How can you support someone with OCD?

supporting someone with ocd

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that can impact many areas of a person’s life.

People living with OCD can experience a wide range of symptoms, including obsessive thoughts and repetitive compulsive behaviours. In more severe cases, the symptoms of OCD can consume a large portion of the person’s time, negatively impacting their daily life, wellbeing, and relationships with others.

Watching someone that you know and love living with OCD can be difficult, upsetting, and at times frustrating too.

If you know someone with OCD and want to know how you can support them better, then this article will provide some helpful tips and advice on things you can do to understand the condition and provide care and support that helps to improve their quality of life.

How to talk to someone who has OCD

It may feel difficult to find the right words when talking to someone about OCD.

Some people may worry about saying the wrong thing or causing upset. While it’s essential to let your loved one know that you’re there for them and want to support them, taking the time to quietly listen to how they’re feeling without any judgement is even more important.

Here are a few simple tips for talking to someone with OCD:

Talk openly about their condition

People with OCD often suffer mental distress caused by the condition.

The obsessive thoughts experienced with OCD can cause anxiety and leave the person feeling exhausted. They may try to hide their repetitive behaviours and compulsions from the people around them or feel ashamed by what they’re doing.

If you know someone with OCD, then it can help to create a safe, non-judgemental environment in which you can both talk opening about their condition.

If it is not openly discussed and avoided instead, it risks confirming their fear that it is something that should be hidden or that they should feel ashamed about.

OCD can also feel like a lonely condition if it is not discussed, and the person feels that they are struggling alone.

Never minimise OCD

Unfortunately, OCD has become a common adjective to describe someone that likes cleanliness or orderliness, something that is entirely different to actually having OCD and minimises the seriousness of the condition.

Be careful never to speak about OCD lightly or try to relate to how the person is feeling as it can come across as if you’re belittling the condition and what they’re going through.

Be patient and non-judgemental

The way you speak to someone with OCD can have a big impact on how they feel.

Expressing criticism or anger could even worsen their symptoms or slow down their recovery.

The compulsions experienced by people with OCD can seem irrational to others, but it’s important to remember that the fear and anxiety they are feeling is real.

Communicating with them in a way that is non-judgemental and patient will encourage them to continue to confide in you and truthfully share how they’re feeling, which will help you to provide them with effective help and support.

How to support someone with OCD

Supporting someone with OCD can be challenging and upsetting at times, but having the backing of their friends and family can make a big difference.

Here are a few ways to support someone with OCD:

Try to avoid helping to carry out compulsions

Sometimes, when compulsions are causing a person with OCD a lot of anxiety or distress, it can be tempting to help them to carry out the compulsion to ease their anxiety and help them move on.

While this may be the easiest route in the short-term, it isn’t helpful in the long-term as it reinforces the belief in their mind that carrying out the compulsion is the only way to ease the associated anxiety.

Have a conversation with the person with OCD before you stop helping with compulsions or offering reassurance about their anxieties.

Explain that helping them with these behaviours is only a temporary solution and you want to help their long-term recovery. Suddenly stopping without any discussion may come across as being mean, losing your patience, or being unsupportive.

Plan how to deal with compulsions together

This comes hand-in-hand with the point above. If you’re going to stop helping someone with their OCD rituals or providing reassurances to any questions they ask repeatedly as part of a compulsion, then you need to have first made a plan together of what you’re going to say or what actions you could take instead to help them to overcome the compulsions and ease their anxiety.

Watch out for warning signs

Many people with OCD hide their compulsions from others. By keeping an eye out for signs that someone with OCD may be struggling or that their symptoms are worsening, you can step in and offer help or help them to seek professional support sooner rather than later.

Warning signs could include being perpetually tired, taking longer to complete tasks, often being late, spending a lot of time alone, irritability or extreme emotional reactions, and avoidance.

Show support and offer a hug

The best way that you can support someone with OCD is simply by being there for them, constantly showing up, and providing a warm and comforting hug when it is most needed. Let them know you care for them and want to help and ask them what you can do to help and make them feel supported.

Help them seek further support

One of the most valuable things you can do to support someone with OCD is to encourage them to seek professional treatment. If they feel reluctant or anxious about getting help, then it may help to offer to go along with them to the first appointment.

How to understand what someone with OCD might be going through

If you would like to understand OCD better, the best way to improve your knowledge of the condition and how it is treated is by taking a course like the OCD and Personality Disorder Masterclass that we run here at Care Business Associates.

Find out more about our OCD and Personality Disorder Masterclass online or book your place on the course today by calling us on 01772 816922.