Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can make it difficult to maintain healthy, happy and secure relationships. This mental health disorder manifests as obsessive tendencies, recurring thoughts and the desire to perform various rituals for no clear reason. If the person is unable to do these things, they become anxious and upset. Because these obsessive tendencies invade every aspect of a person’s life, relationships are often severely impacted.
While difficult, it’s important that the family members of loved ones with OCD have an understanding of the disorder and know how to coexist in a household together. Family therapy can be a valuable tool in teaching family members about OCD and how to support their loved one. This post covers some general guidelines on living with a person who has OCD.
Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
First, let’s begin with explaining what OCD is and isn’t. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health disorder that can affect people of all ages and walks of life. The disorder causes a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.
- Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger negative emotions.
- Compulsions are behaviors a person does to get rid of the unwanted obsessions, as well as decrease distress.
Most people have obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors at some point in their lives, but this does not mean that it’s OCD. In order for a diagnosis to be made, the person must have extreme cycles of obsession and compulsion to the point that it interferes with their daily lives.
Common Obsessions in OCD
While there are many, many obsessions that a person can have, here are some of the most common:
- Contamination. Germs, disease, environmental contaminants, household chemicals, dirt and bodily fluids.
- Losing control. Fear of violence, harming others or harming oneself.
- Harm. Fear of harming others or being responsible for something terrible, such as a car accident.
- Perfectionism. Concern with needing to know things or remember things. Concern with exactness or evenness.
- Unwanted sexual thoughts. Sexual obsessions, perverse sexual thoughts or sexual impulses.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person does to make the obsessions go away. Some common compulsions include:
- Washing and cleaning
- Checking on things
- Repeating activities or body movements
- Mental compulsions like counting while performing a task
- Arranging things in a certain order
- Avoiding situations that are triggering
Tips for Living with Someone Who Has OCD
While it can be difficult to be calm, reassuring and upbeat when you’re living with someone who has OCD, it’s important to try. If the other person senses your frustration, this will cause stress, and the stress will worsen OCD symptoms. Feel free to step out and take breaks as needed to collect your thoughts.
In the meantime, here are some of the best things you can do for your loved one.
Recognize the signals
Learning to recognize the warning signals of OCD can help you prepare for the symptoms. This way, you can support your loved one rather than alienate them. It’s also important to remember that these symptoms are not personality traits, but rather symptoms from a disease.
Signs to watch for include:
- Spending more time alone
- Doing things over and over again
- Excessive need for reassurance
- Increased concern for minor details
- Severe emotional reactions
- Changes in sleeping or eating
Modify your expectations
Working with a family therapist can help you develop more realistic expectations, particularly during times of transition. Remind yourself that your loved one is going through many changes, so it’s normal for symptoms to worsen at times. Like other mental health disorders, OCD doesn’t just go away. It must be treated with a combination of medication and counseling.
Remember that everyone heals at their own pace
Another important thing to remember is that everyone heals at their own pace. If you push your loved one to function at a level they can’t, it will only create more stress in their lives. Be patient, as your loved one will respond in their own time. As long as small, gradual improvements are being made, you’re moving in the right direction.
Celebrate small milestones
Speaking of small improvements, make sure that you recognize and celebrate them. Acknowledging this progress is a powerful way to show your loved one that their hard work is paying off. This gives them the motivation to keep trying. Even the smallest things – cutting down a shower by a few minutes or washing hands one less time a day – should be recognized.
Create a supportive environment
OCD gets on everyone’s nerves. Your loved one doesn’t like it either. Learn about the disorder so that you can provide your loved one with the encouragement and reassurance they need to get better. Without this supportive environment, your loved one might alienate themselves, which will only worsen the disorder.
As part of creating a supportive environment, it’s also important to keep a normal, consistent routine and make sure your loved one is taking their medications on time. And, never feel guilty about taking time away for yourself. OCD cannot run everyone’s lives, so make room in your schedule for “me time.”
Getting Help for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Breathe Life Healing Centers offers comprehensive treatment services for obsessive-compulsive disorder. We utilize both evidence-based therapies and holistic therapies to treat the mind, body and spirit of our clients.
In addition to our various levels of care, we also offer a Family Therapy Program in Los Angeles that works on self-care tactics, setting boundaries and securing the core family. To learn more about our treatment for OCD, contact our admissions team today.