Twins Ella and Olivia rapidly developed a sympathetic case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It started with having to do everything at the same time, and things started “creeping them out.”  At its worst they were hurting each other, and their parents, in violent tantrums. But after help from their “many friends” at the Child Mind Institute, Ella and Olivia are now, in their words, “mostly normal.”


What does it feel like being twins?

Olivia: It feels good. It’s nice having a twin.

Ella: You always have someone by your side.

Olivia: And we like a lot of the same things.

Ella: Yeah.

What do you like to do?

Ella: We like to play with our friends. We have twin friends across the street. And they were very supportive.

Olivia: They were really supportive of us when everything was going on.

Tell me, what was going on?

Ella: Well, we had OCD and it started with me. It started annoying me and people started annoying us and we didn’t like certain people and certain things, certain places, they really bothered us.

Olivia: Then it kind of rubbed off on me. And then it got really bad where we were doing fixes like rituals. We would have to look at things at the same time and say stuff at the same time. So first, if Ella said it then I would say it then we would say it together. If I said it, then Ella would say it, then Ella would say it again, then I would say it and then we would say it together.

Ella: Because I didn’t like to say it—

Together: —last.

Olivia: So we had to look at stuff.

Ella: We had to do all sorts of things and the fixes, like we had to say “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” and count really fast.

What’s a “fix?”

Ella: Like if we looked at something—

Olivia: A ritual.

Both: We would have to do 1,2,3,4,5 and then we would have to look away. Then 1,2,3, hop. 1,2,3, step. And then we had to go upstairs together, go outside together, sit together, go on the rug together.

Olivia: And it was horrible

Ella: It was horrible. We were doing it every second of the day.

What happened next?

Together: It got much worse.

Olivia: There were freak-outs about it every day. Temper tantrums and violent—

Ella: We had to end up going to the hospital a couple of times.

Olivia: Yeah. It was horrible.

Ella: The ambulance had to come.

Olivia: We were throwing things, kicking things, and hurting people. That’s how bad—

Ella: It was not good. And then when we found Child Mind Institute.

Olivia: Everything went back to normal.

Ella: Everything got better. We are still working on treatment.

Olivia: But we have mostly a normal childhood now.

Ella: Can I tell you some of the things that we didn’t like?


Ella: We didn’t like the word “shore.” We didn’t like the word “no.” We didn’t like a lot of words like—

Together: —Friendly’s—

Ella: —K-Mart, library, Wendy’s.

Why didn’t you like Wendy’s?

Olivia: Well, because Wendy’s was right next to Friendly’s.

Ella: And we didn’t like Friendly’s. Friendly’s does have good ice cream.

Olivia: Yes, they do have very good ice cream.

Ella: We like their ice cream.

Is there anything else you didn’t like?

Ella: We didn’t like the word Dollar Store or dollar or doll—

Olivia: —or dolphin. Anything with doll in it. Because we were really creeped out by dolls. Except American Girl dolls are awesome.

Ella: Yes, that’s one of our favorite places. We love American Girl. That’s the only type of doll we like.

Your mom said sometimes you had temper tantrums. What was that like? What did you feel?

Ella: Horrible. We were—

Together: —throwing things, screaming.

Ella: We couldn’t control ourselves.

Olivia: Every day there was violence. Biting, kicking.

Ella: We had scratches on our arms.

Olivia: Everyone in our family was bruised and hurt.

Ella: And we felt really bad after we’d done it.

Olivia: We had this whole thing. Everything had to be perfect.

Ella: There’s no such thing as perfect, but we thought there was.

When Mom and Dad said we are going to the Child Mind Institute, did you want to come?

Olivia: Well, we had another therapist for like a day.

Ella: It wasn’t working out that good.

Olivia: So I thought, like, we’re never going to get better. This is so bad.

Ella: I remember my mom telling me everything’s gonna be better. Don’t worry.

Olivia: We said no. Nothing’s gonna change. We didn’t think anything was going to change.

Ella: But here we are and a lot has changed.

Why did you think things weren’t going to change?

Olivia: Because we were just so caught up with everything and really upset with what was going on.

Ella: And it was so bad that we didn’t think it was going to get better. It was really torture. And we named it torture.

Olivia: Oh yeah.

Ella: Our OCD, we named it torture.

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So you came to the Child Mind Institute for exposure therapy. How did you feel? Were you nervous?

Ella: I didn’t allow myself to open my eyes in Child Mind Institute because of the teddy bears.

Olivia: We wore a mask.

Ella: Teddy bears creeped us out.

Olivia: Well, they did creep us out.

Ella: And there was a doll at the Child Mind Institute.

Olivia: They’re not that creepy anymore.

Why did you wear masks?

Ella: Well, they were blindfolds.

Olivia: We had to cover our eyes or else there would be too many fixes and then there would be a really violent temper tantrum probably. Because it got to the point where it was really bad.

How did you feel about each other during this time?

Ella: We didn’t really like each other.

Olivia: Yeah.

Ella: But now we love each other.

Were you guys fighting a little bit?

Ella: Yes, a lot.

Olivia: A lot. Violence, kicking.

Ella: Violence.

Olivia: Biting. It wasn’t good.

Ella: Yeah. It was not good.

How did your mom and dad feel?

Together: They felt really sad—

Ella: —and terrible and they felt—

Olivia: It was torture for them too.

Ella continues: And they felt that their girls weren’t their girls anymore.

Olivia: We were so different.

Ella: Yeah.

Olivia: And now we’re their girls again.