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Explains what obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
If someone you love has OCD, knowing how to support them can be hard. You may struggle to understand their experiences, or feel that their obsessions and compulsions get in the way of daily life.
But your support and understanding can make a big difference, and there are things you can do to help.
Your loved one may find it difficult to talk about their obsessions and compulsions. They may have kept them secret for a long time and be very worried about your reaction.
It can help to acknowledge this and encourage them to talk about their experience in a way that feels comfortable to them.
"I could feel loved ones' frustration at my need to still carry out these compulsions, despite us both knowing it was illogical."
One of the hardest things about living with someone with OCD is working out how to deal with their compulsions. You may find it yourself helping them - this is sometimes called accommodation. For example:
Refusing to help can increase someone’s anxiety and makes things more difficult for both of you. But helping someone with their compulsions isusually not helpful in the long term. Every time someone acts on a compulsion (including asking for reassurance), it reinforces the belief that the compulsion is the only way to deal with their anxiety.
Treatment for OCD helps people learn that their anxiety will reduce naturally, even if compulsions are not completed.
"Your first thought is why aren't they helping me check... but if you step back, breathe you realise they are not helping because they care."
Try and work out some alternatives together. Your approach might depend on what your loved one thinks about their compulsions and whether they are receiving treatment. Here are some things you could try:
"My husband knows he has to tell me when I start collecting things and my daughter will remind me by asking if something is what I want or an OCD problem."
Your loved one may find it difficult to talk to their doctor about their OCD and seek treatment. Here are some ways you could support them:
Supporting someone with OCD can be frustrating and upsetting at times. Make sure you take time to look after yourself too.
This information was published in May 2019. We will revise it in 2022.
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