Living With an OCD Sufferer
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is undoubtedly traumatic and debilitating for sufferers, but living with an OCD sufferer has a big impact on other members of the household too. It is common for the family and friends of an OCD sufferer to feel stressed and frustrated, and this often occurs due to a lack of understanding about the disorder and its implications. This article looks at some of the trials and tribulations that accompany life with an OCD sufferer, and offers advice on how to cope.
OCD sufferers repeatedly perform compulsive rituals (such as hand washing or constantly checking to make sure that doors and windows are locked or that electrical appliances are turned off) to relieve stress and anxiety. If these rituals are not performed as the sufferer intended, this creates further anxiety that can extend to other members of the household. Stress worsens the symptoms of OCD and creates a vicious circle in which sufferers perform more rituals to deal with their increased anxiety. This can be extremely debilitating and sufferers often find it difficult or impossible to find employment, complete household chores or maintain an active social life as a result. This can then have a knock-on effect on other household members, particularly as far as finances are concerned.
As a family member, you may find yourself going out of your way to reduce potential anxiety in a bid to decrease the rituals and obsessions that characterize OCD. In many cases, this will not actually have the desired effect, and puts a lot of strain on other family members as daily routines have to be adjusted. It is not uncommon to feel as though you are walking on eggshells around your loved one for fear of unintentionally interrupting or adversely affecting compulsive rituals.
Sometimes, you may feel obliged to take part in compulsive rituals alongside the suffer, or this may be demanded of you. For example, you may be required to repeatedly wash your hands and clothes or remove items of clothing when entering the house if the compulsive rituals are centred on fears of contamination and hygiene. Alternatively, you may be asked to repeatedly check locks and switches. This may seem as though it is helping the sufferer, but it is merely fuelling their obsessions and compulsions and ensuring that the disorder retains its stranglehold on him or her. Instead, it is more beneficial for the sufferer to receive treatment for their symptoms so that at some degree of normal life can be resumed.