Ways to be Supportive of a Loved One with OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that is characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Obsessions are unwanted and recurrent impulses, images, or thoughts that cause anxiety or distress. Compulsions are behaviors or rituals that a person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, in an attempt to reduce anxiety or distress. These behaviors may seem unreasonable or excessive, but they are often done in an attempt to prevent or neutralize the obsessions. When a loved one is suffering from OCD, it can be challenging to know how to go about it. Not to fret though as this article has some excellent tips. 

Educate Yourself About OCD

Understanding the condition can help you better understand your loved one’s experiences and how to support them. You can find reliable information about OCD from sources such as books, podcasts, and reputable organizations such as the International OCD Foundation. They can have an OCD assessment in Glasgow and share the information with you to assist in supporting them.

Avoid Enabling/Reinforcing Their Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

It can be tempting to accommodate a loved one with OCD by performing rituals for them, helping them avoid situations that trigger anxiety, habitually reassuring them, or changing your routines to accommodate their behaviors. However, this can reinforce their cycle of obsessive and compulsive behaviors and may not be helpful in the long run.

Examples of accommodation might include:

-Washing your hands when your loved one asks you to

-Doing a task for your loved one to help them avoid anxiety, like opening doors for them

-Providing materials needed to continue compulsive behaviors, like buying large amounts of cleaning supplies

-Changing your schedule to help the person with OCD

-Reassuring your loved one about their fears, such as repeatedly reminding them the oven is turned off

If you find that you are enabling your loved one’s OCD behaviors, it’s important to recognize this and make an effort to change your own behaviors in order to stop reinforcing their OCD. This can be challenging, but it can ultimately help your loved one manage their condition more effectively.

Be Flexible With Your Expectations

Keep in mind that OCD is a chronic condition, and people with OCD improve at varying rates. The symptoms may reappear or intensify during times of stress. So, support your family member or friend by celebrating their progress and reminding them to keep moving forward, even when they experience barriers. It’s important to remember that change takes time and setbacks are not unusual.

Provide OCD Support Without Reinforcing the Behaviours 

While it’s not possible to stop an OCD patient from experiencing obsessions, you can instead create boundaries around not assisting with compulsions. This can be challenging because it may mean your family member experiences more distress in the short term, but reinforcing their OCD behaviors is not helpful in the long run.

It may be difficult for your loved one when you change your behavior, and they may feel more anxious. It’s important to explain that you are setting these boundaries because you care about them and want them to get better. You can also work with a therapist who can assist you to stop accommodating their OCD.

Offer to Help them Seek Treatment 

There are various effective treatments that can help a person with OCD manage their obsessions and compulsions. The most common treatment for OCD is therapy, typically exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. Medication can also be an effective solution for OCD patients.

If your loved one is reluctant to seek treatment, they may have concerns about being judged or have other reasons for not seeking help. It can be helpful to offer your support and encouragement as they explore treatment options and to reassure them that seeking treatment is a positive step toward managing their condition.

If they still refuse, respect their decision and let them know that you will always be available for help. Let them know that your offer to support them in finding treatment still stands and that you are there for them whenever they are ready to take that step.