If someone in your life has been struggling with OCD, you may already be aware of how disruptive this condition can be. But you may not realize that you can play a role in improving your loved one’s life. In today’s post, we discuss how to help someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
To determine how to help someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, it’s important to understand what this mental health condition is (and isn’t).
Many people hold the mistaken belief that OCD is simply a strong desire for organization or structure. This is far from the truth. While someone who has OCD may become upset when things are out of order, the symptoms of this disorder are not personality quirks – they are sources of profound distress that can undermine a person’s ability to live a full and satisfying life.
As its name implies, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a complex mental health condition that is characterized by two types of symptoms: obsessions and compulsions.
What Are Obsessions?
In the context of OCD, obsessions are recurring, intrusive thoughts that can cause tremendous psychological pain. Examples of obsessions can include:
- Intense fear of becoming infected or contaminated.
- Repeated unwanted mental images of a violent, sexual, or blasphemous nature.
- Persistent fear that the individual may intentionally or accidentally harm themself or someone else.
- Extreme concern that the individual will accidentally blurt out something offensive.
- Overwhelming desire for order or perfection.
What Are Compulsions?
Compulsions are behaviors that someone with OCD feels that they are forced to perform. In some – but by no means all – cases, compulsions are associated with obsessions. Examples of common compulsions include:
- Washing one’s hands excessively or showering multiple times per day, even if there is no obvious reason to do so.
- Refusing to shake hands or touch other people.
- Needing to perform certain tasks in a certain order before they can leave a room.
- Checking several times to ensure they have turned off a light, locked a door, or performed another basic household task.
- Repeating certain movements over and over again, such as tapping one’s toes or fingers.
Some people who have OCD only have obsessions, some only have compulsions, and some have both types of symptoms. Regardless of what types of symptoms a person has, they will be persistent and emotionally painful, to the point that the individual feels as though they are being held hostage by their thoughts and actions.
How to Help Someone With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The best way to assist someone who has OCD can vary widely from one person to the next. Factors that can influence this include the nature and severity of the individual’s OCD symptoms, your relationship with the person, and their willingness to accept help.
With these caveats in mind, here our four general guidelines for how to help someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder:
1. Educate Yourself
The more you understand about what your friend or family member is experiencing, the better prepared you will be to provide meaningful help. Reading this page and familiarizing yourself with some of the common symptoms of OCD are steps in this direction.
It can also be valuable to talk to or read about others who have OCD, so you can gain greater insights into what it’s like to live with this mental health condition.
2. Communicate With Your Loved One
The general research that you conduct can be invaluable – but the best way to know how your loved one is feeling and discover what they may need is to talk to them. Let them know that you care about them and that you want to support them. Ask how you can help. Then listen to their response.
Your loved one’s willingness or hesitance to talk about their disorder can guide your future actions. If they offer you direct advice, take it and act upon it. If they respond negatively (or fail to respond at all), then plan to revisit the topic at a later time. Don’t nag or pester, but don’t abandon the effort altogether. It may take some time before your loved one feels comfortable about opening up to you.
3. Explore Treatment Options
Your compassion, continued emotional support, and tangible assistance can all go a long way toward improving your loved one’s quality of life. But you can’t lose sight of the fact that OCD is a complex mental illness that may require extensive treatment. You can’t cure someone’s OCD simply by caring about them any more than you could cure a physical disease through positive thoughts alone.
Treatment for OCD can occur at many levels and involve a wide range of therapies and related services. As you educate yourself about this disorder, take the time to also learn about treatment, so that you can help your loved one find the provider whose services align with their needs.
4. Speak With a Professional
In your efforts to decide how to help someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, it’s vital that you don’t overlook the impact that your loved one’s struggles are having on your own life. Scheduling sessions with a therapist or counselor can help you process your experiences and address any difficult emotions that you may be feeling.
When someone that you care about has a serious mental illness, it’s common to have moments of fear, frustration, and even anger. A professional can help you put these feelings into proper context and suggest healthy ways of responding to them. Remember: You cannot be of maximum value to your loved one if you are ignoring your own needs.
Find OCD Treatment in Atlanta
Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers a full continuum of customized services for adults who have been living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. At our OCD treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, your loved one will be cared for by a team of highly skilled and experienced professionals.
Our dedicated team will assess the full scope of their needs, then develop a personalized plan to help them take greater control of their thoughts and behaviors. With proper care and comprehensive support, your loved one can achieve improved health and experience the best possible quality of life. To learn more about how we can help, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.