Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive actions. OCD interferes in the person’s everyday life, such as their work or social engagements. OCD isn’t just a term for someone who likes things neat and orderly — it’s an actual disorder that disrupts a person’s life. A person with OCD is subjected to unwanted obsessive thoughts or a compulsion that is beyond their control.
When someone you love suffers from OCD, it can be hard to know how to be supportive. It can also be difficult to determine whether you are helping or enabling. In this blog post, we are going to discuss what you can do to support and help your loved one while encouraging them to get the help they need. If you or a loved one in the Beverly Hills area suffers from OCD, contact the Blair Wellness Group for professional, effective treatment options.
First and foremost, if someone you love is suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is important for you to do your research and get educated about the anxiety disorder. The more you understand what they are going through, the more you can help.
With OCD, there is a fine line between helping and enabling, and the only way to understand the difference and how to avoid enabling is to learn about the disorder. You can research OCD online or find a therapist to help. Many therapists and counselors have brochures and helpful pamphlets made especially for the family and friends of patients with OCD.
Provide Emotional Support
Showing your loved one that they are protected and loved is one of the most important parts of providing emotional support. While you might not be able to fully understand what they are going through, you can listen when they are ready to talk.
Understanding that your loved one has no control over their obsessive thoughts or compulsive actions is the best way to allow yourself to empathize with them. Listen when your loved one expresses how the thoughts and actions make them feel and empathize with their feelings.
It’s also important to understand that your loved one is going to be frustrated that they suffer from this disorder and can’t fix it by themselves. Their behavior may seem strange for someone not suffering from OCD, and it’s hard to conceive why their symptoms are impossible for them to control without help. Show them you are there for support and can see how hard they are trying.
Don’t Judge or Criticize
When you judge or criticize a person with OCD, not only are you hurting their feelings, but you are also making them feel isolated. Your loved one needs to know that you are there when they need them and that you won’t respond to them with judging or criticizing remarks.
Judgement makes a person feel like they should hide their disorder to avoid further criticism. Without an open line of communication, your loved one is much less likely to ask for help.
Recognize Small Improvements
When your loved one makes small improvements, it’s critical that you acknowledge their efforts and strides. OCD is not something that is going to get better overnight, it takes many small steps for a person to improve their well-being when they have an anxiety disorder.
Small tasks that we may see as minuscule and mundane, for a person with OCD, may be one of the most challenging things they have had to accomplish in their lives. Working through OCD with or without professional treatment is more difficult than someone without OCD can imagine, so be kind and celebrate the small improvements, because many small steps, over time, can lead to a much bigger accomplishment.
It’s incredibly difficult for many people to understand the difference between supporting their loved one with OCD and enabling them. Your first response may be to try to make their lives easier and to modify your own routine, but this simply validates their behaviors caused by the disorder.
Similarly, you must avoid unintentionally reinforcing the compulsive behavior. Many times this occurs because family members and friends are just trying to be empathetic and understanding, but in doing so actually validate the irrational thoughts that cause the behavior in the first place. For example, if your loved one needs to constantly rearrange something, whether it be the food on their plate or the magazines on your coffee table, many people will try to organize these items for them, thus reinforcing the compulsive behavior without even realizing it.
Another way to enable a person with OCD is by assisting in avoidance behavior. This would include avoiding certain places or activities that create stress caused by their OCD. Instead of avoiding, you need to continue to go to these places or participate in these activities if they are a part of your normal routine. Your loved one with OCD needs to clearly see how their disorder is affecting their life.
When someone has OCD, do not enable them by making it easier for them to perform their rituals. A person with OCD needs to see how their obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors are disrupting their life. Only when they fully understand the negative effect that OCD is having on their life will they be ready to seek help.
When your loved one is ready to talk about their OCD or when they get upset because they can’t participate in certain activities or outings, this is a good time to bring up professional treatment. A good tactic is to have informational literature on hand and help them make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of getting help. Ensure your loved one understands that you have their best interest in mind and you just want them to be able to live a life free of OCD.
If you or someone you love lives in the Beverly Hills area and suffers from OCD — Blair Wellness Group can help! Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Dr. Blair, our licensed, clinical psychologist helps to treat a number of different anxiety disorders, addictions, mood disorders, and other psychological conditions. Contact us today for an appointment.