What You Could Do To Help.
- Since OCD can come and go in a person's life, it's important to learn all about it, this way you will be able to recognize the signs sometimes even before the person with OCD does. When you do see the signs, it's important to point this out showing consideration what this implies to them.
- Be Supportive, Consistent, Patient and Positive.
- Inform yourself, the more you know the better you will understand them and be able to help them. You will also be equipped to fend off any irrational defenses. When you tell them therapy might help and they feel scared and refuse, you will be able to hand them a list of reasons why they should seek treatment: how effective it has proven to be, how important it is and why, which kinds of therapy exist, what they include and so forth.
This will give less of an impression of you attacking/questioning their ability to handle this by themselves and more of an impression of genuine and researched concern and care.
You can find a list of Books here. or you might want to look into joining a Support Group either for them, yourself and/or family members.
- Make sure they too have access to the information that is available. Same goes for the other members of the family who should also have a good understanding of what is going on, both for themselves as well as for the person who has OCD. Misinformed members of the family may start to criticize the person instead of realizing that it is the OCD which is causing the problems.
If someone takes 2 hours or more to get ready this isn't the person showing a lack of consideration or respect to others, this is an OCD ritual which will have to be worked on in a constructive way and preferably with the support and help of a Mental Health Professional and without judgment of others.
- Keep busy in a social context, let life go its normal way as much as possible.
Keeping life's routines going will make it harder for the OCD to become the first and only way of living. As long as options are available it will at times be easier to choose for the harder way. If to get there, they already have to make too much of an effort, success rate might be lower.
- Also, with all members of the family that live within a family context, especially children, it is important to not have the regular family rules be disrupted too much by the OCD. Still, most likely you will have to adapt to a certain degree. Just like when someone has a broken leg, this will have an effect on the bigger whole. Simply make sure that the adapting isn't only coming from yourself and the rest of the family towards the person with OCD, they too have to show they are trying.
- This brings us to the next point. Like expecting too much will add pressure which will make the rituals become more severe, will expecting too little create a feeling of defeat before even having tried. Not only could this make the person with OCD feel that in a way no one seems to think they are able, there is also the fact that this is making it the OCD too easy. Why bother? Facing life with OCD can be so hard at times that hiding seems a wonderful solution. If then at that time there are no responsibilities or expectations, what will make them want to keep trying when all they want is some rest?
Some may think that people with OCD should just "want to", if not for themselves then for those they love. But not only does the "I will do this for you....." not work in the long run, 1 must also realize that having OCD and fighting it each and every day is sometimes exhausting and leaves them wanting peace of mind more than anything else. They have to try for them and the fuel to keep going is made of hope, information and support.
So expecting achievable things from the person you are trying to help might actually make them feel more worthy and more motivated.
Is hard to find motivation when at times all that you are trying to do is proving to be difficult. So this trust in what they are able to do may be helpful at times when they have stopped believing in them themselves. Of course you don't push someone when they are exhausted, there are limits. What these are, is best discussed with the person in question and preferably a psychologist.
- Ask the person whether it would be okay to come along to therapy, if only for a few sessions. Don't push if the answer is NO. Respect their decision on wanting to keep that part private. This is not an insult to you, this is them letting you know they would like their trusting, comforting relation with their therapist to remain intact and unchanged.
But by having asked them, you show interest in their fight and sometimes that's all it takes to feel that extra support.
- In discussions you might find that the person is showing much rigidity and seems unwilling to make any changes you know might help them. Stay calm, once you try and change a system that has been theirs for so long you most likely will encounter resistance.
They are probably very scared and will try to hide back into the painful but strangely safe world they know so well.
You are able to assess the situation without actually having the constant anxiety, without having the OCD, so your solutions and suggestions may seem logical or evident to you, they may not be from their point of view.
- Always realize that the person disliking this situation most is the person who has OCD. They really are not having any fun while spending hours a day being trapped in a system they know is senseless. Can you imagine what conflicts this must create in a mind? Having a really intense urge to for example check a door, while part of your mind knows it's closed but to still not feel it is and have doubts take over your common sense? Having this contradiction constantly present in your life? Try to keep this perspective in mind and realize how difficult it must be for them, this might help you to deal with the frustrations of the situation.
Have you ever stood on a high place and felt this sort of attraction to jump? Nothing to do with wanting to die, just a feeling, a feeling in contradiction with your mind. But this is just an instant, not even driven by anxiety.
- If the patient is in Denial, just like would happen with a person who is an alcoholic, it might be helpful to have a family meeting, all in a supportive context of course.
If you all gather together to "beat some sense" into the person, needless to say that this won't help. By showing understanding and patience however, you might give the person the time to make up her/his own mind about this and then talk to them about the options that lay before them.
- Some people with OCD, like any other person that is going through a difficult time, might start some substance abuse. They may think that alcohol or drugs will make them feel more free or help them by hiding in a chemical induced state of happiness/escape/rest.
Sadly nothing is less true, substance abuse will most likely increase the person's OCD. In case you know the person you care for/about is addicted to a drug, you should seek adequate professional help. The OCD can not be efficiently treated while the person is addicted to some type of drug.
NOTE: Of course this doesn't include the use of any anti- obsessional medication or others types prescribed by their doctor or psychiatrist.
WHAT IF YOU CAN'T PARTICIPATE IN THE RITUALS ANYMORE.
When someone with OCD performs an OCD ritual it will however senseless it may really be, give them some feeling of relief, if only briefly.
This means that in some way, motivated by fear, they have a reason to give in to the ritual just to have that moment of relief from anxiety. If however you are like the "remote control" of the sufferer who just does what it's been asked or told to do, you will find no "satisfaction" in doing this ritual.
Why should you?
You didn't feel the need to see whether there was blood on the money you had just placed on the table. You probably wouldn't feel inclined to lick the money OCD or not, but nothing makes you have to check it for blood. But your loved-one might, they might be anxious at the thought of having blood on the money and by checking will feel relief when they find none. You probably just say: "Okay, can I continue watching this program now? Who cares about the blood anyway."
The point is that you can't keep on doing something that doesn't give you some sort of satisfaction, reward or relief. At first helping your loved-one will be that reward, after a few years you might not feel like doing these senseless things any longer but you do them to avoid fights. Or maybe they have become part of your own fixed routines in life, which is a possibility.
In life, however annoying some actions may be, they either have an immediate/future pleasurable or useful reason for doing them.
Unless you get some feeling of accomplishment and pleasure when doing something, it will on the long run just wear you out.
You don't understand that need to do things a certain way and yet you find yourself doing them and yes, you won't be able to keep doing this with a smile and with the same motivation as you started off with. There is only so much you do to help someone when you feel it is senseless and it is, even they know it is. For someone who has OCD the sense in doing all these things doesn't lay in finding satisfaction or pleasure, but in finding relief from anxiety which is a reason that drives them to go this far.
Communication with a competent therapist will help you to slowly step out of this system. They may tell you what you can still participate in and what you really shouldn't be supporting by going along.
WHY SHOULD YOU TRY TO NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE RITUALS.
- Don't adapt to the OCD unless in certain circumstances where there seems to be no other choice. Because by giving in you are just allowing the OCD- system to become even more rigid. Having them adapt to the world instead will create less time for the rituals to find their way into every aspect of life.
For me, because of having been able to stay at home and having to do nothing, my OCD just simply kept finding new parts of my life and me to take over. I am 99% dependant of/on my partner. The stress of knowing or fearing I can't take care of myself is not helping me at all and just adds pressure on everyone.
Knowing you can take care of yourself as much as possible is important for anyone's self- esteem.
- Once you start to give in and help the person out with small things you may find that this person starts to need you more and more and may soon expect nothing less. When you as a sufferer, are inside the OCD system, you want only 1 thing and that is relief. This can be found by avoiding the situation in which you know you will have to for instance count or check, or by avoiding by adding someone else's strength.
But you can offer help in different ways, which may feel passive but are constructive instead of useless.
When you agree to check whether a door is correctly closed for the person who has OCD, you bring relief but relief in a way so they become less involved. This is distanciating them from what is bothering, stressing them and will bring a false sense of coping.
In all, you prevent progress from being made.
- You also with every action you do for them, re- enforce the fact that they are not capable of trusting their own decision- making. People who have OCD often don't trust their own judgment and will doubt just about anything and will ask for approval, confirmation, agreement of others.
Instead of handing them the answer, give them time to find it themselves.
They will have to learn that they are capable of accepting the door is closed, whether or not they feel it is, they will have to re-learn to trust their mind and not yours.
- Suddenly deciding on stopping to support the OCD- system after years of having done so isn't helpful nor responsible.
You are not taking in consideration what the distress of this decision will do.
Their carefully build world that includes your input will tumble down.
If you feel the hard way is the good way, you are wrong.
Trying to see if it works and offering no options is like wondering if your kid will fall or not without the extra pair of wheels on the bike. Hold out that stick before you decide to let go, this will most likely prevent much un- necessary pain.
- Especially in families where OCD is prevalent, will you at times find that the members of the family will more easily participate in the rituals. They know from experience how tough it is to have OCD. But although it is said that joining in in rituals has no real negative effects in that it's not making someone's OCD get worse, it will if continued during therapy make it harder for the person to make progress. This is because what you are doing is undermining what Behavioral Therapies try to succeed in doing, having the Patient confront her/his rituals.
WHAT YOU SHOULD AVOID DOING.
- Never try to reason with them about how illogical they are acting or thinking, instead address the fear itself.
The former option would just re- enforce their OCD- system.
- Don't criticize someone for having OCD, they are already feeling inferior towards the outside world.
Adding this pressure will definitely do no good at all.
Stress triggers OCD and pressure is stress..... okay and 1 and 1 is 2 :).
- Don't mock them, as said, feeling inferior is already an issue for most.
- This is so logical yet, I want to add it to the list. Don't bribe the person, don't threaten the person: "If you don't, then I will....." will do NO good. Nor will forcing them to stop the ritual be helpful. Same thing, added stress will just cause increased OCD behavior.
HOW TO OFFER SUPPORT TO A CHILD/ADOLESCENT.
- For kids it's important to show that there are limits to what they can and can not do. Finding this thin line between what is to be tolerated and what is not is tough. But make it clear that although anger and frustration may be expressed, there is no room for any physical violence. Here too will a therapist be able to help you in understanding better what is going on in your child's mind.
- The OCD might be affecting your child's schoolwork since assignments might be repeatedly checked, erased and redone. Their general focus might be decreased due to fear and rituals. So like you would with any other problem your child may have that the school should know about, you also inform school about your child having OCD. This way teachers/the school are able to understand what's going on without blindly punishing your child for behaviors they are already having enough problems with for themselves.
The extra stress for being punished for something that is already being tough for them is just going to increase stress and therefore the OCD.
IMPORTANT: Report on your child's progress so the teacher can back her/him up more efficiently.
- Also don't forget to inform the teacher about possible medication your child is taking since some may influence your child's productiveness.
- In all being open to what they are going through is crucial.
Not judging them will make them feel more comfortable to talk about what's going on with them. Like with most problems will communicating at least take away some of the feelings of isolation. Some children will go to great extend to hide their rituals and exhaust themselves while doing so. They are often very embarrassed about their behavior, especially when they are socially active.
- Don't forget to give extra support to any brothers and sisters who might feel somewhat left out due to the attention that is given to the child who has OCD.
They will need to be informed about OCD also, both for their own benefit as well as for the child who has OCD.