when treatment has been very effective for me and times when it’s been less effective, but I’m in a good place right now because I have good tools that I learn through therapy and a good medication regimen that really works for me,” he told the outlet. “For the last few years, I’ve had periods of bad mental health, but I haven’t had periods of really intense OCD feelings, which is a nice change.”

“When I’m really sick, I can’t read a menu let alone function in the world,” he added. “That affects my ability to be the dad I want to be, the husband I want to be. And ultimately for me, the biggest impetus to really aggressively pursue treatment is a feeling of, well, it’s not just about me. I have other people in my life I love who this is affecting.”

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<p>Monica Schipper/Getty </p> John Green

Monica Schipper/Getty

John Green

While learning about the mental health condition his entire life, Green said he can’t help but notice that his life with OCD looks a lot different than how it’s portrayed on television and in movies.

“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,” he explained. “But for me, at least, it begins with a lack of control over my thoughts, a sort of blizzard of thoughts.”

“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,” he continued. “Or as a disease that’s highly stigmatized, that’s treated as freakish.”

Because OCD is “heavily stigmatized,” Green is hoping that sharing his journey can help change the narrative. The author is vocal about his experience on his YouTube channel.

“This is pretty common and there are lots of people who live with really, really intense versions of this and still live good lives,” he told TODAY.

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