Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions), which interfere with daily activities and can cause severe stress.
You may feel the need to try and stop or ignore the OCD but that will just increase your anxiety. Eventually you will feel the need to stop the acts the OCD causes which will alleviate the stress. You will find, eventually, the acts will keep coming back; this is the vicious cycle of OCD.
Most people associate OCD with compulsively washing hands or lining objects in a row.
My first-hand experience with OCD is that of repeatedly checking and reoccurring thoughts or what’s known as Pure-O.
My father lived with manic depression and anxiety, my boyfriend moved in with my daughter and I in 2004. He had told me about his mental illnesses; OCD, GAD, clinical depression, how it affects him and what to look for. You will not know how debilitating mental illness can be until you have either lived with it or experienced it as a loved one or caregiver. I first noticed my boyfriends’ OCD symptoms when the “routine” became noticeable. Everything was done at the same time; wake up, take dog out, bathroom, back to bed, wake up, take dog out, maybe have lunch, back to bed, wake up, bathroom, feed dog, have dinner, take dog out, back to bed, wake up, watch tv, back to bed. It was like this every day for a year. We did our groceries the same day, time and place, watched the same tv shows. If he had a job to do (t-shirt printer), the OCD would prolong the job and he would struggle to get it done. At one point during the evenings, while watching tv, he would go downstairs and be there for an hour or two; he would be checking the taps making sure they’re turned off and not dripping, windows were closed etc.
When we started dating, the Pure-O became apparent. He would doubt if I loved him and why I was still with him (Relationship OCD). He was always second guessing himself and needed constant reassurance about everything. It would take him at least ½ hour to an hour to write a simple email; making sure it was done right, that he was saying the right thing, that the recipient wouldn’t take anything the wrong way etc.
All of this would lead to anxiety attacks; body shaking, crying, difficulty breathing, pacing, very anxious, very debilitating to the point that he could not focus on anything. I would have to provide constant reassurance to ease his mind.
His OCD is severe and can be debilitating, still to today. He’s been on medication for 3 years now, but the OCD is still there. He still checks, but not as bad; he’ll do “stupid checks” as he calls them; checks everything downstairs, checks the doors, and always must have “5” things with him or we don’t leave until he has them all.
The way you react to someone’s OCD symptoms has a big impact. Negative comments or criticism can make OCD worse, while a calm, supportive environment can help improve the outcome of treatment. Try to be as kind and patient as possible.
Tips for helping a friend or family member with OCD
Avoid making personal criticisms. Remember, your loved one’s OCD behaviors are symptoms, not character flaws.
Don’t get up upset with someone with OCD or tell them to stop performing rituals. They can’t, and the pressure to stop will only make the behaviors worse.
Be as kind and patient as possible. They need 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 OCD rituals. Helping with rituals will only strengthen 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 and not further upsetting your loved one.
Find the humor. Laughing together over the funny side and silliness 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 OCD symptoms. Try to keep family life as normal as possible and the home a low-stress environment.