Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a very common kind of disorder that affects thoughts and urges the person to do things like checking if the door is closed 10 times, before actually leaving the house or washing hands for fear of germs. This disorder brings along a lot of challenges both to the person who is suffering from this disorder but also to the people who live and work with the person who suffers from such a condition. The challenges are there and real however, with the necessary awareness and being properly informed, those who suffer from OCD can maintain healthy relationships.
What is OCD and what are the challenges of this disorder?
OCD is characterized by 3 features; Obsessions that is, unsolicited thoughts, Compulsions, repetitive behaviors which are manifested to neutralize a negative feeling, and Anxiety, disproportionate uneasiness. It is listed as one of the most common conditions by the World Health Organisation. This disorder can add emotional strain on both the person suffering from the disorder and also on those around them. Also, it is vital to keep in mind that this condition can add emotional tension to the relationship. Let’s look at the impacts on different kinds of relationships.
Impacts manifested in romantic relationships
People who suffer from OCD have highlighted a sense of lack of security and also fear. This can lead the person to need constant reassurance from their partners. The need for constant validation may also increase. Also, due to the fear of germs and contamination, people who suffer from OCD may become prone to issues around intimacy. Fear of having sex, high levels of disgust, and problems with sexual functioning are common examples of intimate issues. Furthermore, this leaves their partners with physical and sexual needs unmet and also battling with feelings of rejection.
Impacts on family and friends
Family members and friends may find themselves intensely involved in these behaviors as people who suffer from OCD might need space and time to carry out their habits. People who suffer from OCD may be demanding and can test your patience. Because of their thoughts and anxiety, sufferers can also suffer from depression. These feelings can be felt by those around them, especially by close relatives and friends. It is also vital to notice that people suffering from OCD may experience self-esteem issues and feelings of shame or embarrassment.
So, how can you support someone with OCD?
The following are some tips that can help you maintain a healthy relationship with an OCD sufferer:-
1) Be informed about OCD and try to connect with the person who is suffering from OCD.
2) Acknowledge that OCD exists, communicate compassion and validate the pain.
3) Understand the difference between the behavior due to the OCD symptoms and the person suffering from the OCD. And remind yourself of such statements, ²this is your OCD, this is not you.²
4) Seek professional help to support you and the person suffering from OCD.
5) Lastly, be supportive and try to remain patient. Your support can enable the person suffering from OCD to focus on recovery efforts and not to deal with resentment.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Rachel Osmond is a Family Therapist with Willingness who works with individuals, couples and families. She also has experience with children and adolescents.
United Brain Association (2019). The Impact of OCD on relationships. Retrieved on 20th August, 2022 from https://unitedbrainassociation.org/2019/07/24/the-impact-of-ocd-on-relationships
Pic taken from Unsplash on August, 24th 2022.