How to Help Someone With OCD

How to Help Someone With OCD

Author: GIA Miami
Published: November 3, 2022

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that often leaves individuals feeling overwhelmed by thoughts that they cannot control. The obsessive thoughts then cause people to act out in a compulsive manner in an attempt to suppress the uncontrollable thoughts and ideas.

With the right help and support, individuals can learn to effectively manage and control symptoms surrounding OCD. If a loved one of yours is living with OCD, it can be difficult to know how to support them in the most effective way. However, by getting educated, avoiding enabling, encouraging treatment, and creating a supportive environment, you can help a loved one with OCD. Read here to find out more.

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

From time to time, we often double-check whether we have locked the door, or may even experience negative and unpleasant thoughts. However, if these thoughts become obsessive and consume you by that interfering with daily life, you may have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by unwanted, uncontrollable thoughts that compel you to perform repetitive behaviors. You are most likely aware that these obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational, however, you are unable to control them.

While no sense of pleasure is gained from performing these compulsive behaviors, they may offer a sense of relief from the anxiety that is triggered by the obsessive thoughts. For example, maybe you have to check the oven 30 times before leaving the house to ease the anxiety that your house may burn down.

Although it may seem like you cannot control your OCD behavior, there are many things you can do in order to break free of these irrational thoughts and urges, and can help you regain control. Alternatively, if you have a family member or a loved one who is living with the disorder, there are many ways in which you can support their mental illness.

OCD Symptoms

Obsessive thoughts are unwanted images, impulses, or intrusive thoughts that you experience repeatedly. Although you may not want to have these thoughts, you cannot control the often distracting and disturbing ideas.

Compulsive behaviors or compulsive rituals are rituals or certain repetitive behaviors that you feel compelled to perform over and over again. Often, compulsive behavior is an act of trying to make obsessive thoughts disappear. For example, you may fear germs and contamination which leads to the development of elaborate hand-washing or cleaning rituals.

The majority of people living with OCD experience both OCD obsession and compulsions, however, there are some who experience one or the other.

Common OCD obsessions include:

  • Ideas of losing your control and harming others or yourself
  • Excessive ideas about moral or religious ideas
  • Fear of contamination by germs or even contaminating others
  • Fear of not having or losing the things that you need
  • Attention to things that are considered unlucky or lucky, intense superstitions

Some common OCD compulsions include:

  • Obsessively double-checking things, such as switches, locks, or different appliances
  • Tapping, counting, or repeating certain words a number of times to try and relieve anxiety
  • Spending lots of time cleaning or washing
  • Hoarding and accumulating lots of junk, for example, newspapers
  • Constantly checking in with loved ones to make sure that they are okay

How to Help Someone With OCD

The way that you respond to a loved one's OCD can impact their outlook on their disorder and their recovery process. Negative emotions such as hostility or criticism can worsen symptoms of OCD while a supportive and calm environment can help increase the chances of a successful recovery.

Wanting to help a loved one's OCD is natural, and there are certain things that you can do that are more effective than others. It's a natural instinct to want to help a loved one carry out a compulsive behavior, in theory, you believe you are helping relieve their anxiety, but unfortunately, this is not helpful in working towards treating their OCD.

Do's

What are some ways that you can help someone with OCD? Below are some 'do's' of help someone with OCD:

Support your loved one: Showing emotional support can help someone with OCD feel confident and accepted. Displaying empathy is essential when helping someone with OCD, it helps individuals to feel understood and connected and is important when communicating with someone living with OCD. Simply try and understand what they are going through.

Be kind and patient: People experience OCD at different severity and there is no set time period to expect an improvement in symptoms. It is important to be patient, you cannot expect someone to improve overnight, it is a slow and gradual process.

Manage your expectations: It is not unusual to feel frustrated about your loved one's OCD symptoms, but feeling like this will make it difficult to provide helpful support. Only measure their progress against themselves, push them to challenge themselves but certainly don't pressure them to be perfect.

Recognize small improvements and be encouraging: Identifying and acknowledging improvements that may seem small is important to show your loved one that you are aware they are making progress. It is a powerful tool that encourages individuals to keep going and trying to work on their symptoms.

Dont's

While there are many things that you can do to help, there are some things and certain behaviors that are best to avoid.

Don't enable their behavior: It is important to try not to confuse support to the point in which you are enabling. Although you may not do this on purpose, enabling means that you are helping your loved one maintain or carry out their compulsive behaviors, and this can cause OCD symptoms to increase in severity.

Don't criticize or tell them off for performing the behaviors: Do not criticize or judge your loved ones' obsessions and compulsions. This can result in individuals trying to hide the severity of their disorder, making it difficult for them to find proper treatment, and can also cause problems within your relationship.

Don't encourage avoidance behavior: Do not help your loved one avoid the things that they are obsessing over, especially if they are a common part of their daily life, it is something they have to work through, not avoid. For example, if they are obsessed with cleanliness, don't help your loved one avoid dirty areas.

Try not to facilitate a loved one's OCD behavior: It is important to not encourage a loved one's symptomatic behavior, such as buying cleaning products for them to obsessively clean with. Encouraging in such a way will reinforce their behavior. You should support your loved one but not their obsessions or compulsions.

How to Help Family Members With OCD

How to Help Someone With OCD

If a family member is living with obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is important to know how to support them effectively. Unfortunately, family life can be affected by a member's OCD symptoms, as family members stress about their loved one's OCD behavior. Maybe you are feeling confused about what to do. Below are some effective ways to support a family member's OCD.

Get Educated

Firstly, to effectively support a family member's OCD, you must understand the disorder. Learning about the causes and symptoms and the things that people with OCD experience will help you better understand what your family member is going through. Maybe you can join the international OCD foundation for further support and education about the disorder. As you gain a better and deeper understanding of OCD, you will be able to understand the different irrational behaviors from a non-personal perspective.

Recognize and Reduce Family Accommodation Behaviors

If a family member has OCD, it is common for families to be affected by the different demands of the disorder. For example, it is not productive to participate in any OCD behavior, perhaps your family member is constantly washing their hands and asking you to wash yours, and you oblige. By doing this you are providing excessive reassurance. You should not change your routine to accommodate a family member's OCD that demands something to be completed at a specific time.

If you are a parent of a child who has OCD, it can be easy to give in to unreasonable demands if you believe it will make them happy. But happiness is only a temporary fix and is not helping solve the issue. Instead, family members can become involved in treatment and play an important role in facilitating improvement compared to enabling the symptoms.

Helping a Loved One Find The Right Treatment

Finding the most effective treatment for you or your family member is crucial for a successful recovery. There are a number of treatment options that have been proven to be beneficial in treating OCD. The most effective OCD treatment plan includes therapy, medication, family education, and a supportive network. When you seek treatment, it is important that you find treatment provided by qualified health professionals who have experience treating OCD.

Although treatment may not result in a cure, individuals will learn to control their symptoms so they no longer control their day-to-day life. Long-term, inpatient, or intensive treatment options may be more suitable for those living with a severe case of OCD.

Medication

Antidepressants are often prescribed to individuals with OCD to help relieve and control obsession and compulsion symptoms. This is especially effective if you or a loved one is living with any related disorders, such as major depression. Most commonly, antidepressants are prescribed first. Some antidepressants approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of OCD include:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Sertraline
  • Paroxetine

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a form of therapy that exposes you to your fears and obsessive thoughts. It starts with individuals confronting situations or items that cause anxiety. After a few attempts, you will find that anxiety does not increase or stay as intense as it once did when facing an anxiety-inducing situation. This is just one example of exposure exercises, individuals typically practice a few of these methods.

Facing your fears during treatment is extremely brave and many patients find that the different exposure exercises are not as difficult as they believed they would be. Tackling anxiety and fears in this way helps boost confidence and morale, making it easier to tackle more difficult challenges later on. Exposure and response prevention is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy.

ERP differs from other forms of talk therapy as typical psychotherapy aims at improving your condition by helping you understand and gain insight into your different problems. Although an extremely effective treatment for many different disorders, there is not much evidence to support the effectiveness of psychotherapy in treating OCD. Traditional talk therapy may be effective at different points in your treatment plan and may be utilized to work through co-occurring disorders.

Family Therapy

Family members being a part of a loved one's treatment is an important aspect of one's treatment plan. There are different support groups that gather individuals with OCD and their different family members to allow space for learning about the disorder, the different impacts it has had, and discussion of coping strategies. These group formats allow families affected by OCD to feel less estranged or isolated. It empowers and relieves individuals and their family members that there are many different people who are living in similar scenarios with the same questions, concerns, and conflicts.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a relatively new form of treatment that offers an alternative option for individuals who have not experienced the benefits of exposure and response prevention. For the past 10 years, TMS has been FDA-approved as a highly effective treatment option for major depression. In 2018 it was approved by the FDA as an effective treatment for OCD.

TMS is a non-invasive procedure that stimulates activity in certain areas of the brain, that are associated with OCD, using magnetic fields. It is a non-invasive procedure that requires little time and patients are able to return to their normal activities soon after.

Treatment at GIA Miami

At GIA Miami, we offer the most up-to-date and advanced evidence-based treatment options that are tailored to suit all individual's needs. Our team of internationally acclaimed experts and medical professionals have years of experience in treating a range of different mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

We understand that OCD is a unique condition and symptoms can present themselves differently in individuals living with the disorder. This is why we create a bespoke recovery program that is individualized for each patient as the path to recovery differs for everyone. The types of treatment that we utilize at GIA Miami include:

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Psychiatric services

We can provide you with the opportunity for a successful recovery in order to start living your best life. Contact us today to see how we can help you or a loved one who is living with OCD.

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