The actor spoke candidly about the condition during a new episode of his and his wife Hilaria Baldwin’s podcast What’s One More, where they discussed OCD alongside Howie Mandel, who receives treatment for the disorder, and his wife Terry Mandel.
In the beginning of the podcast, the 30 Rock star explained that OCD is something that he personally struggles with, and that he is “grateful” to Mandel for “opening up at a time when few people were talking about this publicly” more than 15 years ago.
Alec also acknowledged that, back then, there was even more of a stigma surrounding the disorder and mental health than there is today, but that more still needs to be done to normalise mental health support.
According to Hilaria, the pair are still “very new to the journey of understanding what OCD is,” but they are learning that, by being open about their challenges, they are able to find a community and help others.
“It’s through empathy, understanding and being kinder to one another, that we can finally remove the stigma and change the narrative,” Alec added.
During the conversation, Alec then asked Mandel about his own experience with OCD, and his symptoms, before revealing that he is currently struggling himself with germaphobia, which he is learning to track.
“Is germophobia the only way that that OCD was expressed, and what was the beginnings of when you started to track that and sense that?” he asked. “Because I’m going through this myself now. I am, like really seriously.”
In response, Mandel explained that OCD is characterised by intrusive thoughts that those with the disorder cannot ignore. He then gave examples of his own obsessions and compulsions, such as having to wash his hands repetitively or repeatedly returning to his locked door to confirm it is locked.
OCD can affect people of all ages and occurs when a person “gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions,” according to the International OCD Foundation. “Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviours an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.”
While the stigma surrounding mental health has lessened, the podcast conversation prompted Mandel to share his wish for mental health to be treated the same way one would treat annual visits to a dentist or an eye doctor.
“I always say, I wish it would become part of our curriculum, where we could take care of our mental health the way we take care of our dental health,” he said. “If nothing is wrong with us, it’s part of your curriculum to go get your teeth cleaned, to go get an X-ray… but there’s nothing in place in our society, where even a young child is asked questions, to see if the response is in the healthy range spectrum.”
In an Instagram post shared after the podcast episode, Hilaria praised her husband for “having the bravery” to open up about his experience with OCD, adding: “It is through opening up that we allow others the opportunity to understand us better, support us better, and potentially be inspired to open up as well (if sharing is the right thing for you).”