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OCD and Family: some practical tips

This month of April we dedicate it to OCD and the family. How does obsessive-compulsive disorder affect the families of people who have it? What can you do to make your OCD affect your family less? How the family environment can affect your OCD? What to do if a family member has OCD? How can you help them in their day to day life? How can you show them how helpful therapy can be? This month we want to answer all these questions about OCD and family. 


How can I help a relative with OCD? 10 practical tips. 


  1. Listen instead of giving advice: A quick piece of advice or a catchphrase can make your family member feel misunderstood. Instead try asking them how they feels or what they need and listen. What you can advise them is to seek professional help.


  1. Refuse to be part of the rituals: If you “help” them with this, you can keep the problem, since the rituals are a way of expressing a high level of anxiety. Instead, you can ask them what is wrong with them that is causing that anxiety. It is good to try to show yourself as a figure of relief and serenity.


  1. Do not focus on mistakes – Focusing on them and not seeing the bright side can give the feeling that there is too much to do and it can damage their self-esteem. Show them that mistakes are allowed and can be overcome.
  2. Be patient: The radical changes needed to combat OCD do not happen in a day. Every little step is progress and can be preparation for bigger changes in the future. Congratulate them on these small advances.


  1. Help the other person to be themselves: try to be open-minded when your family member is interested in something that you do not like. Living a life in which you cannot do what you are passionate about can create a lot of stress, so try to create spaces of acceptance.


  1. Offer support and trust: People with OCD may feel alone or different. Give them space and time to talk about whatever they want, make them feel safe and accepted, and let them know that you want the best for them.


  1. Empathize: their obsessions or rituals are not of their own free will, but there are many fears behind that overcome the person. Many people have a hard time knowing how to get out and they can get frustrated, so your empathy can be a source of optimism, strength, and hope.


  1. Look at the person and not at OCD: The person may feel labeled by social stigma. Try to talk about other things, beyond their illness (their likes, worries, sufferings, hobbies …). This reinforces the feeling of acceptance and allows them to get distracted from the obsessions for a while, which is very healthy.


  1. Do not judge the symptoms of the disorder: Obsessions and compulsions are a manifestation of anxiety. Even if you do not understand them, try to have an attitude of listening and tolerance to help the person to open up.


  1. Support psychological treatment: without specialized help they can suffer a lot and even get worse. You have to think about the best for the person and support them to receive treatment. For many people, this decision is not easy and they need the support of their friends and family.

Remember that if you need therapy for yourself, we are also available.


What to do if a family member with OCD does not want to do therapy? 

Sometimes people with OCD have been suffering from obsessions and compulsions for a long time. Over the years, they have tried different therapies and, although they have found brief periods of relative improvement, they are still suffering from OCD.

For that reason, they lose hope and distrust therapy.

This causes a lot of suffering also to their families, who do not know what to do to convince them to attend a therapy that, actually, they need.


What can you do if this is your case?

Above all, it is important to remember that the decision to go to therapy is ultimately up to the person with OCD. Only that person knows how they feel and when they are ready to take the plunge.

Also, if they are over 18, the decision to go to therapy is theirs and no one can force them.

However, you can advise them and show them content that will help them reflect and, perhaps, recover the energy to try again.


Some arguments you can show them:

For a therapy to have good results, it is important to go to specialist psychologists in OCD. A specialist who deals with OCD patients on a daily basis will have many more resources and will know better how to deal with it than a general psychologist.

The patient thinks “my case is very strange and nobody understands me”, but we OCD specialized psychologists think “I understand you, because I have treated dozens of people with a case like yours.”

The OCD specialized psychologist knows how to proceed, because he/she has already been successful in treating cases like yours. If all these OCD patients have achieved a better life, why not you? The important thing is to put yourself in good hands.

And superficial therapy that treats only the symptoms (the obsessions and compulsions) is not enough. What you think about all day does not matter: you have to treat the internal anxiety and the mental blocks that these obsessions produce in you. Only in this way, treating the root of the problem, the obsessions can be reduced and not reappear.


5 practical tips if your relative does not want to do therapy


  1. Always try to start by giving information, not by forcing them to come to therapy.


This will begin to interest in therapy little by little. It is very important to be motivated to get involved and thus achieve good results.


Giving information requires less involvement and can change your perspective. Thus, little by little, they may change their mind on their own and, when they decide, they will come to therapy with energy and a desire to improve. In our therapeutic process it is very important that the person is motivated to achieve a change of life.

However, if you force them, they won’t come or will come reluctantly and won’t get involved. And without involvement, there are no good results.


  1. Start by showing them videos. It is a simple, fast and pleasant way to find out. It is ideal to start because it gives you the keys to be interested and then want to expand with more information. Also, being able to see psychologists on video is much more personal and gives confidence.

When some parents call us worried because their child does not want to do therapy and they do not know what to do, we always recommend:

Our Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/IPITIAafop

(From our bio you can access Ipitia’s Linktree, with all the links that we recommend. From there you can access our channel). We recommend the video “Can you overcome OCD?”

The highlights of our bio on Instagram.


  1. Follow us on Instagram. This way you can see information on different topics in our posts, you can participate in the questions and questionnaires of our stories or write to us through the chat to ask us whatever you want.


  1. Get to know our team. On our website you will find a section with photos, CV and a small personal presentation of each of the IPITIA psychologists. In our center we seek to break the cold and aseptic relationship between patient and psychologist: we want to be next to our patients to walk this path together.


  1. Know the experience of other people in therapy who have done well. This decreases the feeling of taboo and the feeling of being the only ones who have to go to the psychologist.


  1. Make a first session, without commitment to continue. This way your relative with OCD will be able to see if this treatment is suitable for them.


  1. Come accompanied. Starting treatment again involves opening up again, and that can make the person with OCD feel very vulnerable. Many need to have support. That is why they can come accompanied by a family member and even enter the session together during part of the session if that helps them (as long as the person with OCD, of legal age, is the one who decides). This accompaniment can give a different perspective and help in the therapeutic process.


4 Reasons your relative may have not to go to therapy.


1) Not being hopeful after trying different therapies. 

It is the most usual. For this reason, we propose a different method: we focus on eliminating basic anxiety, breaking blockages and achieving a change of life, focusing on achieving vital goals. 


It is not exposing oneself to fears for the simple fact of exposing oneself, but linked to a personal objective and desire. And in this way, the mental pressure that the person with OCD already has is not increased.


2) Mental pressure and fear of being exposed to fears. In some therapies, for example, the person is directly exposed to their fear. This increases the mental pressure, especially in some sensitive cases such as fear of harm OCD.


Negative attitudes that harm people with OCD and their relationship with their families.

  • Passivity: inability to express your wishes and opinions.
  • Overadaptation: always conforming to what others want or what you think they want.
  • Guilt: everything you do that goes outside of very strict limits makes you feel very bad. You cannot be yourself or live your life without feeling bad.

All this generates great anxiety and perpetuates the obsessive disorder and negative family dynamics.

Do you want to stop it? Go to therapy, your therapist will help you to work not only your OCD, but also a healthier relationship with your environment.


For this reason, we propose to go over fear and focus on the objective. In this way, you are creating new connections in the brain, new ways of coping and, little by little, it will be easier. 


Parts of the personality, the meaning of fear, etc. are also worked on. The key is not only to do things, but to become free to express oneself, to deal with situations, to have a life project or for the person to be able to enjoy social contact.


  1. Economic or time reluctance. Doing therapy has a cost (in time and money), but it is an investment in your health. It is a necessary step to be able to live better. On the topic of time, for example, people with OCD already spend a lot of their time on obsessions and compulsions. 


When 10 sessions or more are done, a significant improvement begins to be noticed and a lot of time is saved that was previously lost in rituals. Being able to live better and be well makes the financial investment also worthwhile.


  1. Believing that you have a very rare type of everything. Many people think that and this thought restricts them when it comes to going to a psychologist. However, psychologists who are specialized in OCD have seen all kinds of OCD hundreds of times. 


Even if it’s a little different, we know how to treat it. What for them is rare, for us it is our day to day and that is why we know how to help you.


7 Toxic behaviors in the family that harm you if you have OCD


A controlling or resistant environment:  It makes you live pretending to be someone else just to please others.

To escape from it, prioritize your desires. Find activities that you are passionate about, tell what you really think, be yourself and focus on your wishes and dreams.


Manipulation: Either clear or subtle, it prevents you from doing or saying what you really want.

But you have the right to defend yourself and give your opinion (always with respect), to say “no” and to not tolerate being treated badly.


Being a slave of your children: Loving your children very much does not mean that all their whims are more important than your needs or that you should tolerate tantrums to try to manipulate you. You also need time for yourself. Also, setting limits is healthy for everyone in the family.


Dependence: It occurs when a person is very insecure and afraid of feeling alone. That is why, unconsciously, they end up needing someone who is not free by their side. And so, it restricts any attempt by the person with OCD to improve their situation. It is important that if it happens to you, you look for your own space to develop autonomy.


Passive-aggression: passive-aggressive people boycott any attempt to improve the patient with OCD in a subtle, planned and elusive way. To avoid these boycotts, you will need to reinforce your own space and needs and not yield to guilt.


Monotony: Routines prevent you from having moments to do what you want or express yourself freely. Life becomes an accumulation of obligations and this generates high anxiety. Therefore, find a moment for yourself in which to do very different and unexpected activities to break that routine.

Guilt: It can appear when doing something that you think is not “the right thing”. But that conception is too rigid and ends up generating anxiety and irrational fears. Being yourself and allowing yourself to be happy is not incompatible with taking care of your loved ones and also produces healthier relationships. If you are better, everyone will be better.