Psychologist, patients to appear on ABC show

‘Primetime’ episode will focus on OCD


Dr. Allen Weg Dr. Allen Weg EAST BRUNSWICK — A local psychologist and some of his patients will be featured this month on an ABC News “Primetime” show focused on obsessivecompulsive disorder.

Dr. Allen Weg is expected to appear on the July 21 edition of “Primetime.” Weg is founder and director of Stress and Anxiety Services of New Jersey, a private practice located off Cranbury Road. He is also on the board of directors for the New Jersey affiliate of the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, a nonprofit group that educates the community about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), supports research, and works with sufferers and their families.

Weg said ABC selected his practice because of its focus in OCD. He said about 80 percent of his patients are battling the disorder, which affects the way people think and act. The disease does not discriminate; the firm sees nearly an equal number of adults and children.

Weg has spent years studying the disorder and working with patients who have it. He has trained with some of the country’s most prominent specialists in the treatment of pediatric OCD, and has presented workshops on the topic for mental health professional organizations.

Persons with OCD have been portrayed perhaps most famously in movies such as “As Good As It Gets” and “The Aviator.” Weg said there is a lot of accuracy to those portrayals, but they only offer limited knowledge about a disorder that can be torturous to those who have it.

“‘As Good As It Gets’ is a wonderful depiction of OCD,” Weg said, noting however, “People with OCD are not necessarily grumpy people.” As for “The Aviator,” he said that Howard Hughes was so rich he could pay people for anything he wanted, which enabled his condition to get worse. Most people would run out of money if they had Hughes’ compulsions. In addition, Hughes lived at a time when there was no treatment or therapy.

“He died suffering terribly,” Weg said.

Despite the movies, Weg said there are still a lot of misconceptions about OCD, and many people who go undiagnosed. Weg wants to teach people what the disease really involves, and to raise awareness of the fact that most who have OCD are bright, articulate and likable people who are not crazy.

One does not get a sense that anything is wrong with most of the patients at his practice, Weg noted.

“We want to destigmatize it, and this is also a way for people to see others with it and get help,” he said.

One part of the disease involves obsessions — thoughts that are intrusive and make the sufferer afraid of things, from becoming contaminated with something or getting hit by a car.

“Most of us get these same thoughts but dismiss them. These people get stuck with them,” Weg said. Compulsions follow those thoughts, he said, and include acts that are repeated ad nauseam. Among those are washing hands and checking to make sure the door is locked, for example.

Other OCD sufferers can be fixated on hoarding, organizing and counting. These practices, he said, take place so much they get in the way of functioning.

ABC came with a small camera crew to interview him and take notes. They visited him 13 times since January, interviewing him in therapy with patients. They also spent time with patients at home, in school or elsewhere.

“The focus is on kids and adolescents. They were followed over months, and watched for progress,” he said.

Weg said, ABC asked a lot of questions, in part homing in on why parents cannot force their children to stop the compulsive acts.

“This is about helping kids to learn how to control and conquer. Otherwise, you traumatize them and make them feel more out of control,” he said. “There is no cure, but we try to minimize the symptoms and allow them to live free of the disease.”

Some of Weg’s patients had no reluctance about being filmed.

“They said ‘I am going to fight this and not hide or be ashamed,’” he said, adding that people who seek to deal with the disorder properly are successful.

The episode is tentatively scheduled to air on ABC at 10 p.m. July 21.