• Visit Our Place

    Los Angeles 90001, California
  • Call Today 24 Hours
  • (888) 306-8231
An image two people holding hands and learning How to Help Someone with OCD

Discovering how to help someone with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) could make a significant difference to their overall wellbeing and functioning.

Today’s guide will outline various strategies for helping a loved one diagnosed with OCD.

Helping Someone with OCD

According to APA (American Psychological Association), OCD affects between 2% and 3% of the U.S. population.

A long-lasting and chronic disorder, OCD is characterized by unwanted fears or thoughts (obsessions) that trigger the performance of rituals or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Compulsions and obsessions are often focused on specific themes – germs and handwashing, for example.

The symptoms of OCD can be distressing and can interfere with daily functioning.

If you want to help someone with OCD, first consider the following preparatory steps suggested by IOCDF (International OCD Foundation):

  • Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of OCD
  • Never participate in rituals or avoidance behaviors of your loved one with OCD

Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of OCD

Family members of individuals with OCD should become familiar with the most common warning signs of OCD. These include:

  • Avoidance
  • Increased irritability
  • Indecisiveness
  • Staying up later to accomplish tasks
  • Increased concern for trifling details
  • Altered eating habits
  • Repetitive behaviors – performing the same task again and again
  • Constant lateness
  • Daily life appears to be a struggle
  • Spending large chunks of time alone
  • Excessive need for reassurance
  • Questioning self-judgment
  • Taking longer than usual with simple tasks
  • Insomnia
  • Intense emotional reactions to minor issues

Rather than dismissing behavioral changes as the personality of your loved one with OCD, note these changes and speak with your loved one about them. View the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder as symptoms rather than as personality traits. This approach should help to reduce anxiety in the person with OCD.

Never participate in rituals or avoidance behaviors of your loved one with OCD

Have you found yourself doing any of the following things in an attempt to help someone with OCD?

  1. Providing reassurance on demand.
  2. Involving yourself in rituals by checking locks or decontaminating objects.
  3. Buying items required for rituals – soap for handwashing, for example.
  4. Tolerating the delays caused by ritual completion.
  5. Helping your loved one avoid triggers for OCD symptoms – taking a detour to avoid certain destinations, for instance.
  6. Engaging in rational debates with your loved one about OCD behaviors.

If you have been doing any of the above, this will do nothing to stop OCD presenting in your loved one. Indeed, participating in OCD rituals can allow them to persist, sometimes becoming stronger through reinforcement.

Speak with your loved one and remind them that if you participate in their rituals, it will deliver nothing but the most fleeting relief. Participation will not alleviate the symptoms of OCD and will worsen symptoms over time. Ensure that your loved one understands you will eliminate participation in rituals from a standpoint of love and concern coupled with a desire to help your family member get the OCD treatment they need.

An image of a woman and her friend learning How to Help Someone with OCD

Tips to Help a Loved One with OCD

While treatment for OCD might not be curative, it typically alleviates symptoms.

How can you help your loved one to cope with this debilitating condition and how can you connect them with the treatment they need? Following this simple framework is a good starting point:

  1. Discover as much as you can about OCD and open a dialogue with your loved one
  2. Keep your expectations reasonable
  3. Help your loved one to embrace uncertainty
  4. Establish how you can help your loved one to deal with compulsions
  5. Encourage your loved one to engage with OCD treatment

1) Discover as much as you can about OCD and open a dialogue with your loved one

The more you learn about obsessive-compulsive disorder, the more you will understand your loved one’s experiences.

You might find your family member with OCD finds it challenging to speak about their compulsions and obsessions. Open an ongoing dialogue with your loved one and pack plenty of patience. You are likely to be dealing with behaviors that seem extreme, irrational, or unrealistic. Above all, ensure you communicate in a way that makes your loved one feel comfortable. Set judgment aside and offer your ongoing support.

2) Keep your expectations reasonable

Many people with OCD find change – even positive change – to be stressful. During these times, symptoms of OCD will often flare up.

If you know that your loved one is facing or undergoing a period of change, adjust your expectations during transitional times. Eliminate family conflict and remind yourself that your loved one will navigate this setback.

3) Help your loved one to embrace uncertainty

Many obsessions experienced by those with OCD stem from a place of uncertainty.

Next time your loved one with OCD seeks reassurance, reply with a non-committal, “Maybe.” Even if your loved one finds this initially frustrating, a neutral response over time can help reduce the sense of urgency your loved one feels when confronted with uncertainty.

4) Establish how you can help your loved one to deal with compulsions

If you find yourself helping your loved one with OCD to engage in compulsions, this is known as accommodation.

While ritual accommodation might seem to reduce anxiety in your loved one, it reinforces the concept of compulsion as a means of dealing with anxiety. Use the IOCDF suggestions above to help your loved one without indulging their obsessions or compulsions.

5) Encourage your loved one to engage with OCD treatment

If your loved one seems resistant to engaging with OCD treatment, here are some steps to help them:

  • Reassure your loved one that any treatment they seek will be confidential.
  • Offer to accompany your loved one for their initial consultation.
  • Ask what you can do to help ease your loved one’s recovery journey.
  • Remember that people with OCD respond to treatment at different rates so do not judge your loved one based on how quickly you feel they should respond to treatment.
  • Make sure your loved one knows you will do anything you can to help them short of participating in rituals.
  • Reinforce the proven benefits of OCD treatment.

If you want to shortcut your loved one’s recovery process, we can help here at LATN.

Therapy for OCD at Los Angeles Therapy Network

If your loved one requires OCD treatment in California, we can help here at Los Angeles Therapy Network.

You may find that your loved one’s physician prescribes SSRI antidepressants as a first-line OCD treatment. If those medications prove ineffective, other types of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may reduce symptoms.

Ongoing treatment for OCD usually involves a combination of psychotherapy and medications.

Psychotherapy or talk therapy can help your loved one to address their obsessions and compulsions. There are two forms of psychotherapy clinically proven to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder:

  1. ERT (exposure and response therapy)
  2. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)

Research shows that group therapy is just as effective as one-to-one treatment for OCD.

To help accelerate your loved one’s recovery from OCD, reach out to Los Angeles Therapy Network today by calling 833.604.1287.

Leave a Comment