From the outside looking in, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can be frustrating to understand, and you might find it difficult to positively engage with your loved one.
OCD doesn’t always manifest in innocuous ways like cleaning, sorting objects, or giving in to what appear to be superstitions, but can become extreme during times of stress, as it reflects your loved one’s personal anxieties and fears. They need your support.
At Genesis Psychiatric Solutions, board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Ifeanyi Olele helps both patients and their families navigate obsessive compulsive disorder.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is defined as a series of repetitive patterns and behaviors, or obsessions and compulsions. When you imagine someone with OCD, you might picture someone with a spotless house and organized bookshelf, but that’s just a stereotype.
OCD manifests differently in every person, but there are many shared obsessions and compulsions. Examples include:
- Fear of contamination, dirt, or germs
- Feeling uncomfortable with disorganization
- Difficulty with uncertainty
- Unwanted or intrusive thoughts about sex, violence, or religion
- Compulsive hand-washing
- Repeating mottos, poems, or prayers
- Checking locks and ovens excessively
Ways to support your loved one
You want to support your loved ones, especially when it comes to grief or mental illness, but it can be difficult to connect with them on a productive level.
Supporting someone with OCD requires patience. Never get frustrated with them for their symptoms. Try to find ways to make them comfortable and encourage their growth. Here are four ways you can help a loved one with this disorder.
Don’t diminish their concerns
People with OCD don’t have obsessions or compulsions for no reason, even if they seem pointless or irrational to you. Instead of criticizing their fears, ask them why they feel that way. The more you understand the person’s obsessions and compulsions, the easier it is to help them.
Do empathize with them
Challenging your loved one’s obsessions or compulsions should never be an argument you’re trying to win. This will only make them feel isolated and demeaned for their behavior, forcing them to hide their struggles out of shame.
Make sure your loved one always feels welcome to talk about what they’re feeling, and validate their fears without justifying them.
Don’t enable their obsessions or compulsions
There is a fine line between validation and encouragement, so don’t enable your loved one’s compulsions or obsessions.
For example, someone who compulsively washes their hands might spend a lot of time shopping for soap and exfoliators, so avoid giving those as gifts.
Support their treatment
Perhaps the best thing you can do for a friend with OCD is encourage treatment. No matter how good your intentions, you shouldn’t be their sole source of counsel or support. If they haven’t already consulted a psychiatrist or feel hesitant to do so, offer to go with them to the appointment.
When to consult a psychiatrist
Unless you are their legal guardian, it’s up to your loved one to seek treatment for their OCD. But you can do your own research and find ways to bring up the idea of therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help them learn to recognize obsessive thoughts and compulsions and cope with them more effectively.
Whether you’re looking for a first-time evaluation or a second opinion, Dr. Olele can help you get the diagnosis and treatment your loved one needs. To schedule a consultation, call the location closest to you or visit our contact page for more options. We have locations in Fairfax and Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, DC.