49-year-old Stephen Fode suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and admits that the conditions are ruining his life.
‘Over years of having OCD and BDD, it’s horrible. It’s like dealing with the devil.’
Stephen first started noticing symptoms of the disorders when he was a teenager, and his conditions have spiraled out of control from there.
His mum Marlene Hartje explains, ‘he was voted the most likely to succeed in high school and then he all of a sudden started to display symptoms like continuously washing his hands.’
‘It’s actually evolved into much more complicated disease. He’s become anorexic, he walks around with gloves all the time, he doesn’t want to touch anything. It’s just really hard. I just want to shake him and say, ‘stop doing that.’’
To keep a handle on his compulsions, Stephen now has regular sessions with therapist Dr Eva Gorbis.
She says, ‘he was an extremely severe sufferer of both Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. He was already a pretty severe sufferer of BDD who had undergone several plastic surgeries and countless little interventions. He was completely dysfunctional at the point when I met him.’
Because of his Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Stephen believes that he is ugly, and can only see flaws when he looks in the mirror. As a result, he has spent $150,000 on surgery to date.
He says, ‘on my nose I’ve had three nose jobs. I would try still to get another one but the doctor wouldn’t let me – said I had too much scar tissue.’
Alongside these operations, Stephen has also had filler injections on his lips and would still like to make them bigger.
And it’s not just his struggles with body image that cause problems in Stephen’s day-to-day life, his battle with OCD means he washes his hands continuously and showers for up to four hours at a time. Sadly, the condition has seriously affected both his career and love life.
He says, ‘I remember I worked for this one company and they like did the time sheets and were like, ‘no one has ever been this late this many times!’’
‘There have been times when I’ve had dates come to my front door and I can actually hear them ringing the doorbell, and I will not get out of the shower and I don’t care.’
‘It’s totally affected my love life.’
Thankfully, Stephen is learning to control his disorders and is now working as an actor whilst living with his mum in Los Angeles.
Mum Marlene says, ‘I think one of the keys to getting him better is to keep him really, really busy. He does get auditions and he’s had some nice bookings.’
Stephen adds, ‘acting is a good profession for me. It’s not a 9 to 5, it’s a little on the eccentric side so you can kinda get away with little quirky things and they allow it.’
All that remains is for Stephen to keep a positive outlook.
‘I try to have a sense of humour about it and it seems to help.’
‘You kind of have to just laugh at it and get through it.’
Good luck Stephen!