Your Child Can Get Better With Effective Treatment
Information for Parents

Helping An Adult Child Who Has OCD

Parents are not to blame for their child’s OCD.  OCD has a physical cause.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the fourth most common psychiatric diagnosis after phobias, substance abuse and major depression.  If your adult child has OCD, or if you believe your adult child has OCD, you are one of millions of parents who know the heartbreak of this frequently debilitating illness.

Current estimates are that OCD affects one in 40 adults and one in 100 school-aged children, which is between two and three percent of the U.S. population.  These estimates lead many to wonder how OCD could grow from what was once a relatively “rare” condition to one of such large proportions today.

Learn more about why OCD seems to be a relatively “new” diagnosis

What Causes OCD?

OCD is a neurobiological anxiety disorder. Although the precise cause of this disorder is not completely understood, researchers have found that functioning in certain areas of the brain is different in individuals who have OCD compared to those who don’t. Abnormalities in the chemical systems that send messages between brain cells have also been found. In addition, research has indicated that genetic, behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors may also play a role in the onset of OCD.

As a parent, it’s natural to wonder if something in your parenting style may have triggered the onset of OCD symptoms in your child.  But how you raised your child did not cause OCD to occur.  Even the worst parenting doesn’t cause OCD.  Stress can aggravate symptoms, but it doesn’t cause this disorder.

Learn more about what causes OCD

Getting Treatment

Fortunately, today, effective treatment is available to help people who suffer from OCD.  Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), sometimes accompanied by medication, is the most effective and scientifically supported behavioral treatment for OCD.  It’s not a cure, but CBT can bring dramatically reduced symptoms and sometimes relief from symptoms altogether.

Learn more about Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Knowledge is Empowering

It’s never too late to start helping the adult child you love get relief from OCD.

We encourage you to read everything in the OCD Facts section and Individuals sections of this web site.  Knowledge is a powerful tool in the fight against OCD.  The information includes:

  • What OCD is (and what is not OCD)
  • What causes OCD (and what doesn’t cause OCD)
  • OCD symptoms—common obsessions and compulsions
  • A self-screening test
  • Related conditions that may be confused with OCD, or are related to OCD
  • What kind of treatment is available
  • How to choose a therapist
  • Treatment challenges
  • Medication information
  • Links to more resources, including other web sites, books and support groups

As the parent of a person who has OCD, you help your child when you:

  • Learn about OCD—you can understand what your child goes through with this disorder, help your child get the information he or she needs about the illness and get treatment.
  • Refer them to this web site—you can provide your child with the link to this web site: or show this site on your computer, your child’s computer or a computer at a library.
  • Download a copy of our guide Relief from OCD - A Guide for People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You can also contact us at the link below to request a printed guide that you can give to your child.
  • Strongly encourage your child to get treatment—being supportive of your child also means you urge him or her to get help and commit to treatment (and the accompanying “homework” between therapy sessions).
  • Bargain if you have to. Some people balk at going to therapy or doing their assigned exercises at home.  If you find your encouragement being ignored, or you end up in an argument, or if your adult child refuses to go to therapy or do homework exercises, you may have to resort to “bargaining.” It’s more like an incentive or reward.  Some parents have reported good success with this approach.  Consider rewarding your child with something they particularly like—IF he or she goes to therapy and does all required assignments at home. You could try it week by week. The reward should be something your child particularly likes: a new article of clothing, a new music CD, a gift card, or even a special dessert.  Be creative.  And remember, YOUR reward will be your child’s success in therapy and overcoming OCD.
  • Stop enabling your child’s OCD - a trained therapist can help you learn how to stop “approving of OCD” by accommodating compulsive behavior or participating in your child’s compulsions.


It can sometimes be financially challenging to cope with the expense of OCD treatment.  If your adult child cannot afford to get treatment, you may be called upon to help with the cost.

If you are concerned about being able to afford treatment, you may need to look for ways to reduce the cost.  Fortunately, effective treatment is not a long-term expense and, if your child will make a commitment to work hard with a therapist and do the homework prescribed by the therapist between treatment sessions, significant improvement can generally occur in a matter of months.

The benefits of treating OCD outweigh most short-term financial challenges. Without treatment, your child will not get better on his or her own; the disorder simply doesn’t work that way and may worsen.

Learn more about ways to help pay for OCD treatment.

Click here for OCD Facts

Click here for Information for Individuals

Download (or order) a copy of Relief from OCD

Back to Parents main page



Bookmark and Share