Have you noticed that a family member is beginning to behave differently? Are you able to identify and recognise the ‘warning signs’ of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? Initially, it may be difficult to determine whether the behaviour of a family member is simply a habit, or whether is has become problematic for them. However, it can be important not to dismiss significant behavioural changes as “just their personality”. Individuals can develop OCD symptoms at any time during their life, and when the ‘warning signals’ become apparent, it is important that you encourage them to seek assistance.

There are two components to OCD - obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions refer to persistent, uncontrollable and repetitive thoughts, and therefore it may be difficult to determine whether your loved one is experiencing this. However, if a family member has mentioned that their thoughts have become so intrusive in nature that they have begun to have a significant impact on their ability to interact with others - this has likely become a problem for your loved one.

Obsessions may include:

  • Fear of causing harm to someone else
  • Fear of contamination
  • Need for symmetry or exactness
  • Fear of behaving unacceptably

Obsessions can be accompanied by compulsions, which are actions and rituals performed in order to reduce and relieve the anxiety associated with the obsessions. However these rituals can become automatic, and in time, can lead to increased anxiety - a vicious cycle.

Compulsions consist of behaviours such as:

  • Cleaning
  • Hand washing
  • Checking
  • Ordering and arranging
  • Asking for reassurance

Or mental acts such as:

  • Counting
  • Repeating words silently
  • Needing to combat an intrusive thought with a positive image or thought

It is normal for an individual to double check that the door is locked, or that the iron is turned off for a second time before leaving the house. However, when these thoughts and behaviours become so repetitive and intrusive in nature, that they begin to interfere with daily life, it is time to seek the advice of a professional. We always want to see our family reach their full potential and get the most out of life. It can be distressing to watch a family member struggle with the OCD, and as a family member, you may also feel you need the support of a professional. Therefore, if a loved one is suffering from OCD, seek help from professional psychologist who is able to provide guidance on how you, and your loved one, can overcome obstacles related to OCD.

In addition to urging your loved one to seek help, visiting a psychologist will also enable you to determine how to best help your family member. A psychologist may:

  • Teach you how to identify symptoms of OCD
  • Provide you with emotional support
  • Help you identify where these intrusive thoughts experienced by your loved one stem from and ways in which you can challenge them to reduce their effect
  • Provide you with advice on how to help your loved one manage the symptoms
  • Emphasise the importance of maintaining and building your own support system to manage the stress associated with seeing a loved one struggling with OCD
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