Helping Someone You Love
Information for Friends and Family

Stop Accommodating OCD

When a friend has OCD, it can be confusing.  The symptoms may seem to appear slowly, and become more and more noticeable over time.  Or, maybe you haven’t been friends very long but you’ve come to realize your new friend suffers from OCD.  Either way, you may be drawn into his or her OCD behavior.  Being a real friend involves having the courage to stop participating in rituals or avoidance behaviors.

Perhaps you’ve already found that getting involved in performing rituals (such as checking door locks, providing constant reassurances or helping decontaminate clothing, food or even entire rooms) doesn’t help your friend.  It just postpones the inevitable—more OCD behavior.  Maybe you’ve tried to have “logical” conversations about OCD or debated with them about their behavior.  None of this will actually make OCD stop.

In fact, OCD experts agree that participating in OCD behaviors strengthens the disorder.  Protecting a friend from the negative consequences of obsessions and compulsions can even decrease the motivation for obtaining treatment.

To help your friend gain control over OCD, you can change how you interact with them.  You can be supportive of your friend who is suffering, but stop supporting the disorder.

When everyone stops accommodating OCD behaviors, the person who suffers from OCD can be more motivated to seek treatment.

How Do I Stop?

A step in the right direction is to stop feeling that your friend’s OCD is your responsibility, or feeling guilty if you don’t help them perform their rituals.  Remember that if you do get involved, you aren’t helping them—you become part of the problem and are reinforcing the OCD.

You may want to attend a support group meeting for friends and family of OCD sufferers, to see how others have withdrawn from accommodating OCD behavior.  Attendees may have had guidance from their loved one’s cognitive behavior therapist and can share their experiences and knowledge with you.

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