• May 15, 2017
  • OCD

When Your Spouse Has OCD | Orlando OCD Therapist Shares Information 
Specialized Treatment For OCD In Orlando 

Most people have heard about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but there is often a great deal of confusion about the disorder. Many people think of OCD as a behavioral quirk, when in actuality, OCD is a severe, often crippling disorder that consists of tormenting thoughts and ritualistic physical and mental rituals that take up a great deal of the sufferer’s time.

OCD has a huge impact, not only on the individual with the disorder, but also on the person or persons living with the OCD sufferer. Being married to someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be hard. In some instances, the partner of the person with OCD simply denies that the disorder exists, but in most cases, spouses report that their loved one’s OCD greatly affects them. Spouses and other family members often report feelings of frustration, isolation, shame and guilt.

Often spouses and other family members have to adhere to rituals around eating or cleanliness. Or they may have to allow significant time to leave the house so rituals can be completed, or repeatedly provide reassurance or make excuses for their spouse. These types of behaviors by spouses and other family members of those with OCD are called “accommodations” and it has been found that nearly 90% of individuals with OCD live with a spouse or other family member who accommodate their symptoms in a considerable way. Over 80% of family members know that their loved ones obsessions and compulsions are unreasonable and 66% realize that making accommodations does not help to alleviate OCD symptoms. Spouses who participate in or help with compulsive behaviors often become emotionally overinvolved and frequently neglect their own needs. This tends to worsen the cycle of obsessions and compulsions and recent studies have found that avoidances and accommodations made by spouses serve as an indicator of poorer treatment outcomes.

In many instances, it can seem that OCD controls the marriage. Spouses often feel confused, overwhelmed and frustrated and feel like they have to give in and cater to the sufferer’s obsessions in order to keep peace in the marriage. Many spouses fear that not providing accommodations will result in their partner becoming upset, so they go along to get along in an attempt to keep the peace.

Things spouses (and other family members) do to accommodate their loved one with OCD include:

  • Giving reassurance (e.g. reassuring spouse that he or she is not contaminated)
  • Waiting until rituals and compulsions are completed
  • Helping to complete a ritual or compulsion (e.g. checking the door for the individual with OCD)
  • Providing spouse with items needed to perform compulsions (e.g. purchasing excessive amounts of soap)
  • Doing things so the spouse with OCD doesn’t have to (e.g. touching public door knobs)
  • Making decisions for the spouse with OCD because the spouse with OCD is unable to do so
  • Taking on additional responsibilities that the spouse with OCD is unable to perform
  • Avoiding talking about things that could trigger the spouse’s OCD symptoms
  • Making excuses or lying for the spouse with OCD when he/she missed work because of OCD
  • Putting up with unusual conditions at home because of OCD

Many spouses of individuals with OCD become resentful and angry. They begin to feel that their partner isn’t trying hard enough and is selfishly giving in to obsessions and compulsions without regard to the rest of the family or the marriage. Spouses often think to themselves, “Why doesn’t he/she just stop?” But by expressing hostile criticism and telling their partner to “just snap out of it”, they may actually make matters worse.

When a person with OCD begins treatment and recovery from the symptoms of OCD begins, it is important for spouses to be supportive. People with OCD often say that their partner doesn’t understand just how hard they are working and how difficult it is to accomplish something like cutting down on a hand washing routine or not asking for reassurance. While this may seem easy and trivial to their spouse without OCD, it is likely a very big step for them. It’s important to acknowledge, what may seem like small achievements to the non-sufferer and let’s the spouse with OCD know that you recognize their hard work. These acknowledgments are a powerful tool that will encourage the partner with OCD to keep on trying.

Even when things begin to get better it’s important for spouses of individuals with OCD to recognize that OCD is a chronic condition. You will be greatly disappointed if you think that your spouse’s OCD will be completely gone after he/she receives treatment. The condition is chronic – this means the partner with OCD will likely be affected by symptoms of OCD throughout their life cycle, particularly during times of stress and transition. Even positive transition and change can worsen symptoms.

The good news is that there are effective forms of treatment that can help the person with OCD to lead a normal life and can teach spouses of those with OCD to learn what to expect and how to respond to the waxing and waning cycle of OCD. OCD therapists at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando are aware that spouses of individuals with OCD are constantly affected by the demands of OCD and take into consideration the findings of important research that shows that the way a spouse responds plays a role in maintaining and even worsening OCD symptoms. Our therapists will help spouses to learn about and understand their loved one’s disorder and empower them to make a difference.
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