Monk's character is an example of how a psychological disorder doesn't have to be a life sentence of dependency on others, dependency on drugs or other obstacles that inhibit functioning.
Working with limitations can remove the stigma of a disorder, bringing limited if not full functioning to a sufferer's life. In Monk's case a support system is in place which helps with the healing process. Monk though a fictional character can be a real role model for those who feel stuck and helpless.
All the emotions from the past collided with the present and turned him into a recluse -- a symptom of agoraphobia where he did not leave his house of over three years.
The reoccurring mental image of his dead wife triggered post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) leaving him emotionally disabled and unable to function at a high level as a badge carrying detective from that day on.
With the help of a caregiver and a trusted therapist using the thought reconstructive techniques of cognitive behavior therapy and incorporating the in vivo trauma exposure techniques of systematic desensitization he was able to address harmful thought patterns associated with the trauma of his loss. These therapeutic techniques enabled him to meet the demands of his former position as a detective.
This emotional growth enabled him to break away from the stigma associated with years of self-imposed confinement dispelling his fears and breaking free of guilt. This raised his self-esteem enough to consider his progress a true breakthrough allowing him to rejoin society as a productive contributor to the public well-being.
Monk’s therapy helped him find a way to turn his disability around. Each phobia had a face and each distracted his thinking and ability to function.
In order to return to police work he and his therapist discovered that his OCD symptoms which involved enhanced memory, specific mindset and an analytical need for order and detail were perfect qualities needed at crime scenes.
His disability became an asset which changed his life. Monk was able to develop an unconventional way to spot tiny discrepancies and patterns and then make connections others have missed facilitating an uncanny ability to anticipate danger thus saving lives.
Monk is the story of how brilliant homicide detective copes with an array of psychological disabilities.
He was genetically predisposed to anxiety disorders and has been diagnosed having 312 phobias including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
What could have triggered his phobias was when his strict, overprotective father abandoned his family leaving him and his brother to be raised by an emotionally distraught, mentally unprepared mother. This imposed chaos led to Monk’s OCD, a pathological need for order and self-control to survive.
Later in life, Monk’s beloved wife, an investigative reporter, was killed in a bomb explosion. The untimely death triggered old feelings of abandonment. Though not witnessing her death personally he saw the crime scene photos fueling extreme guilt. It rekindled thoughts of his father leaving and he internalized the reasons thinking if he were a better son he wouldn't have left.
In the same way he blamed himself for not protecting his wife which lead to a nervous breakdown.
"Television characters live inside our minds as though they're actual people. In fact we know more about them than we do about most people in our physical lives."
- Neal Pollack, Writer ,
The Psychology of
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder