How to Help a Loved One With OCD

Obsessive compulsive anxiety disorder does not just impact the person diagnosed with the mental illness. In fact, it can put strain and stress on the patient’s entire family!

Like any other illness, obsessive compulsive anxiety disorder (OCD) adds pressure to a family simply because a loved one is ill. Unlike purely physical problems – such as diabetes or heart disease – mental illness comes with a societal stigma that can increase the stress on a family. Learning about OCD and how you can help a loved one heal is the best way to ensure successful treatment.

Obsessive compulsive anxiety disorder is characterized by continued, unwanted thoughts, images or sensations – or obsessions – and repeated behaviors – or compulsions. The behaviors can range from hand washing and cleaning to counting and checking. The anxiety that is associated with OCD can also lead a person to avoiding many situations and activities which decreases their enjoyment of life. OCD has a number of psychological and biological causes obsessive compulsive disorder treatment must focus on all of these areas to be successful.

Because of shame and embarrassment, OCD can go undiagnosed for years; but once it is finally discovered, there are a number of ways family members can aid in the recovery process.

• Learn About OCD: Learn everything you can about the mental health issues your loved one is experiencing, as well as his or her treatment. The more you understand, the more supportive you can be while your loved one makes difficult behavioral changes.
• See OCD Habits for What They Are: The obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are just symptoms of a larger problem, not character flaws in the person. Just like extreme hunger and unusual weight loss are symptoms of diabetes, continued hand washing is a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder.
• Don’t Participate in Rituals: Behavioral change is never easy, but continuing to enable compulsive behaviors will only hinder progress. Work with the person suffering OCD to lessen the role that others play in their rituals.
• Celebrate Small Victories: Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. While it may seem like your loved one will never get better, try to see the small achievements and celebrate them! Those tiny victories will add up to a healed person before you know it.
• Take Care of Yourself: Do not forget yourself in this process. Many family members of patients with mental health problems will give up activities and friends to take care of the loved one. Before they realize, the family members are feeling overstressed, overtired and overwhelmed. Create a support system for yourself, avoid isolation, understand the signs of physical and mental exhaustion in yourself, continue to participate in activities outside the family and take a little time for yourself every day. You cannot help your loved one overcome obsessive compulsive anxiety disorder if you are not at your best.

The most important way for your loved one to recover is by getting him or her help. If you think someone you love has OCD, help that person find a solution! Many families support the patient’s behaviors to keep the peace at home or to reduce the short term suffering of the patient or because they simply don’t understand why the person can’t “be normal” and just stop their compulsions.

These attitudes will only make the mental illness worse. If your loved one was diagnosed with cancer, you would insist that person seek help immediately. The same is true with mental illnesses – don’t hope the problem will go away, ignore the signs or assume it’s a “phase”. Find help for your loved one as soon as possible, you will be glad you did!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *