My friend Amy recently requested that I write a blog post about how to care for an obsessive-compulsive friend or family member. I thought it was a great idea! Here’s my best advice:
1. Get them into treatment.
The best, most important thing that you can do for the obsessive-compulsive in your life is to do whatever it takes to get them into a treatment program. OCD is treatable with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. Don’t balk at the cost or make them feel guilty about it. A co-pay in exchange for their freedom and joy? Throw yourself 100% into the task of getting your beloved OC psyched about therapy. Read success stories online and share them. Educate yourself.
2. Find out their compulsions and don’t aid them.
Ask your OC what his or her compulsions are. Ask again after they’ve started ERP. And then steer clear of enabling those compulsions. This is difficult to do, especially if one of their compulsions is seeking reassurance. With all your heart, you are desperately going to want to reassure them that X won’t happen, or that Y is okay, or that Z won’t end badly. Don’t do it. Doing so is siding with OCD against your loved one. To side with them, you have to stand strong against OCD and not enable their compulsions. It’s okay to say, “I don’t answer OCD’s questions” or “we can’t know that” or “I’m not going to aid your compulsions.” Set up a standard answer with your OC ahead of time and then stay strong.
3. Find out their exposures and help them practice.
Ask your OC what their exposures look like and– if possible– help them practice. Keep your eyes open for opportunities for your OC to practice their exposures, and encourage them to do so. Stay in the room if they need you to. Hold them afterward while they cry. Continue to starve the enabling bug inside of you!
4. Be a cheerleader.
Encourage, encourage, encourage! Think and speak positively. Stay excited about ERP, even when your OC feels like a failure. Don’t let them entertain the thought of giving up. Remind them of all the ERP success stories. Believe that hope and health are just around the corner. Remind them that freedom is so close and so worth it.
5. If you’re the kind of person who prays, pray hard.