Have you ever wondered how you could support a loved one who has OCD? As the new year begins, it’s a good time to reflect on the life you want to live. You may look back at the past year—times you struggled, times you excelled—and move toward new resolutions and goals. One of those goals may be supporting someone you care about who suffers from OCD. You may wonder how you can be present for them when they need it most.
OCD looks different in everyone who suffers from it. There’s no simple solution, and no checklist that you can rely on to be there for your loved ones with OCD. That being said, here are some things to keep in mind that may help you be as supportive and helpful as you can for the people in your life who are struggling.
1. Educate yourself and show interest in their experience
The act of showing interest in others’ experiences may be simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Even if you haven’t had the same experience as them, that’s okay. You don’t need to experience the same things to show consideration and compassion. For someone who is struggling with a mental health condition, just showing empathy can go a long way.
Often, people who struggle with OCD can feel isolated. Feeling like they are the only person with their symptoms and that no one else could understand is very common. Many report that they don’t want to share what they are going through because they don’t want to be a burden on others. They may feel that speaking about their problems will make others uncomfortable or upset.
You can help them find some relief: ask questions, be curious, educate yourself, and explore others’ experiences. In doing so, you can show genuine concern for their well-being. This opens the door for conversation, and lets the person know that you want to hear about their experience because you care. When you do this in a non-judgemental manner, it allows others to trust that you will walk alongside them, even if the information they share is hard to understand.
2. Support them and be present
Let them know that you are making an effort to understand what they are going through, and that you will be there for them when they need you. Sometimes when someone opens up and is vulnerable with us, we feel unqualified to help. We often seek to “fix” or “solve” the problem our loved one is experiencing. And when we can’t fix it, we may tend to avoid it. We may have the best intentions in the world, but we can unintentionally send the message that our loved one is beyond help.
People with OCD most likely know that you cannot “fix” them. They have likely spent years and years trying to find someone or something to “fix” it to no avail. What they want is support and care. They want to know that you are not going anywhere and that you will walk alongside them no matter what OCD throws at them. And that’s something that you’re truly qualified to do.
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They want to know that someone will be by their side. They want to know that someone believes they are worth it. They are more important than OCD. People, regardless of whether they have OCD or not, want to feel connected. They long for someone to understand them, to say even though I haven’t walked the same path, I want to be part of your journey. They want you to care for them, even when they act in ways that can be difficult to handle.
Being present may seem like it’s not much, but the truth is that people with OCD, or any mental health condition, need supportive people in their lives. They need people who can stay by their side and not run away, even when it is difficult.
3. Acknowledge that stressful times and change can be triggering
Please remember that if you have a loved one who struggles with OCD or any mental health condition, it is not unusual for the holidays, travel, and the new year to be difficult. Stress, in general, can be a catapult for mental illness. Even excitement or “good” stress can bring an increase in symptoms.
During these times, your loved one may withdraw more. They may not want to be around others. They may seem agitated and frustrated at things that seem unimportant. They may come across as demanding or rigid. You may see an uptick in their compulsions, or they may be engaged in compulsions that you cannot see.
Of course, it is not your job to “fix” this or to orient your life to avoid stressful or triggering things for them. Your role is to be a positive presence in their lives. It is possible to show compassion without accommodating or strengthening the behaviors. Gentle reminders to them that you understand they are going through a difficult time and that you will encourage them to resist compulsions can be helpful. You can validate their experiences while at the same time keeping your boundaries intact.
Starting the new year off on the right foot
You can also help loved ones with OCD by encouraging them to find qualified, effective treatment if they aren’t already doing so. Educating yourself, supporting them, and validating their experience are all very important and cannot be understated. At the same time, not everyone struggling with this condition knows that help is readily available. They may think that their experiences are “just the way it is.” They may feel stuck. People with OCD often go many years without an accurate diagnosis.
The NOCD community is here to help you and your loved one. The good news is that today, effective treatment with a therapist who specializes in OCD is more accessible than ever, and overall awareness about OCD is on the rise. If your loved one is struggling with OCD and needs to work with a licensed therapist with specialty training, there’s no better time than right now.
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Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is the gold standard treatment for OCD and is backed by decades of clinical research proving its effectiveness. ERP treatment teaches you to respond to your thoughts and fears without performing compulsions, building a tolerance for discomfort and uncertainty in all areas of your life.
All NOCD Therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training from experts who designed some of the world’s leading OCD treatment programs. They understand all themes of OCD and how they can switch from time to time. If you have questions or think that you may need ERP therapy for your OCD, you can speak to someone on our Care Team today in a free 15-minute call. NOCD offers payment plans as well as accepts many insurances. Today, 2 in 3 Americans with commercial insurance can access NOCD Therapy using their health plan benefits.