You avoid handshakes as part of your OCD and instead do fist bumps. Has President Obama's adoption of the fist bump made it easier for you?
Yes, but I didn't come up with the fist bump. It was there long before I ever did it on television. It was there in sports. I'd seen it before, and that's why I started doing it because I thought, "What a great way to avoid a possible trigger." It's been helpful to me, and people have been somewhat accommodating. Up until I made my OCD public, they would take umbrage over the fist bump. They would take it very personally: "What, do you think I'm dirty, or you're too good to shake my hand?" The truth is that I really, truly believe that now, given this season of flu and H1N1, that there's no reason to shake someone's hand.
It's no secret that psychiatric disorders run together. People who have OCD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to be depressed or to have problems with substance abuse. How about you?
Depression, yes. Not substance abuse, because I'm neurotic about losing control. I don't drink, I don't take drugs. But yes, depression is an issue.
A game show is a fairly structured filming environment, and perhaps there's some repetition involved. Do you feel like it's something that works especially well for you?
Deal or No Deal fits my personality. Some people tell me that OCD and ADHD are a gift and I've used it to my benefit. If it is a gift, it's a gift I'd love to return. I would trade anything to not have this gift. Do I think it serves me? I think I'd be far better off without it. Deal or No Deal is lucky for me because I don't rehearse, I just show up, and I can stand anyplace. I'm not stuck behind a pedestal reading trivia questions—I wander around, and each person is different. The game serves me better than I serve the game. It's a very comfortable place for me to be. I just show up and meet the contestants. Deal or No Deal allows me to live in the now. It's like my standup act. It's hard for me to sit down and focus on a script and do long-form projects. I can do it—I did St. Elsewhere—but it's hard.
Sometimes my colleagues say, "You need a little bit of OCD to be a good doctor," or joke in other ways about the condition. Do you think this demeans people who really have the disease?
There's nothing wrong with having a little anxiety—to be somewhat fearful or anxious about something probably focuses you more, right? You're a little worried or you're trying harder. I wish I had that. My anxiety, and I can't speak for other patients, is sometimes paralyzing. I can't think of one time where my OCD or depression has been triggered that it has enhanced what I was doing.
At the request of U.S. News, Mandel took a test during the interview to gauge the degree of his OCD. The Yale-Brown obsessive-compulsive scale is a series of questions related to an individual's behavior—whether certain ritualistic acts are part of a daily routine, for example. The test is widely cited in professional journals and studies. Mandel scored 21 out of 40, putting him in the "moderate" range. A score higher than 8 suggests OCD that can be clinically diagnosed and treated. The test also showed Mandel is about twice as obsessive as he is compulsive. It can be difficult to understand the way in which someone with OCD experiences daily life. Mandel's readable and funny book should raise public awareness.