Living Well With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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Perhaps you or a loved one have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and wonder what this might mean for the rest of your life. If you have OCD, you can undoubtedly live a normal and productive life. Like any chronic illness, managing your OCD requires a focus on day-to-day coping rather than on an ultimate cure.

Understanding OCD

In practical terms, this means having an excellent understanding of your illness. For example, see if you can answer the following questions:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • When do your symptoms get worse?
  • What coping strategies work for you when your symptoms flare up?
  • What helps you avoid your symptoms from worsening in the first place?
  • Who is it helpful to consult with when you feel stuck or need additional assistance in coping with your symptoms?

Being able to answer these kinds of questions is essential to managing your OCD and freeing up your time and energy to attend to the things you really want to spend your time on, such as family, friends, romantic relationships, work, school, or recreational activities.

Consider a Symptom Journal

If you aren't sure about the answers to these questions, consider keeping a journal with these questions in mind for a few weeks. Since OCD is different for everyone, this journal should give you a much keener understanding of how OCD affects you personally.

Get Help If Your Symptoms Are Unmanageable

If you don’t know where to begin or feel that OCD has taken over your life, it’s time to seek assistance from a trained mental health professional. There is no need to suffer since there are effective treatments that work for most people, including psychotherapy and medication. Most people are able to find quite a bit of relief from symptoms using some combination of the two. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

For Family Members

If you are a family member or close friend of someone who suffers from OCD, you may be concerned about your loved one's illness and how you can help. It's important to remember that many people with OCD get good results from treatment and can learn how to manage their OCD symptoms effectively through psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and, more specifically, exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP).

You can help your loved one by educating yourself about OCD so that you are better able to understand and be supportive.

It's also important to be aware of behaviors you are engaging in that enable your loved one's illness. For example, if she's afraid of germs getting into the house, you wash all the cans and containers that you bring home from the grocery store before putting them away. This just feeds her illness by helping her avoid something she fears.

Family Members: Get Help If You Feel Overwhelmed

If you are feeling overwhelmed or are unsure what to do for your loved one, be sure to seek out professional help or a support group. It's important to take charge of your own mental health needs as well as those of your loved one so that you can help him get better instead of helping him remain where he is or perhaps even get worse.

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  • Livingston Van Noppen, Barbara. "Families and OCD." International OCD Foundation.

By Owen Kelly, PhD
Owen Kelly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor, and author in Ontario, ON, who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders.