“OCD is a treatable disorder, and we need to do everything we can to increase access to treatment. But it starts at home most of the time. It starts with individuals connected together as families acknowledging that OCD exists, respecting the pain it causes, and bringing people out of isolation and into a safe light.”
A new expert opinion by therapist Jon Hershfield, MFT, discusses how to talk about an OCD diagnosis as a family or with other loved ones. Information and tips are shared for both individuals looking to disclose more information about an OCD diagnosis, as well as suggestions on how family members and other loved ones can be supportive when someone has decided to disclose to them. Some examples:
Tips for effective disclosure with loved ones:
- You don’t have to lead with “I have OCD.” You can — there’s nothing wrong with it — but not everyone is familiar with OCD beyond what they’ve literally seen, and that’s not much. Maybe they’ve seen a character portrayed in a movie. Is that a good representation of you? Maybe they saw a “funny” meme on Facebook. Is that a fair representation of what you’ve been going through? If the goal is to open a dialogue and possibly lead to getting treatment without shame, then you might be better off leading with a simple description of your experience. You might share a bit about what you think or how you feel before coming around to using clinical diagnostic terms. “I can’t stop thinking about my fear of…” or, “I’m struggling to resist repeatedly doing…” could be a place to start. If you have found a good article or chapter from an OCD book that describes your experience well, asking your loved one to read it can be useful.
For family members and other loved ones, some tips for receiving disclosure compassionately:
- Don’t jump immediately into problem-solving mode, dragging your loved one to Amazon to buy an OCD book (you can buy one of mine, that’s okay, of course) but instead, take a few breaths to just be there for your loved one. A hug goes a lot farther than instructions like, “Well, here’s what you got to do…” The first message shouldn’t be about the unacceptability of his issue. The first should be acknowledging the pain and sitting with him. There will be plenty of time to get books, look up a suitable therapist, and get to work on the OCD. But first, just be there.
Read the rest of this new expert opinion here, along with more than a dozen other expert opinions on the site written by mental health professionals and researchers about a variety of topics, ranging from more information about subtypes of OCD, co-occuring disorders, advice on succeeding in treatment, family issues, and many more.