My parents don’t understand OCD or what I need to get better. What can I do?
OCD can strike at any time in a person’s life—many people can distinctly remember experiencing OCD symptoms as early as age 4 or 5. While the condition is often debilitating, the good news is it’s also highly treatable. OCD can be treated at any age, so if you think you may have OCD, it’s important to seek help. But if you live with your parent(s) or guardian(s), we know it can get a bit complicated, since they may not fully understand your experiences or what you need to get better.
Having OCD is stressful enough, and communicating about it with family members can make it even more exhausting. OCD itself might cause you to resist talking to your parents about OCD at all. You may ruminate on specific worries: What if they don’t understand? What if they think I’m crazy? What if they just shrug it off? What if they force me into the wrong treatment?
If you’ve already talked with your parents about OCD and they don’t seem to understand, or if you haven’t spoken with them yet about OCD, we want you to feel as prepared as possible. Here are some tips for the conversation:
You don’t need to start by talking with your parents
If speaking with your parents feels scary, you can start by having a conversation with someone else. Sharing your experiences, goals, and knowledge with a close friend or another trusted family member might seem less intimidating, and can help you feel more ready to have conversations with your parents. Here are additional guidelines for talking to your parents and loved ones about OCD.
If you live with more than one parent or guardian, you can also start off by speaking with just one of them. Start with the person you feel most ready to talk to, and who you think will be most ready to listen.
Take some time to understand your symptoms, so you can in turn help your parents understand them
The better you understand your own symptoms, the better you’ll be able to help your parents understand what you’re going through and what you need to get better. You can try spending a few days simply jotting down your thoughts, fears, anxieties, and compulsive behaviors. If you enter the conversation with specific experiences, your parents may be able to notice your obsessions and compulsions themselves, and they’ll be better equipped to learn more about OCD.
Provide your parents with resources that are meaningful to you
Is there an article or video that helped you understand your experiences, or that taught you about OCD effectively? Was there something you watched or read that made you think, “that’s exactly how it feels”?
If you ever found a resource online that you really connected with, or that made you feel like someone else understood what you’re going through, bookmark it or make a note of the name. Those resources will allow your parents to learn about your personal experience with OCD, rather than just what they find for themselves.
Talk to your parents about your recovery goals
Misunderstandings about OCD are extremely widespread, and the same is true for OCD treatment. Let your parents know that you’re sharing with them not only to help them understand your experiences, but also because you know that they can help you get better. After talking to them about the fears, frustrations, and negative experiences of OCD, you can tell them about all the positive experiences and freedoms you want to have in recovery, and the goals you have for your journey.
Work together to find the right care
You can also help your parents understand that there are real ways for them to support you in learning to manage OCD long-term. You may have already learned that exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is the gold standard treatment for OCD, and that it’s backed by decades of research showing that it can help people with OCD live better lives. Look through articles and videos about ERP to find the ones that helped you understand how ERP works, and share these with your parents so they can work with you to live a happy and healthy life.
If you and your parents have spoken about ERP therapy and want to look into treatment options, there are several ways to learn more. You can search for providers through the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) or Psychology Today to find therapists in your area who treat people with OCD (we recommend that they ask any therapist this list of five questions to ensure they are trained in ERP).
You can also find therapists who specialize in ERP and provide virtual treatment, which can be even more effective than in-person ERP. NOCD’s network of ERP-trained therapists is available to people inside and outside of the U.S. and is one of the most cost-effective solutions available today—we even accept many insurance plans to help make treatment even more affordable. When you schedule a free 15-minute call with us, our team will help you find a licensed, ERP-trained therapist in your area and to help you begin working with them as soon as possible.
NOCD Therapists specialize in treating OCDView all therapists
Licensed Therapist, MA
I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.
Licensed Therapist, LCMHC
When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.
Licensed Therapy, LMHC
I've been a licensed counselor since 2013, having run my private practice with a steady influx of OCD cases for several years. Out of all the approaches to OCD treatment that I've used, I find Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy to be the most effective. ERP goes beyond other methods and tackles the problem head-on. By using ERP in our sessions, you can look forward to better days ahead.