tip 4: reach out for support
OCD can get worse when you feel powerless and alone, so it's important to build a strong support system. The more connected you are to other people, the less vulnerable you'll feel. Just talking about your worries and urges can make them seem less threatening.
Stay connected to family and friends. Obsessions and compulsions can consume your life to the point of social isolation. In turn, social isolation will aggravate your OCD symptoms. It's important to invest in relating to family and friends. Talking face-to-face about your worries and urges can make them feel less real and less threatening.
Join an OCD support group. You're not alone in your struggle with OCD, and participating in a support group can be an effective reminder of that. OCD support groups enable you to both share your own experiences and learn from others who are facing the same problems.
treatment for OCD
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder and involves two components: 1) exposure and response prevention, and 2) cognitive therapy.
Exposure and response prevention requires repeated exposure to the source of your obsession. You are asked to refrain from the compulsive behavior you'd usually perform to reduce your anxiety.
For example, if you are a compulsive hand washer, you might be asked to touch the door handle in a public restroom and then be prevented from washing up. As you sit with the anxiety, the urge to wash your hands will gradually begin to go away on its own. In this way, you learn that you don't need the ritual to get rid of your anxiety—that you have some control over your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
Studies show that exposure and response prevention can actually "retrain" the brain, permanently reducing the occurrence of OCD symptoms.
Cognitive therapy focuses on the catastrophic thoughts and exaggerated sense of responsibility you feel. A big part of cognitive therapy for OCD is teaching you healthy and effective ways of responding to obsessive thoughts, without resorting to compulsive behavior.
other OCD treatments
In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy, the following treatments are also used for OCD:
Medication. Antidepressants are sometimes used in conjunction with therapy for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, medication alone is rarely effective in relieving the symptoms.
Family Therapy. Since OCD often causes problems in family life and social adjustment, family therapy can help promote understanding of the disorder and reduce family conflicts. It can also motivate family members and teach them how to help their loved one with OCD.
Group Therapy. Through interaction with fellow OCD sufferers, group therapy provides support and encouragement and decreases feelings of isolation.
Is unresolved trauma playing a role in your OCD?
In some people, OCD symptoms such as compulsive washing or hoarding are ways of coping with trauma. If you have post-traumatic OCD, cognitive approaches may not be effective until underlying traumatic issues are resolved.
helping someone with OCD
The way you react to your loved one's OCD symptoms can have a big impact on their outlook and recovery. Negative comments or criticism can make OCD worse, while a calm, supportive environment can help improve the outcome of treatment. Avoid making personal criticisms. Remember, your loved one's OCD behaviors are symptoms, not character flaws.
Don't scold someone with OCD or tell them to stop performing rituals. They can't comply, and the pressure to stop will only make the behaviors worse. Be as kind and patient as possible. Each sufferer needs to overcome problems at their own pace. Praise any successful attempt to resist OCD, and focus attention on positive elements in the person's life.
Do not play along with your loved one's rituals. Helping with rituals will only reinforce the behavior. Support the person, not their rituals. Keep communication positive and clear. Communication is important so you can find a balance between supporting your loved one and standing up to the OCD symptoms and not further distressing your loved one.
Find the humor. Laughing together over the funny side and absurdity of some OCD symptoms can help your loved one become more detached from the disorder. Just make sure your loved one feels respected and in on the joke. Don't let OCD take over family life. Sit down as a family and decide how you will work together to tackle your loved one's symptoms. Try to keep family life as normal as possible and the home a low-stress environment.