Living with OCD, or an obsessive-compulsive disorder referred to by medical professionals, is hard on both the person who has the condition and their loved ones.
The uncontrollable patterns of behaviour, the painful loops of repetitive motion, and the systematic thought cycles that derail successful functioning in people’s daily lives can be a real challenge.
If you have a loved one in your life who’s struggling to live with OCD, keep these things in mind as you continue to comfort and support them.
#1: Avoid excessive criticism
OCD tends to make your brain relive specific encounters, whether positive or negative, over and over again.
These thought loops can become oppressive to the point of exhaustion, mainly when one is focusing on negative thoughts and memories. Try to avoid giving critiques and criticisms to people with OCD. This will ensure your harsh words won’t play on repeat in their heads.
#2: Shine no unnecessary light on their routines
One of the most noticeable components of OCD is specific obsessions or compulsions that a person affected by the condition might need to repeat. For example, checking the switch three times to make sure it’s off or washing their hands every other hour.
These rituals are often unavoidable and can be a source of anxiety for your loved one if they don’t do them. Therefore, try not to draw attention to their actions when it happens. Simply wait patiently until they’re able to move on to the following routine.
#3: Don’t force them to stop a ritual
Speaking of repetitive actions, don’t try to force your loved ones to hit the “stop” button on their repetitious acts. Their disorder is uncontrollable at times, and if you do, it will add to their distress.
Forcing them to move through without completing a ritual or behaviour pattern can make their urge to do it even more severe. This can exacerbate further potential emotional problems, so remember to be patient and let them move through life on their terms.
#4: Be patient when correcting
When you’re helping someone with OCD do something, whether it’s for the first time or correcting their action, it helps to be incredibly patient.
OCD can require a series of behaviours or loops before a new action makes its mark. So, your loved ones may need to repeat some soothing behaviours before they can heed your correction and accept it.
Be patient and let them work through their feelings until they’re ready to listen to what you have to say.
#5: Show your support without enabling
Being supportive is genuinely one of the best things you can do to assist a loved one suffering from OCD. The condition can be an incredibly isolating experience that convinces the sufferer that they are dealing with it alone and singularly responsible for living with and treating it.
However, know the difference between supporting and enabling. It would be best if you were not answering their recurring questions all the time or buying more hand soap to facilitate their routines.
Consider this phrase or come up with your own, “‘It looks like you’re having an obsession and asking me to participate, but I’m not going to do that because I’m on your side, not OCD’s.”
A person with OCD may, at times, do something that seems ridiculous to an average person. For example, they may suffer from an intense fear of sin and feel the urge to “confess” to someone even if they’ve just accidentally brought home a paper clip from the office (true story).
As we’ve shared in this article, remember to hold back on your criticisms even when you feel the urge to correct them. Most people with OCD are aware of their condition, so there’s no need to spotlight their routines or, worse still, force them to stop.
They need your support and positive feedback, not your mindless judgements.