What can friends and family do to help?

This section is for friends and family who want to support someone they know with OCD.

Listen and try to understand

Friends or family can help a lot by accepting the feelings of the person with OCD and understanding that they find it difficult to cope with them. Finding out about the condition and showing you understand what they are going through can be a very important source of support.

It is helpful if you can understand that it can be particularly difficult for someone experiencing the symptoms of OCD to acknowledge their thoughts, especially if they are shameful or embarrassing.

Support them in getting help

“Living with my daughter who has OCD is an emotional roller coaster… but having found the right medication and therapist, she is coming on in leaps and bounds.”

If the person you know with OCD is working to a self-help programme, either on their own or with a therapist of some kind, you might be able to support them with this, or go to treatment sessions with them.

Directing your friend or family member to information materials or personal stories about other people’s experiences can also help them understand their condition and make them feel less alone.

Work out how to deal with compulsions

It can be distressing to watch someone you love carrying out compulsive behaviours. However, trying to prevent your friend or family member from carrying out a compulsive behaviour is often counterproductive and tends to increase their anxiety. Your friend or relative might ask you to go along with their compulsions; for example, not going into the bathroom until it has been cleaned. This can be disruptive and does not always help to relieve their anxiety.

There is no right or wrong answer for how to deal with this, but talking about it together might help. If your friend or family member is getting professional help, the professional responsible for their care may be able to advise you on how best to deal with this in your individual situation.

Get support for yourself

It can be distressing to be close to someone experiencing OCD, particularly if you are caring for them. You might find it useful to talk to other people in the same situation as you, and to find out more about these complex problems. You can find details of support groups and organisations that provide information on OCD, including information for carers, in ‘Useful contacts’.

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