Helping Someone You Love
Information for Friends and Family

A Spouse’s Pivotal Role in Overcoming OCD

You can be highly influential and effective in helping your spouse gain control over this heartbreaking disorder.

Rely on the CBT therapist to help guide you through the emotional maze as your spouse copes with OCD.

It’s never too late to start helping your spouse fight OCD.  Rest assured, your reaction to spousal OCD is not unique—every loving partner who finds OCD invading the household experiences a series of emotional responses, from denial to anger to lack of trust, frustration and feelings of betrayal.  And that’s just for starters.

By reading this web site, you’ve already taken a positive step toward helping your loved one overcome OCD.  Don’t stop now.  Remember that no one wants to live a life ruled by OCD.  You can be highly influential and effective in helping your spouse gain control over this heartbreaking disorder.

Why Me?  Why Now?

Those are good questions.  But not surprisingly, no easy answers exist.

It’s possible that someone who develops OCD symptoms as an adult had OCD at some time in their past, before they met their spouse—but had been successful in getting control over the symptoms. Sometimes a severe trauma to the head can trigger OCD or OCD-like symptoms. Or, it’s possible that stress (including getting married or any number of other “normal” life stresses) can trigger OCD obsessions and compulsions in someone genetically predisposed to the disorder. It’s also possible that your spouse may have hidden his or her OCD from you because of embarrassment or fear of losing you.

In any case, it’s not the fault of the person who develops OCD that they have it, and not the spouse’s fault either.  Don’t blame each other.  OCD is neurobiological in nature.  (You can remind each other of this by refreshing your understanding of the physiology of OCD in the OCD Facts or Individuals sections of this web site.)

What’s most important is that you avoid dwelling on negative thoughts, and concentrate on finding a cognitive behavior therapist who can treat your spouse.  Many doctors are not familiar enough with OCD to recommend CBT therapy.  But since CBT, sometimes with the addition of medication, is the only scientifically supported treatment for OCD, don’t let anyone talk you into another alternative.  Psychotherapy, couples counseling, dietary changes or other recommendations may be well meaning—and effective in treating certain other disorders.  But with OCD, urge (don’t nag) your spouse to undergo CBT.

Can We Ever Be Like We Were Before?

Life is filled with uncertainty.  Life with a person who suffers from OCD is no exception.  But there is certainly hope for recovery from OCD with proper treatment.

Ask your spouse’s cognitive behavior therapist how to get involved in your loved one’s recovery.  Don’t be afraid to bring up sensitive issues such as physical and emotional intimacy.  OCD makes you and your spouse vulnerable in ways that can be very painful, and it’s normal to protect emotions by building barriers to intimacy.  Your therapist can help guide you through the emotional maze you’re experiencing, and can help you find the hope and optimism that is essential for rebuilding the communication and commitment of a solid relationship.

Choosing a Therapist

Stories of successful recovery from OCD

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