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How to Help Someone with OCD


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder in which the person suffers from excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). A person with OCD may engage in certain compulsions to alleviate the anxiety caused by their obsessions. Unfortunately, this relief is usually temporary. If you have a loved one with OCD, then you might feel helpless or frustrated at times, as though there’s nothing you can do to help them. Our Florida mental health rehab is sharing some basic tips on how to help someone with OCD that could guide you in walking with your loved one on their road to recovery.

How to Support Someone With OCD

Knowing how to help someone with severe OCD can be difficult, especially if it’s someone you’re close to or live with. There’s always the risk of enabling the person, developing a codependent relationship, or making them feel worse about their condition if the proper measures aren’t taken. You may struggle to understand the person’s symptoms or feel as if their obsessions and compulsions get in the way of your life.

However, your support, understanding, and patience can have an enormous impact on the person’s recovery, and there are plenty of things you can do to help. Here are some great ways to help someone with OCD.

Educate yourself on OCD

We often feel frustrated in situations we don’t entirely understand. It’s like trying to complete a puzzle that’s missing pieces. With that said, the most important move you can make is educating yourself on OCD.

By understanding the common obsessions and compulsions the person may experience, as well as common OCD symptoms, you can help destigmatize this disorder and play an active role in the individual’s recovery. You can also help the other person acknowledge and cope with their urges and compulsions, helping them challenge the black-and-white thinking that people with OCD often struggle with.

Resist offering reassurance

A common OCD compulsion is asking for reassurance. The person may ask the same question repeatedly as a way of reassuring themselves that everything is okay. For instance, a person with religious OCD may ask their friend or partner repeatedly if something they did was sinful. Their instinct would be to reassure them and say, “Of course not!”

As much as you may want to ease their obsessions, know that reassurance only offers them temporary relief. Their compulsion will just be fed by your reassurance, and they’ll most likely fall into a cycle of obsessive thinking. Instead, gently explain to them that they’re seeking reassurance and entertaining an obsessive thought.

Don’t judge them

It can be easy and even tempting to say, “Stop seeking validation from others” or “Why are you always unsure of yourself?” You’re also more likely to judge someone with OCD if you don’t educate yourself on the disorder, mainly because you’ll be viewing their symptoms as something other than the by-product of their disorder.

On the outside, it may seem like someone with OCD is simply self-conscious, socially anxious, unsure of themselves, or overly clean, but this condition is much more impactful and severe than meets the eye. Especially if you’re aware of this disorder, you should know what to say to someone with OCD and what to keep to yourself. They’re likely aware of the nature of their disorder, and your judgment may make them feel worse about their symptoms and contribute to isolation and other problems.

Don’t try to relate to them

People have a natural desire to connect, and in certain areas and situations in life, this can be comforting. In your desire to comfort someone with OCD, you may say, “I completely understand what you’re going through. I am also super OCD. My room always has to be organized, and I’m super meticulous about my assignments.”

However, this is not helpful. OCD is a serious condition linked to distressing, embarrassing, and taboo obsessions. Many people with this condition often feel isolated from others and often endure judgment and stigma from others. Equating these struggles with OCD stereotypes is dismissive of the person’s feelings and may cause them to feel like they can’t come to you for help.

Help them carry out their compulsions and embrace uncertainty

OCD obsessions are derived from a place of uncertainty. Refusing to help the individual overcome their obsessions can lead to anxiety and distress, which could simply make the situation worse. What you can do is point out the obsessive thought and why it holds no weight.

You can also embrace not knowing an answer. If they ask for reassurance, you can say, “I’m not sure” or “It’s hard to know for sure.” Although their initial frustration can be difficult to cope with at first, eventually, they’ll seek validation less often.

Don’t suggest they “try not to think about it”

If people with OCD could simply stop thinking about their obsessions, they would have done it already! What’s more, telling them, “Try not to think about it,” invalidates their feelings and implies that they haven’t tried hard enough, which could upset the person, and with good reason.

Repressing thoughts is actually worse for people with OCD, and whether someone has this disorder or not, we usually tend to think about something more the harder we try not to. So definitely avoid giving this piece of well-meaning but ineffective advice.

Find them help

As much as you may want to help this person, and as good as your intentions are, the best thing for the person is professional mental health treatment. With the help of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other evidence-based practices, the individual may receive the guidance they’ll need to understand their symptoms and learn how to manage them in healthy ways.

So if you’ve wondered, “How do I help someone with OCD?” your main course of action should be steering them in the right direction of getting treatment for their disorder.

Help for OCD

Our Boca Raton Banyan rehab can offer guidance in how to help someone with OCD or other substance use or mental health disorders. Not only do we offer OCD treatment, but we also offer family therapy and support for the spouses, parents, and siblings of patients who have been personally affected by their loved ones’ disorders.

Our inpatient mental health treatment offers comfort and support as patients learn how to navigate their disorders. We teach them practical skills for managing symptoms and day-to-day tasks. No matter how severe your condition may seem, the specialists at Banyan Treatment Center are here to help.

For more information about our mental health services, contact our rehab in Boca Raton, Florida, today at 888-280-4763.

Related Reading:
Relationship Between OCD and Addiction
Anxiety Life Hacks: Habits to Adopt for Anxiety Relief
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
How to Help Someone with OCD
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