Understanding and Facilitating OCD Recovery

OCD is a very difficult disorder to navigate. Those who have it can be treated in a variety of different ways–some of which directly contradict one another. The disorder and successful treatment are highly individualistic, but here are some important elements to helping someone you know who has been diagnosed with OCD.

Understanding OCD

The first way you can help someone with OCD is to understand their condition. There are plenty of books and websites on this condition, but some highlights you should focus on include:

What is OCD: There are a lot of popular myths about what OCD and is not. Separating fact from fiction is an important first step in understanding your loved one.

How is it caused: OCD can develop at any stage of life. Children can have OCD, but adolescents and adults can develop it later as well. Again, there are many resources on this both online and in print. Early intervention is vital to overcoming even the most crippling symptoms of OCD, and understanding how it develops is a major part of getting ahead of it. It’s also important to know that symptoms of OCD can be made worse with either reinforcement, or criticism. More on that later.

What are symptoms of OCD: Being able to recognize symptoms of OCD will make it easier to intervene when someone you love is developing or has already developed the disorder. Some symptoms include but are certainly not limited to: repetitive or ritualistic behaviors, constant questioning of self-judgement or needing reassurance of their own thoughts and feelings, perpetual tardiness—due in part to hyper-focusing on minor details or extreme reactions to minor things. People with OCD may also exhibit major changes in their appetite or sleeping habits, general avoidance, or increased irritability/indecisiveness. Even if you or someone you love is exhibiting these symptoms, you should discuss them with a healthcare professional before taking any action.

Related Conditions: OCD effects behavior and mental processing. Therefore, it can develop as part of another condition, or conditions can develop as a result of prolonged OCD, whether treated or not. Anxiety and depression are two very common conditions related to OCD. Many symptoms of OCD are tied closely to and can be heightened by anxiety, and untreated symptoms can easily lead to depression or make already existing depression worse.

OCD Treatments: Understanding the ways in which OCD is treated will help you and your loved one decide which treatment to look into further. OCD treatment sometimes requires a delicate balance between allowing OCD behaviors and discouraging them. A mental health professional can be very helpful in navigating these difficult waters.

Assisting Someone with OCD

Now you understand OCD a little better. The next step, in addition to helping your loved one seek professional help, is to enhance treatment by assisting them at home. You can do this by encouraging them to take the proper dosage of medication at the proper times, and reinforcing attendance to therapy as well as regimes prescribed by the therapist. You can create a positive emotional climate where your loved one can feel safe to talk about their OCD. It is recommended that communication remain clear and simple—which means honesty is very important. You will also need to modify expectations to include OCD symptoms and the overall recovery path. This means you may sometimes need to recognize even the “smallest” improvements, like skipping a small ritual or showing up early to an appointment. Again, a mental health professional or behavioral health meeting with your loved one can help you immensely in understanding the best way to assist.

Setting Up Boundaries

Knowing when to draw the line is another important element to helping those you love with OCD. First of all, there’s a difference between reinforcement of positive behavior, and enabling negative. Learning the difference is imperative. It’s also important to remember everyone gets better at a different rate, and while one person’s recovery may have relied heavily on pushing their limits, another may need far slower exposure to triggers. Drawing the line also includes allowing alone time—for your sake and your loved one. You will not do them any good if you are constantly breathing down their neck analyzing their every move, and feeling like you must play that role at all times can hurt you, as well.

Setting up a contract between yourself and your loved one can be very important, too. It gives you a chance to create clear and simple communication (mentioned earlier), and everyone will know what their limits are because they are in writing. This will help the person with OCD express their limits as well as where they are willing to push them, and help them manage expectations. This will also make the lines you’ve drawn very clear for other members of your family or friends group.

Sometimes the best line you can draw is a very strict limit regarding the disorder itself. When someone with OCD is consistently reassured, or their rituals or obsessions are allowed by friends and family, the necessity of these rituals are reinforced and the OCD will never get any better. If your loved one knows where you’ve drawn the line on your reinforcement, then a negative response or making them think things through themselves will not come as a shock.


Finally, as with any relationship, it’s important to take care of yourself. This is part of drawing a line, as you will need your own alone time and boundaries to be respected if you’re expected to be any help at all.

For more information on OCD, or how to help someone you know with OCD, check the following sites. Always talk to a healthcare professional about medication or therapy regiments before recommending or trying them yourself.






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