Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD is a mental health condition where a person is obsessed by certain things (such as cleanliness) and has an almost irrational compulsion to perform certain acts (such as constant cleaning). While many people with OCD are able to control their condition and are fully aware of it, there are others for whom it interferes dramatically with their everyday life.
As a friend, family member or partner, dealing with someone who has OCD is challenging, as it is with any mental health condition. A person with OCD might not just have a compulsion to one thing or another, they may also feel ashamed of the condition, recognising that something is wrong but be unable to do anything about it. OCD can involve other consequences such as hoarding and body dysmorphic disorder.
While you may think that OCD is about having to clean or being afraid of germs, it actually comes in many forms. Someone might feel the urge to undertake certain rituals such as tapping the floor to get rid of intrusive thoughts. Some have obsessive sexual or religious thoughts and many people have associated mental health issues such as depression. Getting the right help and a proper diagnosis is important.
Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Because of its nature, OCD can be difficult for someone else to understand. If you have a friend or family member who has this condition, the best thing you can do is learn all you can. There are plenty of online resources and support groups around that can give you all the information you need and also supply hints and tips on how to handle someone with the condition.
The chances are that your loved one has kept their OCD fairly well hidden and talking about it can be difficult. There will be shame and embarrassment but encouraging them to talk is part of the process that can help them get better. That means you have to be very sympathetic and understanding. Irrational behaviour can make you judgemental and irritable – it’s a perfectly natural thing – but you should try to remain calm and look at their world objectively. It’s not easy to do, especially when you are dealing with a loved one, but gets easier once you know the true nature of their condition.
Denying people their compulsion – for example, stopping them from cleaning – generally does not work and getting involved in helping indulge their obsession also isn’t good in the long term. Encouraging individuals to challenge their compulsions can help but you need to find an approach that works for you both.
Convincing someone to find help for the OCD can take a lot of work and many hours of talk and support but it can make a huge difference. Treatments will depend on how severe the condition is and it’s important to support the person through this time. It could include undergoing Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which has proved successful in these cases and involves the OCD sufferer talking about their feelings and finding alternative ways to cope with their anxieties. CBT will also look at the underlying cause of the problem. Medication such as antidepressants may be prescribed alongside CBT though this is often a last resort for more severe cases.
Helping a friend or family member who has OCD takes a lot of time and patience. It’s not a condition that disappears overnight and there may be times when things look to be going backwards rather than forward. Joining support groups helps because you can meet and get to know people who have been through the same or a similar experience. It can also give you a great deal of confidence to know that plenty of people are on your side.