When a friend or family member lives with a mental illness, we want to do everything we can to help them. Every mental health disorder comes with different symptoms and reactions, which means individuals with these disorders need different types of support and care. Learning more about how obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) works is the key to supporting someone with OCD while still taking care of yourself. Learn more with these tips for supporting a loved one with OCD.
Be an Open and Patient Listener
Like all mental health disorders, OCD can be a difficult topic of conversation. However, open communication is a vital part of offering and receiving support. That’s why it’s essential to be patient and understanding when your loved one talks about their experiences.
Hearing about your loved one’s fears, obsessive thoughts, or other experiences isn’t always easy, but when you’re a good listener, you encourage them to keep sharing their thoughts with you. This creates better trust and strengthens your relationship, making it easier to support each other and find help moving forward.
When you care about someone, it’s natural to want to provide relief when they’re distressed. With OCD, this relief often looks like helping someone carry out their compulsions or repeatedly reassuring them when they ask about obsessive thoughts or behaviors. While these accommodations might provide temporary relief, they ultimately reinforce the need for obsessive-compulsive thoughts or actions.
When dealing with OCD, the goal isn’t to eliminate uncertainty that causes anxiety, but to embrace it. What can you do to avoid accommodating your loved one’s thoughts and behaviors? The most effective solution depends on the needs of you and your loved one. Work together to build a plan that you can both refer to when OCD symptoms arise. Gentle reminders such as, “We agreed I wouldn’t answer questions like that” or questions about why your loved one wants to go through with a particular compulsion can help set limits and reduce compulsive behavior.
Encourage Finding Help
One of the most important tips for supporting a loved one with OCD is encouraging them to get help. Professional treatment gives your loved one the tools they need to better address their OCD, overcome symptoms, and regain control over their life. A mental health professional will also be able to provide more information about OCD and its treatments so that you and your loved one can better understand the disorder. Seeking professional help takes courage, so be patient and encouraging as your loved one takes those crucial steps toward treatment.