Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Beckham reveals his battle with obsessive disorder

David Beckham has admitted that he suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. The footballer has spoken for the first time of his addiction to rearranging hotel rooms and lining up cans of soft drinks to make "everything perfect".

In a television interview to be screened before the World Cup this summer, Beckham says he has tried to break his cycle of repetitive behaviour but cannot stop. OCD, as it is known, affects one in 60 people in Britain, ranging from mild traits to a debilitating dependency on rituals of cleanliness, symmetry or other issues.

In the interview, to be broadcast on ITV1, he said: "I've got this obsessive compulsive disorder where I have to have everything in a straight line or everything has to be in pairs. I'll put my Pepsi cans in the fridge and if there's one too many then I'll put it in another cupboard somewhere.

"I'll go into a hotel room and before I can relax, I have to move all the leaflets and all the books and put them in a drawer. Everything has to be perfect." Asked if he wanted to stop his obsessive behaviour, he said: "I would like to. I've tried and can't stop." Beckham admitted he was also addicted to having tattoos, partly because he enjoys the pain.

The England captain said that his wife, Victoria, calls him a "weirdo" because of his condition.

Newspapers have delighted in stories of Beckham's eccentric behaviour, with reports that he wears white clothes to match his furniture, buys 30 pairs of identical Calvin Klein underpants every fortnight and insists on lining up his shirts according to colour.

Mrs Beckham, who has revealed her husband's inner secrets before, recently told one interviewer: "He's got that obsessive compulsive thing where everything has to match. If you open our fridge, it's all co-ordinated down either side. We've got three fridges - food in one, salad in another and drinks in the third. In the drinks one, everything is symmetrical. If there's three cans, he'll throw one away because it has to be an even number. "

Beckham said that his teammates at Real Madrid were unaware of his condition, but that players at his former club, Manchester United, would deliberately rearrange his clothes in hotel rooms or move magazines around to make them "wonky" to infuriate him.

Beckham is not the first footballer to admit to suffering from OCD, which is estimated to affect more than two million people at some point in their lives.

The former England star Paul Gascoigne said last year that he was obsessed with cleanliness and needed help for the condition.

Other famous sufferers include the actor Billy Bob Thornton, who has spoken of having to repeat words and count up to particular numbers, and the singer Natalie Appleton, who is obsessed with cleanliness and broke down in tears when she had to touch a tree on the reality show I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

A spokesman for the charity OCD UK said: "There is still a lot of stigma about the condition and even GPs are not very good at picking up on it. Young men in particular are often reluctant to come forward and ask for treatment, so to have someone like David Beckham come out and talk about it is very good."

A hidden epidemic

* The World Health Organisation lists OCD as among the 10 biggest causes of disability, yet many sufferers keep their illness hidden and the condition is often the subject of scepticism and derision.

* Men and women are equally affected, and OCD is thought to run in families, suggesting it may have a biological cause. Some research has shown that changes in brain activity and pattern may also cause the condition, and it often occurs alongside other illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.

* OCD has two main features: obsessions, such as constant unpleasant and intrusive thoughts about issues such as contamination and symmetry; and compulsions - repetitive acts of handwashing, repeating words, counting etc.

* Charities say that the condition often goes undiagnosed by GPs and in some cases is simply put down to depression.

* Cognitive behavioural therapy is recommended as a first-line treatment and a modern class of anti-depressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have also been shown to be successful.

* OCD has recently received a higher profile following the success of the film The Aviator, in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays the American millionaire Howard Hughes who suffered from the condition.

For more information on OCD or to make a donation visit

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in