Loving Someone With OCD
At The Center for Anxiety and OCD at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we provide specialized treatment for those struggling with OCD utilizing ERP and CBT. Our therapists are specifically trained to treat OCD, providing evidence-based, effective treatment to sufferers, and support for their families.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that is characterized by unwanted, intrusive thoughts and disruptive compulsions and rituals. OCD can have a negative impact on an individual’s academic, social, and professional functioning and when a person has OCD, it tends to also negatively affect the OCD sufferer’s relationships. OCD can affect everyone – family, friends and caregivers, including spouses, parents, siblings and children. In addition, undiagnosed OCD can cause many disagreements and conflicts with loved ones over misunderstood behaviors and misinterpreted intentions.
Because OCD can be perplexing and confusing, many individuals who love someone with OCD are often unaware and confused about how to best help their loved one. They are also often filled with conflicting emotions. While they love the person with OCD, they may also feel overwhelmed, frustrated, resentful and hopeless. OCD can put a strain on marriages and have a negative impact on overall family life, as financial strain, a disruption in family routines and isolation can take their toll on families. Most OCD sufferers are well aware of how their OCD impacts their loved ones and most OCD sufferers experience a great deal of guilt and pain because of this.
OCD suffers also tend to actively involve their loved ones in their rituals and avoidance strategies. This is known as family accommodation (FA). Despite knowing that family accommodation has a negative effect on the person with OCD, family members often succumb, willingly or unwillingly. Family members often learn that refusing to help with compulsions or give reassurance increases the OCD sufferer’s anxiety and makes life much more difficult for everyone. However, helping someone with their rituals is typically unhelpful, as a matter of fact, it can be quite harmful in the long run, because every time a compulsion is performed, it reinforces the belief that doing rituals is the only way to reduce anxiety.
Some of the most common ways loved ones help with compulsions or avoidance strategies or otherwise make accommodations for the person with OCD consist of:
- Reassuring the person with OCD that there is no reason for their OCD-related worry.
- Waiting for the person with OCD while she completes rituals.
- Performing rituals for the person with OCD (e.g. checking locks, disinfecting).
- Providing the person with OCD with items he needs to perform rituals (e.g. excessive quantities of soap or cleaning products).
- Avoiding talking about things that may trigger the obsessions or compulsions.
- Making excuses or lying for the person with OCD when she misses work, school or social engagements because of OCD.
- Putting up with unusual conditions at home because of OCD (e.g. not wearing shoes in the house, leaving things lined up a certain way).
Nearly 90% of OCD sufferers live with family members who significantly accommodate their symptoms. These accommodations occur even though more than 80% of loved ones believe that the obsessions and rituals are unreasonable and excessive and 66% of family members are aware that these accommodations do not actually help reduce OCD symptoms. Research has shown that family accommodations not only contribute to negative relationships and poorer family functioning, but they also contribute to an increase in the severity of OCD.
With the right kind of treatment, people with OCD and their loved ones can live happy, successful lives. Therapists who specialize in the treatment of OCD know that therapy must include the people who have been affected by and become a part of the illness. At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, evidence-based treatment approaches can teach loved ones to shift from resentment and anger to support and compassion and equip the family with the tools to stop participating in rituals and avoidance behaviors.
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