How To Support A Loved One Struggling With OCD

It’s common to hear people joke about someone being “so OCD”, however, a clinical diagnosis of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is far from a lighthearted issue. A clinical diagnosis of OCD traps someone into a life of preoccupations and rituals that can cause extreme distress and destroy one’s quality of life.

WHAT IS OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER?

 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines OCD as ‘a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring obsessions (thoughts) and/or compulsions (behaviors) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.’ Mental acts and common OCD themes include, but are not limited to fear of contamination or germs, need for order and/or symmetry, and recurrent worries about getting hurt.  Per the American Psychiatric Associate (APA), ‘OCD affects 2-3% of people in the United States, and among adults, slightly more women than men are affected. OCD often begins in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood; the average age symptoms appear is 19 years old.’

The COVID-19 pandemic has added additional challenges for people suffering from OCD, particularly those that fear contamination or getting sick. Disinfecting and handwashing guidelines can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. An article published by McLean Hospital notes, ‘Extreme anxiety can cause you to get tunnel vision where we may not be following the recommendations the way we should be because we’re so hyper-focused on a specific piece of it that you forget about the other aspects of the CDC’s guidance…It’s an example of how rituals develop. It’s an attempt to get rid of uncertainty and the anxiety that goes with it.’

 

HOW DO I SUPPORT SOMEONE STRUGGLING WITH OCD?

Knowing how to support a loved one with OCD can also be difficult.  Here are a few things that you can do to help: 

  • Educate yourself on the disorder, provide a safe space of non-judgement, and encourage them to challenge their compulsions when possible.

  • Try to be patient and understanding as this is probably not easy for them to talk about, even though they may want to share their struggles.

  • Most importantly, try not to validate their obsessions and compulsions.

  • Giving into OCD provides temporary relief and exponentially increases long-term distress.

If your loved one has not sought professional help, you can encourage them to talk to their doctor or seek out an OCD specialist. Our team at The Mental Health Collective in Newport Beach, CA is ready to provide resources to you or your loved one now.

Written by: A. Shroeder

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