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Family support can be a critical factor in successful obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) treatment, but sometimes family members struggle to understand how they can help. Remember that people improve at different rates, and each person’s progress is different. It’s OK to encourage someone with OCD to push themselves, but slow and gradual improvement may be the best way to health and well-being. Avoid day-to-day comparisons, as recovering from OCD is a process that may include a few detours along the way.
Try to validate, support and encourage your loved one, reminding yourself and others that setbacks aren’t permanent. Focus on overall progress and small improvements, avoiding destructive labels that may reinforce feelings of failure.
Creating a supportive environment will help your loved one feel cared for and capable of recovery. Discuss how much time will be spent talking about OCD and how to help when compulsions return. Gently encourage your loved one to follow through with their treatment plan, including taking medications and attending therapy. If family therapy is recommended, participate and ask questions to help create an open and positive therapy experience.
Managing OCD can be stressful and isolating, so it’s important to let your loved ones know that they’re not alone. Support and encouragement from family can give your loved ones confidence in their ability to control their compulsions.
It also helps to recognize the warning signs of OCD. Watch for slight changes in things like time management, irritability, sleep patterns, eating habits and emotional reactions. Learn to recognize these as symptoms of OCD, and try not to blame or criticize. You might wonder if you should support or resist compulsions. In most cases, it’s best to let your loved one know that you won’t help them carry out their compulsions because you want to help them resist as well. Gang up on OCD, but not on each other!
If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of depression, Mercy's behavioral health experts are here to help.