Adrian Monk was a brilliant detective for the San Francisco Police Department until his wife, Trudy, was killed by a car bomb, which Monk believed was intended for him. Trudy's death led Monk to suffer a nervous breakdown and he was discharged from the force, becoming a recluse, refusing to leave his house for over three years. With the help of his nurse, Sharona Fleming, he was finally able to leave the house. The breakthrough allowed him to work as a private detective and a consultant for the homicide unit despite retaining limitations rooted in his obsessive-compulsive disorder, which had grown significantly worse after the tragedy.
Monk's compulsive habits are numerous, and a number of phobias compound his situation, such as his fear of germs. The OCD and plethora of phobias inevitably lead to very awkward situations and cause problems for Monk, and anyone around him, as he investigates cases. However, these same personal struggles, particularly the OCD, are what aid him in solving cases, resulting in his catchphrase, “It’s a gift ... and a curse.”