How to Manage Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Everyone feels anxious at times, it is an inherent part of being a member of the human race. For those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an anxiety-driven condition that affects 1% of the U.S. population, anxiety is only part of the picture.
For people with OCD, feelings of anxiety are accompanied by a set of thoughts, mental images or repetitive cognitive patterns that cause distress.
Those thoughts become burdensome and sometimes the mind develops an idea that a certain set of behaviors will alleviate those feelings of distress. Rather than solving the distress, the behaviors also can become cyclical, much like the thoughts and feelings.
The combination of cyclical thoughts, feelings and behaviors create the perfect storm in someone with OCD.
Sometimes the condition is fairly low grade and can be easily managed, while others experience OCD on a more severe level, which can impact quality of life.
When you love someone with OCD, it can be painful to watch their journey through these difficult circumstances. It may feel as if you are helpless to do anything but stand by and watch the person struggle.
You cannot solve someone’s challenges with OCD any more than you could repair a broken leg for them, but you can be a positive support, and this can make a huge difference.
Offering Useful Support for OCD
Some of the most challenging aspects of OCD are feelings of isolation, loss of control and a general lack of understanding about the disorder from others. As you offer support to your loved one, keep in mind the following suggestions.
Learn about it:
Read about OCD in reputable places. The more you can educate yourself about the disorder, the better support you can offer.
One of the best ways to learn about anything is to ask questions. Ask your loved one to share information with you about their experiences if they are comfortable. If there is something you wonder about, ask or research it independently.
Most people would rather have you ask a question than make assumptions about their thoughts and feelings.
Validate, even if you don’t understand:
You may not be able to comprehend why a person is obsessing on a particular thought or feeling, or why they feel the need to engage in a certain behavior in an effort to alleviate the anxiety.
You don’t need to understand the difficulty to provide validation and support. Instead focus on reassuring your loved one that they will not get stuck in this thought rut forever, that this is a temporary thing.
Validate them by empathizing with how challenging it must be and offer healthy distractions and activities to help move away from the distressing moments.
It might be frustrating to watch your loved one dwell on particular thoughts, feelings and behaviors, particularly as time goes on. Remember that this condition is out of their control. No one wants OCD, it is painful and can sometimes be debilitating.
Encourage your loved one to seek professional guidance on managing symptoms and if you find yourself becoming overly frustrated, take a break and participate in your own self-care.