Information for Caregivers
It can be extremely difficult to be a caregiver of someone struggling with OCD. As a caregiver for someone with OCD, it is critical to be there to support your loved one and, if possible, participate in treatment. Participation in treatment can involve learning how to not participate in your loved one's OCD symptoms (also called family accommodation) and helping your loved one engage in therapy tasks (such as facing their fears). It is also important to understand what OCD is, what CBT is, and the proper ways for you to help your loved ones resist compulsions/rituals. It is important to have a support network to lean on and to set aside time for yourself to avoid burnout.
First steps for caregivers:
Helping Your Loved One
Navigating OCD with your family member or loved one can be a challenging journey. However, there are ways that you can support them beyond encouraging them to seek out treatment from a trained professional. Consider the following:
- Are you engaging in their compulsive behaviors? It is common to see someone struggling with compulsive behaviors. You may even feel that by engaging in the behavior with them (i.e., washing hands together, helping them rearrange items) you can alleviate the distress that they experience. However, encouraging their compulsive behaviors can actually impede their ability to challenge these urges.
- Do you make adjustments in your daily routines? Often, individuals with OCD may engage in avoidance behaviors in order to alleviate their distress. Certain activities such as going to the store, being in crowded spaces, or being in vehicles for extended periods of time may lead to time-consuming and anxiety-provoking scenarios. As a result, families may feel the need to alter their daily lives in order to help their loved one avoid these distressing situations. If you find yourself making these adjustments, even if they do not feel burdensome to you, it may be helpful to consult with your loved one’s provider for information and resources on how to return to a less-altered routine.
- How else can you learn about OCD? Speaking with your loved one’s provider may be a viable option if you are in need of additional help. However, there are also a wide array of resources to consider exploring outside of therapy. Some of these additional supports may include:
- Recorded presentations, documentaries, or videos that talk about the basics of OCD, treatment options, and relevant research.
- Support groups for families of loved ones with OCD
- Support groups for individuals diagnosed with OCD
- Books about OCD that are written by professionals within the field of psychology, or books related to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure response prevention (ERP)
Additional Things to Consider
Living with a loved one or supporting someone with OCD can be stressful at times for everyone involved. As you navigate ways to support someone you know with OCD, it is also important to consider the following:
- Establish healthy and positive forms of communication. Navigating the treatment process is not always easy and it is important to avoid criticism, using harsh words or tones, and demeaning your loved one (and yourself).
- As a caregiver, it is also important to find time to take care of yourself. As you are providing support to someone with OCD it is also important to create a space to nurture your own mental and physical well-being.
- Even though living with OCD can feel life-consuming at times, it doesn’t always have to be this way. Make sure to spend time with your loved one that isn’t related to their OCD or treatment. It is important to find ways to make meaningful time together by engaging in shared hobbies or interests, exploring new activities together, or just making meaningful one-on-one time.