If I could give advice to those who love/live with someone who has OCD, the number one thing I would say is: DON’T go along with or give in to their obsessions and compulsions.
As a person with OCD, coming to the realization that this is what is best has been a long, difficult road. I wouldn’t have been able to understand this concept a few years ago. But now I know this is the only way for me to get better.
If your loved one asks for reassurance—for example, asking “are the doors locked?”–don’t give it. If their OCD causes certain foods you cook to feel “contaminated” to them, don’t rearrange your meal schedule. Instead, encourage them to eat the food you made or pour themselves some cereal as an alternative. If something doesn’t seem clean to them, whether its your hands or a surface of the house or a room, don’t clean it for them.
I know you don’t want to cause them anxiety and pain. But you’re not, its the OCD that is causing those things. The anxiety and pain will only decrease and eventually not be a problem anymore if the OCD sufferer sits with the anxiety—endures it—until it goes down. Thats the only way for their brain to learn that those anxious signals are not true.
By removing the sources of anxiety for them, you are just enabling the OCD to continue to control them. The most loving thing you can do is kindly explain that you are not going to let the OCD control you and encourage them to not let the OCD control them.
Don’t leave them on their own. Let them know you are on their team. Sit with them, do something soothing for them or distract them with an activity, movie, or food. The anxiety does go down all on its own if you wait it out.
If you have been trying to help by giving in to the OCD’s demands, don’t just stop cold turkey. Talk with your loved one and explain the new rules and boundaries. You are your own person, and are allowed to have those. And you love them and know this is the BEST way to help them, and you’ll help them endure the anxiety, but won’t do things to temporarily stop it because that just keeps in going in the long-term.
Be flexible and follow your gut though. On a seriously bad day, where harm might come to them otherwise, it might be okay to help relieve their anxiety. Sometimes the OCD is sending so many overwhelming threat signals that they truly cannot just sit with it, and if you refused to help that may feel like abandonment. You should be able to tell when its worse to NOT to relieve the anxiety.
But for the most part, just say no to OCD.
Help your loved one master OCD, rather than being mastered by OCD.