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6 Tips For Living With Someone With OCD

While it’s normal to double-check whether you locked your front door, see if you’ve unplugged your computer from its charging station, or sanitize your work desk each time you come into the office, these traits become a problem when they consume so much of your time that it interferes with your waking life. Unfortunately, this is what life can be like for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

OCD is a disorder characterized by uncontrollable and unwanted thoughts and repetitive (often ritualized) behaviours that you or someone you know may feel compelled to perform.

Those with OCD can often recognize that their obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviours are irrational, but find it difficult to stop. This is because the repetition helps provide them with some relief from the anxiety or stress caused by their obsessive thoughts.

It’s a vicious and often frustrating cycle. If you’re living with someone who has OCD, here are some ways to support them or keep them safe while they’re struggling.

    1. Recognize the Symptoms

It’s important for those living with someone who has OCD to familiarize themselves with the “warning signals” of the disorder. These could be triggers—such as thoughts or situations—that can’t be categorized as part of the individual’s personality.

These differ from person to person, so it’s important to record a list of triggers the person you live with experiences each day and the subsequent “obsessions” they provoke. You might also find it helpful to record the intensity of their stress level, fear, or anxiety and the compulsive behaviours they use to calm themselves down.

Keeping track of these things will help you be proactive and better care for them should they find themselves triggered to act compulsively.

 A man trying to organize numbered boxes.

    2. Manage Your Expectations

If you are living with someone who has OCD, it’s important to manage your expectations when your loved one is experiencing an obsessive and compulsive moment.

This includes avoiding conflict or telling them to “snap out of it.” While it’s normal to feel frustrated or impatient with them, try to remember they can’t help how they’re feeling and may not understand how their behaviour affects you.

Even if they’re undergoing treatment, setbacks are bound to happen. Anxiety can be crippling and seep into all aspects of someone’s life—so it’s important to make your loved one feel you’re still supportive no matter what.

    3. Learn How to Engage in Conversations

Conversations about OCD can be tricky.

Enter these mental health conversations with low expectations. People living with OCD already experience immense stress daily, so you shouldn’t take it personally if they avoid speaking about the root of their problems.

Try to respect their boundaries as well. Pushing your loved one to talk about things they aren’t comfortable with can end up pushing them further away or cause them to shut down. Ask the person you’re living with what their boundaries are or the topics they don’t want to discuss before initiating a proper conversation.

    4. Recognize “Small” Achievements

If you’re living with someone with OCD, you might have heard them complain that their loved ones don’t understand how difficult it is to accomplish a task. While this may seem insignificant, it’s incredibly helpful to someone living with OCD to feel that their “small wins” are validated by the people who matter to them.

Acknowledging how they took a shorter shower or resisted the urge to turn the doorknob one more time can be powerful positive reinforcement. It’ll motivate them to set more goals that might eventually help improve their symptoms.

    5. Foster a Supportive Environment

A woman cleaning a table thoroughly.

Support and acceptance go a long way. However, this process shouldn’t involve you pretending as if their disorder doesn’t exist. You have a responsibility to do your part to make the living situation as safe and comfortable as possible.

If you’re living with someone who has OCD, you mustn’t participate in any of their “rituals” or self-soothing behaviours. For example, don’t clean in front of a loved one who is triggered by thoughts of contamination. Instead, take a trauma-informed approach and make time to do these chores when they’re not around.

    6. Be Kind to Yourself

Living with someone who has OCD is hard—be kind to yourself!

It’s natural to feel guilty if you end up setting off an OCD trigger, especially since new triggers often pop up unnoticed and regularly. It’s not something that your loved one can control, but accidents are part of life, too. You’re going to slip up from time to time.

What really matters is how you handle the situation. Go back to number one on this list, take note of the trigger and what causes it, and make a plan to do better. Whatever you and your loved one’s processes are when it comes to managing obsessive and compulsive traits, ensure that it encourages recovery and self-love.

Freedom From Addiction Is Here to Help

If you’re living with someone with OCD, it’s crucial to put things in perspective: they have a serious disorder and there’s only so much you can do. You won’t be able to “fix” your loved one’s OCD unless you’re a licensed professional.

However, Freedom From Addiction’s team of experts can help facilitate long-term recovery for your loved one. Living with someone who has OCD is easier when they feel empowered by professional help to manage their symptoms.

For more detailed information about Freedom From Addiction’s treatment and mental health services, leave a message or call our hotline now.


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