How to Help Someone With OCD
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychological condition that affects thousands of people. If one of your friends has been diagnosed with OCD or if you have noticed signs of OCD in a friend or family member, here are a few things you could do to help them:
Learn as much as you can about OCD from reliable sources. This could include consulting a mental health professional, books or websites that provide information about OCD.
Encourage your friend to seek professional help to manage OCD. Treatment may include a combination of therapy and medication.
Encourage your friend to talk to other people (s)he can trust, or seek support from others you can trust after checking with your friend.
People with OCD realise that their fears are unrealistic. It is helpful to avoid criticising, making light of or shaming your friend for their obsessive thoughts or compulsions, as it might end up increasing their distress. Encouraging your friend to resist doing compulsive behaviours when (s)he is in a good mood may help.
While you and your friend might be aware of the irrational nature of obsessions and compulsions, it is essential to validate your friend’s emotions and express your understanding of their distress and anxiety. This is particularly helpful when there are life changes and transitions as these are likely to be stressful for people with OCD, and can sometimes worsen their symptoms and distress.
Acknowledging the small gains made by your friend in therapy can be very helpful. For instance, you could praise your friend when (s)he starts taking lesser time for a task than they used to. This would provide them the motivation and support they need for continuing therapy.
Avoid “Accommodation Behaviours”
Accommodation behaviours are the things we do in order to help someone reduce their anxiety. This could include helping your friend carry out compulsions, changing your schedule to prevent them from feeling upset or bringing things that might help your friend to carry out their compulsions. While these behaviours are done with the best intentions, and because we are unsure of how else to help a person with OCD, they usually worsen OCD, and impede progress in treatment.
Helping someone with OCD is difficult. At times, it can even make you feel inadequate or annoyed with your friend, following which you might also feel ashamed or guilty for feeling annoyed. Engaging in other supportive relationships and taking time for yourself can provide you with the emotional resources that you need, to help someone with OCD. You could also join support groups or consult a psychologist who can help you prevent burnout, and learn to help your friend effectively whilst ensuring that you take care of yourself too.
Khanna, S. & Reddy, Y. J. (2004). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an Indian perspective.
The Therapy Community (2009, Spring). Living with someone who has OCD. OCD newsletter.
Obsessive Compulsive Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. (2006). How to help your child. A parent’s guide to OCD.
International OCD Foundation. (n.d.). What you need to know about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Torres, A. R., Hoff, N. T., Padovani, C. R., & Ramos‐Cerqueira, A. T. D. A. (2012). Dimensional analysis of burden in family caregivers of patients with obsessive–compulsive disorder. Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences,66(5), 432-441.
If you think you might be suffering from OCD, you can always reach out to us by contacting an InnerHour therapist who will be able to help you.
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