6 Ways To Support A Family Member With OCD
- Be informed. It’s important to understand OCD in general, but also specifically what type of OCD affects your loved one. There are many subtypes to OCD including, but not limited to, contamination or mental contamination OCD, just right OCD, H-OCD, P-OCD, R-OCD, etc. By being aware and informed on the specifics that drive their obsessions and compulsions, you can become a better supporter in their fight.
- OCD is not your fault. It’s not theirs either. OCD at times can be frustrating for all parties, and although you’re not directly affected by OCD, you are directly impacted when you have a loved one who suffers from the disorder. You may feel frustrated at times but be cognizant that your loved one knows those emotions come from being upset with OCD, and not them individually. They too are feeling frustrated, stressed, and angry with their OCD. Rather than allowing it to become a dividing force, recognize the commonality of you both being tired of OCD’s antics and use that as a motivator to fight it. Don’t feel overly responsible. It’s difficult to watch a loved one suffer, but it’s not your job to tackle their OCD. Your job is to love, support, encourage, possibly seek out help for, and be on your loved one’s team.
- Don’t engage with OCD. In other words, don’t participate in OCD behaviors or rituals and don’t adhere to OCD demands. Loving someone with OCD can sometimes look like checking locks on doors for them, making sure things are kept as clean as they want, consistently providing reassurance or preparing special meals for them. In reality, it is a hindrance to your loved one when you also engage in behaviors and rituals to accommodate their OCD. Doing so allows OCD not only to dictate your loved one’s life but your life as well. People with OCD don’t engage in obsessions and compulsions because they want to. Rather than also giving in to OCD, tell your loved one that you’re not playing the OCD game and lend healthy, productive support to them as you encourage them to overcome their obsessions and compulsions. Don’t consider OCD to be an untreatable illness or a way in which your loved one is disadvantaged. You know your loved one and can tell when it’s appropriate to push them to fight their OCD and when to simply give emotional support.
- Have the talk. Ask your loved one how they want you to be a part of their fight against OCD. This is a very personal matter and varies for each person individually. For some people, they are open to a loved one calling them out when they notice symptoms of OCD getting worse and want to be held accountable, others prefer to do most of their OCD work alone and would rather their loved ones only step in at certain points. Inquire what signs will indicate your loved one could use a push to help them fight their OCD battle and ask what you should notice when they just need some tender loving care. When you find yourself in a supporting position, encouraging their efforts to not give into OCD, make sure your loved one knows you are challenging the disorder and not them.
- Stay positive, and hopeful. There will be both good and bad days. There will always be periods of setback and OCD is known for waxing and waning along with everyday stressors. One of the most helpful things for you to do for a loved one with OCD is to understand the disorder and the lifelong efforts it will take to work on it’s symptoms. Consider it as a marathon and less as a race, letting your loved one know you’re in it and on their side for the long-haul.
- Seek evidence-based treatment. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) help those suffering from OCD to confront their fears and learn to live with doubt and distress associated with OCD. It is important for perspective clients to understand that there is no evidence to suggest that other psychological approaches (insight-oriented, eclectic, EMDR, psychodynamic, emotional freedom and so on) are effective in the treatment of OCD.
*When selecting an OCD provider, we suggest asking these questions
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