Psychologist offers a family guide to help a loved one with OCD
When a loved one has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it is a constant struggle. It hurts to see your spouse so anxious or your teenager spending so much time alone. This is especially true now that COVID-19 panic has worsened the symptoms of OCD for many people struggling with the disorder.
Psychologist Jonathan Abramowitz is an internationally recognized expert on OCD and anxiety disorders. During his 25-year career, he believes that OCD is not an individual issue. it is a family matter.
The key to successfully helping your loved one? You must first focus on your own behavior and learn to lower the standards of “family stay”, such as helping with rituals, tolerating avoidance of scandals, or the opposite as the person with OCD performs obsessive-compulsive rituals.
“I’ve worked with countless families affected by OCD. And I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. You can turn things around. You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You don’t.” We need to support … The solution is to provide the kind of consistent support that helps your relative develop the confidence and skills to manage OCD in a healthier way and without having to rely so much on you or others, “writes Dr. Abramowitz. in his new book, The Family Guide to Overting OCD.
Use the “SMART method” to reduce family stay and help your loved one with OCD
Dr. Abramowitz recommends using the acronym SMART to help you optimize your goals and maximize your chances of success. This is how it works:
S is for SPECIAL – Make your goals as detailed and specific as possible. Just saying “My goal is to stop hosting” is very vague. Instead, use “I will no longer help Ariel check doors and appliances before bed.” Try to choose goals that are based solely on your own actions (for example, “I will leave the house regardless of whether Brandon is ready to go” versus “Brandon will stop shaping ceremonies that make us late.”) You have a better chance of achieving goals when they are completely under your control. Keep the focus on changing your behavior.
M is for MEASURABLE – Your stay reduction goals should also be measurable so you know when you have succeeded. Choose specific goals that you can pursue. “Stop throwing objects that Antonio considers ‘contaminated'” provides a specific goal to be measured: whether you have thrown something or not. On the other hand, “It is not measurable that his best job does not serve Antonio’s OCD”: How do you decide if you have done a better job? Setting goals for changing observable behaviors (that someone else could see) is your best bet to make sure your goals are measurable.
A is for ACHIEVABLE – Your goals will cause you to stay focused and committed to your program, but at the same time they must be realistic. If you set goals that stretch you (and your loved one with OCD), you will continue to strive to achieve them. On the other hand, you probably will not stay committed to goals that are far away. For example, “I will never reassure my sister” is probably impossible, especially if you are used to providing reassurance and your sister is smart enough to take it from you. Instead, “I will stop responding to my sister’s texts when she asks for reassurance” is probably a more logical (and also more specific) goal.
R = RELATED – Without an emotional connection to your goals, you will lose the motivation to stay with them. In this case, they should obviously be related to (1) helping your loved one develop self-confidence and the ability to manage stress on their own, (2) reducing your involvement in OCD symptoms, and (3) improving your own and your family quality of life. Linking goals to one or more of these things will build your commitment to success.
T is for TIME BOUND – Finally, your goals must have a time frame. This means defining when you will start changing your behavior – for example, “from tomorrow.” Setting a time frame makes your goal a priority, which increases motivation. Goals without specific time frames are less likely to be achieved because you think you can postpone them.
Overcoming OCD family accommodation is not easy.
But remember, by gently but firmly encouraging the person you care about to address their fears, you can stop controlling their OCD. Eventually your relationship will become stronger and your whole family will become more confident and hopeful. “
Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz, Psychologist