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“I read books backwards, otherwise someone would die"

Name: Per Persson
Age: 40 years old
Lives: Karlstad
Suffers from: OCD and Asperger Syndrome
Treatment: Deep brain stimulation + CBT

Per Persson. Photo: Emil Nordin

“I had a lot of compulsion before. I wasn't allowed to walk on road marks, I had to step over them instead. I’d never step on them, but beside them. It had me walking in the bike lane or almost in the road on some streets.

I also had to count a lot. Some numbers felt better than others.

I don't really remember how it started, but I think it started out as a contest about drinking a certain drink as fast as possible. It felt like a prize that you won, if you were fast enough, you were happy.

I had another compulsion as well, that I had to read forwards and then backwards. If I finished a book, I had to read it backwards. Otherwise, someone in the family could die. One of my teachers died from COPD, that’s when I started reading forwards and backwards. I don’t know why I started then, but it felt right. This took a long time, so I haven’t read many books since then.

I tried all kinds of treatment, but nothing helped. About 7-8 years ago, they inserted an electrode into my brain called 'deep brain stimulation'. After that the CBT started helping.

I’m a lot happier and more positive now. I see things on the bright side more often. It’s changed a lot. However, the compulsions haven’t changed much with the introduction of the electrodes.

I’ve worked on the road marks and can walk on some now, but not all. I’m able to walk on the normal line markings but if there is some other obstacle I still have to walk around it.

I have this thing with sewage covers as well, that’s a no go, I walk around those.  But I’m going to try working on it gradually so that it stops eventually.”

As told to Fredrik Hedlund, first published in the magazine Medicinsk Vetenskap no. 1/2020.