I have a wish list of sorts when it comes to dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder. On this post about preventive therapy for OCD, I talk about how great it would be to have programs in place that would nip OCD in the bud.
Another item on my wish list involves teaching loved ones of OCD sufferers how to best assist them. When Dan was first diagnosed with OCD as a teenager, my knowledge of the disorder was limited to what I knew from the media, and that information was marginal at best. At the time, I knew nothing about accommodating or enabling or how sneaky OCD can be. I didn’t know there were things I should or should not do, or ways I should or should not act. I figured this was Dan’s illness, and there wasn’t much, if anything, I could do to help him beat it. It wasn’t until I learned more about the disorder on my own that I started to realize how important it is for those who love someone with OCD to be involved, to know the proper way to respond to the sufferer’s needs and desires. For OCD sufferers living with others, the way their loved ones act toward them can make all the difference in the world in their recovery from the disorder. I assume parents are involved with therapy more when the sufferer is a young child, but I really feel it is important to involve families and friends of OCD sufferers, no matter what their age.
So why aren’t there more support groups, or training sessions, or “required” visits with therapists for loved ones of OCD sufferers? Even when Dan spent nine weeks at a world-renowned residential treatment program for OCD, all we got was one sheet of paper that basically said, “Do not enable your loved one with OCD.” We actually lived close enough to this facility to have weekly meetings with Dan and the staff, but they never focused on what we, as his parents, could do to help him.
So we learned on our own, and from Dan. Once he committed to Exposure Response Prevention Therapy, our son would let us know if we were inadvertently enabling him, or behaving in any way that might hinder his progress. I remember him telling me that I should stop driving him everywhere because then he would be forced to get behind the wheel again. That’s the thing; he wanted to get better, and so he helped us to help him, even though it often meant an increase in his anxiety levels.
I think if we had the opportunity to meet, even a few times, with a therapist who specialized in OCD, we would have had a greater understanding of what was going on with Dan, and would have been in a much better position to help him. Professionals who deal with OCD all the time may need to be reminded that, quite often, loved ones of OCD sufferers know little, or nothing, about the disorder.