Therapy Thursday June 16 2022

How to Support a Family Member Who Has OCD

When someone you love faces a mental health diagnosis, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), you might find it hard to understand the best way to support them. It can also become stressful knowing what or what not to do. However, family support for individuals with OCD is imperative in helping them overcome OCD compulsions and behaviours.

In many ways, it’s about having open discussions regarding what works and what doesn’t work. At the same time, there are certain guidelines you can follow to help your loved one—as opposed to enabling unwanted compulsions and behaviours. So, what should you know? How can you support your loved one in the best way possible?

The Importance of Family Support for Individuals with OCD

The gold standard for therapeutic treatment of OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), which is a sub-category of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This type of therapy encourages individuals with OCD to allow obsessive-compulsive thoughts to occur without acting on them or performing a ritual to make them “right.”

However, this type of therapy can easily be side-tracked if, at home, family members are going along with the individual’s obsessive thoughts and compulsions. And this can be really tempting to do to make it easier for both parties involved. For instance, a family member might find themselves helping the individual carry out their compulsions or reassuring the individual as they act on their compulsions. Yet, in the long-term, this isn’t helpful. In fact, it’s actually enabling your loved one and their OCD. It’s reinforcing their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

For treatment to be successful, an individual must learn that their anxiety will go away without having to perform these routine behaviours.

So, what can you do?

While the help and actions your loved one is willing to accept may vary based on their circumstances and your relationship, first and foremost, it’s important to talk about it. Be patient and don’t judge. Offer empathy and compassion. Most importantly, learn more about OCD. This can help you understand them better.

Additionally, you can:

  • Help them seek out the appropriate treatment
  • Agree on an approach that supports them and works for both of you
  • Encourage them to challenge their compulsions and behaviours when appropriate
  • Provide emotional support
  • Seek out advice and support for yourself (you need to take of you too!)

If you’re looking for support for your loved one or yourself, the Anxiety Care Centre is here to help. It’s okay to not be okay. Together, we can pave the way toward the life you’ve always wanted. Contact me today to book your appointment.