Why Monk Is an OCD Superhero to Me


I’m watching Monk. Although I have binge-watched the entire series (all eight seasons, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming movie), I often rewatch episodes in that comfort-inducing way, revisiting my favorites. The hilarious 2002-2009 detective comedy-mystery-drama centers around Adrian Monk, a San Francisco detective who has major OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, OCD is: “a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (“obsessions”) and/or behaviors (“compulsions”) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.”

As someone who has it, I find comfort in a show (especially one set in my hometown) where something like OCD, which is a hindrance, or could even be seen as a defect, can also be a huge gift. 


Monk himself often refers to his talent for paying attention to every detail and using that laser focus as both “a gift and a curse.” That is how I feel about my own OCD. Although mine is mild to moderate in nature, there are moments when intrusive thoughts, and the anxiety that surround them, can feel completely debilitating. But, my attention to detail, intuition, empathy, level of organization, and ability to see all the little details that others don’t have been what has set me apart in both my career and my personal life. I wouldn’t be the person I am without it. Monk puts his hands up and scans a room, going beyond what the SFPD sees (he is their go-to consultant), making connections that appear to come out of nowhere. He pays attention to everything. He solves murders that no one else can because of his unique ability. It is because of how his brain is wired differently, a result of his neurodivergence. His gift and his curse.

Of course, where there is a positive extreme, the opposite one exists. Although portrayed in a comical way, Adrian Monk can barely function as a person. He’s afraid of everything–including milk, germs, frogs, and heights (which are actually phobias). His assistant (Sharona or Natalie, depending on what season you’re watching) has to hand him a wipe when he touches someone or something). He exasperates everyone around him (who truly loves him) with his limitations, demands, and needs. Although brilliant, Monk has fumbled the ball due to his OCD (as I have)–in fact, he was once a part of the SFPD and had to leave due to the extreme OCD flare-up he experienced when his wife Trudy died. He just couldn’t function as a cop at that time. But he finds a way to make his circumstances work for him and is able to help countless people and deliver justice. Most importantly, he never gives up, even when things seem impossible for him to overcome. 

While there are people with OCD (and I’m sure those without it) who do not like the show Monk, I adore it. OCD in reality is no laughing matter–there are so many people who can’t leave their homes, are constantly bombarded with thoughts that they are horrible, and can’t even function. It is also not an adjective you should use to describe how tidy you are or how you like to have things a certain way. That being said, the show Monk, while just being a very funny and entertaining television show, also shines a light on how OCD, neurodivergence, and just being different can really work in your favor. How something beautiful can come out of something negative. How superheroes don’t have to wear capes. And how God truly doesn’t make mistakes. 

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