The Truth About Mara Wilson's OCD

Mara Wilson is best known for giving captivating performances as a child star. She shined in films such as "Matilda" and "Mrs. Doubtfire" (per IMDb). Today, Wilson is a writer and a mental health advocate (per Talkspace). Her own mental health journey has been a subject she's opened up about in her adulthood.

Wilson remembers considering herself "an anxious child," especially following her mother's breast cancer diagnosis. Her mother, Suzie Wilson, would die about a year after her diagnosis, when Mara was 9. Mara took some time before taking another film role, at which time she began going through puberty and discovering the complications that presented as a child star (per Parade).

"I'd always been an anxious child, but things got much worse when I was about 8. My mother was dying from cancer, and I started obsessing about sickness and loss — washing my hands until they were so chapped and red that they would bleed, compulsively checking on my pets, thinking sometime terrible would happen if I didn't walk through a door a certain way, and having multiple panic attacks a day," Wilson recalled in an interview with the International OCD Foundation

Mara became ashamed of her behavior

Wilson admitted to going through some truly dark times before receiving a diagnosis. "Sometimes I would go for days without eating or sleeping, because my body was just too wracked with anxiety," she told the International OCD Foundation.

"On top of that, I knew the things I was feeling or doing weren't 'normal,' so I felt deeply ashamed and afraid of what would happen to me if anyone found out. It was four years of fear, shame, and isolation. Then, when I was 12, I read a book called 'Kissing Doorknobs,' about a teenage girl with OCD." 

The book validated the feelings Wilson was experiencing and simultaneously questioning. "I cried as I read it, because I finally knew what was wrong with me, and that there was help. I brought it to my school guidance counselors and to my father, and finally was able to get help, going into therapy and getting onto medication. That book changed my life."

Mara felt greatly comforted by her diagnosis

Getting diagnosed with OCD at 12 years old may seem like a lot to grapple with for some people. For Wilson, however, it was a joyous turning point in her life. "The day I got [a diagnosis] was one of the best days of my life, because I knew that I was not alone anymore," she told The Independent. "I knew that there were people out there that had what I had, and I knew that there was treatment for it. I was 12 years old and I was thrilled that I was finally diagnosed."

Wilson wished her diagnosis had come sooner, though she's also recognized the privilege in being diagnosed at a young age. "If I could tell my younger self something, I would tell her that she's not alone, there are a lot of people who are just as scared and anxious as she is and they are living their lives and making the most of it," she told Child Mind Institute.

Mara has stepped up to advocate for the OCD community

In her years of treatment and navigating life with OCD, Wilson has learned a lot. She's taken her platform and her knowledge and brought them together to advocate for the OCD community. "I knew from a young age that if I grew up to have any kind of platform, I wanted to use it to speak up about OCD," she told the International OCD Foundation. "I felt it was my responsibility, and I knew the importance of accurate portrayals and discussion of OCD in media and literature, because it was a book that got me help!"

"As for advocacy, I think it's important to destigmatize OCD and fight the stereotypes about it," Wilson continued. "It's not a personality quirk or type, it's a debilitating illness. There needs to be more understanding of what it actually is! I also want to help ensure that everyone who needs help for OCD can get it, regardless of where or who they are."