How to help someone with OCD
OCD is an anxiety disorder that causes repetitive thoughts or sensations (obsessions), which lead the patients to do something repeatedly (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily functioning, leading to distress if the compulsive actions are not undertaken – even if most patients know that their compulsions are unnecessary.
Challenges of people with OCD
For someone with OCD, or as a caregiver for someone with OCD, you know that thoughts that are very random turn out to be unreasonably overwhelming. For some people, it is the irrational urge to clean, or the irresistible need to arrange objects in patterns, or overwhelmingly consuming thoughts of religious or forbidden sexual thoughts. The most common challenges of OCD are:
- Fear of rejection or discrimination: People with OCD are constantly afraid that people would dismiss them because of their mental illness, even though discrimination based on mental health is illegal.
- Not knowing where to find treatment: Many people with OCD say that they don’t know where to find the treatment for their illness, and others may have financial restraints in seeking psychotherapy. However, there are many financially-assisted programs for people with mental illnesses that would help them get the treatment they need free of cost or for a minimal fee.
- Not believing symptoms to be severe enough: Many people reject treatment or help because they don’t think that their symptoms are severe enough or that getting help would improve their quality of life.
- Fear of change: Seeking treatment may look like you’re giving up control of your life the way you’re used to, but treatment actually helps patients gain greater control.
- Embarrassment: It is understandably embarrassing to reveal your obsessions to someone, especially if they pertain to sex or forbidden thoughts, but therapists are experienced in all kinds of obsessions and know how to deal with them.
Providing support to someone with OCD
There are four steps to help someone with OCD, and these would be especially useful if you’re a family caregiver for someone with the condition.
- Help them develop a determination to overcome the problem. This is a tough call, and going through short-term pain for long-term gain may seem daunting, but if a patient sets their mind to it, they can greatly help themselves.
- Make them understand that their worries are irrational. The obsessions may be powerfully disturbing, but the patient has to learn to dismiss them and realize that what they fear is not going to happen.
- Make them see that ritualizing a compulsion is not the solution to their distress. Resisting the urges is the only way to understand that nothing will happen if they don’t act on their compulsions.
- Help them accept their obsessions. This may seem terrifying, but once a patient learns to admit that they have obsessions and that they don’t need to act on them, they will be on the path to a better, less anxious life.
If you are a family caregiver for someone with OCD, we understand that you’ve taken on a tough role, which is all the more applaudable. If you ever feel exhausted or stressed and want to speak with someone who relates, try ExtendaTouch’s OCD support group online. You can use the online helpline to connect with other caregivers with similar experiences. The online community members can provide you emotional support besides sharing useful information with you.