Tips for Helping Loved Ones Struggling With OCD
1. Your Child is Not Trying to be Difficult:
It can be almost as stressful for parents and siblings of kids suffering from OCD as it is for the kids themselves! Children who are still resisting treatment or whose symptoms are upsetting the family’s routines are not trying to be difficult. Remember, however much you are struggling because of their OCD symptoms, they are trying their best to manage. Your family member will likely benefit more if they receive appropriate support and feedback from you.
2. Parents and Siblings Should Become Educated:
One of the best ways for parents and siblings to help their loved ones suffering from OCD is to become educated. Without any knowledge of OCD, the most logical thing a parent might do would be to reassure or dismiss their child. However, these seemingly logical and rational responses can have unintended negative results. Different ways to become educated about OCD include reading books on the topic, finding your own therapist, and/or becoming involved in your child’s OCD treatment. Apply lessons learned whenever possible.
3. Reassurance Strengthens Obsessions:
When a parent or sibling repeatedly tells their child information that they know already, it strengthens the OCD. Parents and siblings often want to provide reassurance because it allows for temporary relief, but it makes beating OCD much harder in the long run. Over time, reassurance seeking may become more frequent. It may not be until a parent or sibling stops giving reassurance that the individual with OCD can begin to work toward conquering their compulsive behavior
4. Don’t Stop at the First Therapist:
Consider that a child’s reluctance to engage in therapy may not be resistance to treatment itself. Like a friend, a therapist is someone with whom your child must be comfortable. Keep searching for someone with whom your child can connect. Trying different therapists can be helpful in getting a proper diagnosis and in forming the right relationship.
5. Serenity Through Silence:
Consider that sometimes your best option is to let your child or sibling work things through on their own. While your first reaction may be to offer advice in order to halt the compulsive behavior with the intention of helping your child, what would happen if you asked your child what they would find the most helpful in dealing with their symptoms in that moment? They might tell you something that might be helpful to them that may have never occurred to you. For example, sometimes it may actually be more helpful to allow them the room to work on their symptoms alone from time to time. Don’t always give in to the urge to rush in and make them feel better. This can sometimes backfire.
Josh Steinberg, a rising senior in high school, was diagnosed with severe OCD in 2012. Josh underwent a full course of intensive CBT and saw great results. Now, Josh has chosen to share his story with other teens suffering from the symptoms of OCD.