What about Siblings?

by sattva freedigitalphotos.net

by sattva freedigitalphotos.net

Well, we’ve made it through the holidays, with so much focus on family and spending time together. We’ve read all the articles about how to get along with those difficult relatives that, thankfully, you only need to interact with once or twice a year. We do what we need to do, and then we’re good for another year!

But what if that “difficult relative” lives with you? What if he or she is someone you love dearly, someone you long to have a close relationship with? And what if you are too young to truly grasp the reasons why this closeness isn’t happening? Actually, there’s a lot you don’t understand. Why does he or she act oddly at times? Why (in some cases) does this person avoid you, or worse, not even allow you both to be in the same room?

I’m talking, of course, about being a sibling of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have previously written about my family’s situation and how we dealt with our daughters when our son Dan’s OCD was severe. I talk about what I think we did right, and what I think we did wrong. Of course each family’s story is unique, but for younger children who are living with a sibling with OCD, there are some questions I feel should always be considered:

Are they being teased about their brother or sister at school? Do they resent not getting as much attention as their sibling with OCD? Do they feel uncomfortable in their own home? Do they think their sibling’s OCD is somehow their fault? Do they feel frustrated because they want to help their sibling and don’t know how? Are they embarrassed, confused, jealous? Do they feel scared, or neglected? Do they think they might develop OCD also?

This is only the tip of the iceberg. So much to consider!

The Washington Post recently published a wonderful article titled “Eight things siblings of children with special needs struggle with.” While it doesn’t specifically focus on OCD, each struggle mentioned rings true for families dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I highly recommend checking it out.

While it is quite possible that siblings of those with OCD will grow up to be more empathetic, responsible, and understanding than many of their peers, we must realize they are also often burdened. As are we parents. It can be heartbreaking to witness the toll OCD takes on everyone in the household. And while it is a monumental task to do right by each child in the family when obsessive-compulsive disorder is involved, it is necessary. Parents should seek support and professional advice whenever possible.

And we need to remember that children themselves can be extremely helpful as well. Asking all of our children what they feel and what they need from us is so important. Open communication among everyone in the family can go a long way. With a lot of hard work, love, and proper treatment for OCD, there’s a good chance that close sibling relationship can become a reality.

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8 Responses to What about Siblings?

  1. Excellent post, Janet! Our oldest, Michael, has significantly felt the impact of his brother having OCD. He sees it in both positive and in challenging ways. When he was younger, he was incredibly embarrassed of his brother’s behavior and so angry at the attention his OCD took and how he had to go to therapy with him (an hour or more drive each way every week). As he’s grown older, he notices how he sometimes tiptoes around others to avoid upsetting them, but he’s working on that one. On the upside, he is incredibly sensitive to others, particularly those with emotional health issues. He’s a great listener and a champion for treatment and understanding. When he was younger, he found solace in having friends who also had special needs siblings – it gave him a sense of support and understanding.

    • Thanks for sharing how OCD has affected Michael, Angie. I think you bring up a great point mentioning how beneficial it can be to connect with others who have siblings with special needs. It can be so helpful, no matter what the situation, to know you are not alone.

  2. Svend says:

    Good work, keep it up! 🙂 I’ve been following your blog for years, and I am finally recovering from my anxiety and ocd. Your blog has been a great inspiration for me and I finally started my own blog:


    – Sven

    • Hi Sven, I’m so glad you’ve found my blog helpful over the years, and am happy to hear you are doing better. I will definitely check out your blog and hope to hear from you again!

  3. Anonymous says:

    My younger sister has severe OCD and scrupulosity. Several years ago she became extremely ill & it affected her to the point of requiring daily ERP therapy at a treatment center. Because the treatment center was a ways from home, I quit my job & became her sole caregiver during those 6 months. I watched my best friend & little sister essentially disappear into her anxiety & had to push her everyday through her therapy & homework to catch glimpses of her & eventually get her back. She is healthier than ever now & living her best life! It is important to consider that because anxiety can be genetic, the stress of the situations/experiences can cause or trigger anxiety in siblings as well. I am now currently in therapy, working through the residual of that experience, its’ effects on me, and processing my own anxiety that flared up. Thanks for your post!

    • Your sister is very lucky to have you. Not everyone would be as helpful and supportive as you were, and continue to be I’m sure. I think you bring up an important point about considering genetics and the anxiety that might occur in siblings. I wish you and your sister all the best as you move forward and I’m glad you’ve sought therapy for yourself. You are amazing!

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