January 12, 2021

How to help someone with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

It can be challenging when you have a loved one that suffers from OCD. Especially, when the OCD interferes with their everyday life. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to help. These are discussed below.

Understand OCD

It is a good idea to read as much information on OCD as you can. Understanding OCD and how it works will help to recognize the ways that your loved one is affected, and the ways that you can help.

To read more information on OCD, you can view our pages on OCD and getting help for OCD.

Help them to feel supported

It can be easy for someone to feel alone and isolated as they try to cope with OCD. Your attitude towards their difficulties can make a difference.

Show acceptance- Their difficulty to control their obsessions and compulsions might make them feel like they are flawed. For this reason, it is important to let them know that they are not flawed, and they are loved and valued no matter what.

Give validation- The OCD might be something that is difficult for you to understand, but it is a real problem for them. Acknowledge the ways that OCD is an issue for them with an attitude that is non-judgmental and non-critical.

Be patient- The OCD might make it difficult for them to do certain activities. It will take some time before they can learn to overcome this disorder. Be patient and continue to show your support without putting on too much pressure.

Help them to find the right support

You can encourage them to find support through a GP or a therapist. If this involves your young child, you can contact these services. You might:

  • Help them to book an appointment with a GP or therapist.
  • Offer support when they attend appointments (e.g. waiting in the waiting room or attending some sessions if you need to)
  • Help them search for support groups or self-help resources (e.g. leaflets, mindfulness apps, relaxation sessions)
  • Encourage them to keep attending sessions and to not give up
  • Remind them to take their medication
  • Give them small reminders to do their homework assigned by the therapist

Talk openly about OCD

It is good to engage your loved one in open conversations about their difficulties with OCD. Often times, your loved one might feel embarrassed about their obsessions and compulsions.

Being able to talk about it means that your loved one does not have to feel ashamed. This might also help you to discuss different strategies that you can try together, to overcome some of their difficulties.

Help them to live as normally as possible

Encourage them to continue to do activities even if some might cause them to feel a bit anxious. For example, do not stop inviting friends over at the house because of the fear of germs.

Help them to live life as normally as possible instead of accommodating the fear. Helping your loved one to continue to avoid certain situations does not help them to overcome OCD in the long run.

Set limits

When it comes to our loved ones, it makes sense to do whatever it takes to help them cope with OCD. But this is not always a good thing. It is important to set limits on how much reassurance you can give when they feel anxious.

You might have a conversation with them or discuss with their therapist on how much reassurance you can provide. This might seem a bit harsh, but it helps your loved one to learn how to tolerate feelings of discomfort and overcome the OCD.

Point out their strengths

It is good to remind your loved one of the things they are good at. It can be easy to focus on all the ways that they struggle with OCD and can’t do certain activities. Point out their strengths and the areas where they do well. This will help them to build their self-esteem and remind them that they are separate from the disorder.

Look after yourself too

It is extremely important for you to look after yourself. Whether you are a parent, family member or a friend, you will be in a better position to give help, as long as you are taking care of your own well-being too. To do this you might:

  • Get other family members also involved in supporting your loved one
  • Schedule some time off for yourself
  • See a professional that can support your mental health

To read more about looking after yourself, see our page on self-care when helping someone else.

List of useful resources

NHS

To read more information about OCD on the NHS website, you can click here to access the link.

MIND

To read information about helping someone with OCD on the MIND website, you can click here to access the link.

OCD Action

To read information about helping someone with OCD on the OCD Action website, you can click here to access the link.