Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental health disorder that affects about 1 in 100 adults in the US. OCD can be extremely disruptive to everyday life. It can cause severe emotional and psychological distress and interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
What IS OCD?
OCD is a complex disorder that stems from a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. It is characterized by obsessions (unwanted, intrusive thoughts or urges) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors or rituals intended to prevent or reduce anxiety caused by obsessions). Contrary to popular belief, OCD is more than just a “quirky personality trait.” It is a serious, chronic mental illness that requires professional treatment.
What You Can Do
Watching a loved one deal with OCD on a daily basis can be heart-wrenching, and it’s not always easy to know how to help. Luckily, there are several things you can do to help your loved one cope with their symptoms.
Educate Yourself About the Disorder
Learning everything you can about OCD and how it affects your loved one can help you better understand their struggles and how to become more understanding and supportive.
Watch What You Say
Avoid making comments that could inadvertently reinforce negative beliefs or encourage the adoption of unhealthy coping mechanisms. For instance, avoid using verbiage like “just snap out of it” or “it’s all in your head.” Such remarks only serve to invalidate your loved one’s experiences and make them feel worse about themselves.
Recognize and Celebrate The Small Wins
As with all mental health disorders, managing OCD takes time and effort. Rather than focusing on how far your loved one has yet to go, take the time to celebrate every small win along the way. These achievements may be as simple as going a day without engaging in compulsive behavior or sticking to an exercise routine.
Most people tend to “walk on eggshells” because they don’t want to upset someone with OCD. But this can actually reinforce the negative patterns of behaviors. On the other hand, establishing healthy boundaries can help encourage positive changes in your loved one’s life.
Encourage Professional Treatment
Although there is no cure for OCD, there are proven treatments that can help effectively manage the symptoms. Unfortunately, OCD often goes untreated because people are embarrassed or ashamed of their symptoms. Encouraging your loved one to speak with a therapist or psychiatrist can help them get the help they need. OCD treatment normally involves medication and psychological therapy.
Advocate For Healthy Lifestyle Choices
In addition to seeking professional treatment, encouraging healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way in helping your loved one cope with anxiety and other OCD symptoms. This includes eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, avoiding drugs and alcohol abuse, and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga.
The Bottom Line
A diagnosis of OCD can be very overwhelming for both the affected person and their loved ones. However, it’s important to remember that there is hope! With proper treatment and the love and support of friends and family, people with OCD can overcome their symptoms and live full and productive lives.