A version of this post first appeared on my blog in April 2013….
One of the most heartbreaking aspects of obsessive-compulsive disorder is the frequent occurrence of recovery avoidance. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a potentially devastating disorder, but it is treatable. Still, many people with OCD are so terrified of treatment, and perhaps of even getting better, that they cannot bring themselves to even attempt exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.
So what can we do when someone we love has OCD but is not “ready” for treatment? The above link to recovery avoidance gives suggestions which include expressing our concerns to our loved ones, not enabling them, and continuing to live our own lives in a positive manner. So many families of those with recovery avoidance follow these recommendations as best they can. Sometimes there are positive results, and other times, their loved ones with OCD continue to deteriorate before their very eyes.
It’s hard to witness, especially for parents who are used to making everything “all better.” How can we just sit around and watch someone we care so much about get sicker and sicker? And so we continue to search for therapists, continue to learn everything we can about OCD and its treatment, and continue to look into every program and facility out there. These are all positive actions but the truth is unless the person suffering from OCD is ready to accept help, our efforts are likely to fall short.
Again, how can we help those with OCD commit to treatment? We can try talking to them, and we can visit a myriad of health-care professionals who also try to get through to them. We feel desperate, and resort to begging, pleading, and even yelling at our loved ones because we don’t know what else to do. They say we don’t understand, and it’s true, we don’t. Who could understand?
Other people with OCD. People who have struggled and people who have triumphed. People who get up every day committed to fighting OCD, accepting relapses if they should occur, and just continuing on doing the very best they can, determined to not let OCD overtake their lives. I think that’s what people currently suffering with OCD need to see – that there are others who truly do understand, and more importantly, have stood up to OCD and reclaimed their lives. Support groups, blogs, and events such as The International OCD Conference (being held July 27-29 in Washington, DC) have the potential to be incredibly helpful.
Many people with OCD report that having meaning in their lives and staying true to their values are important parts of their recovery. What better way to do this than to support others with OCD in whatever way works for you. It’s likely to be a win-win situation for everyone.
Thanks for this very helpful post . I’d love to hear from any parents out there that are caught up in the rituals . At home we have long sessions of repeating phrases in certain ways expecially close to bedtime . Whilst we comply there doesn’t seem to be enough of a reason for our daughter to tackle ERPT but if we attempt to withdraw there are terrible meltdowns .It feels like we enable and perpetuate her OCD . Many thanks .
Thanks for sharing Deborah and your issue is a common one. I would strongly suggest that you and other family members meet with an OCD specialist who can help you learn how to not enable your daughter. Every time you accommodate her OCD, it gets stronger, so she is unlikely to show any improvements until this cycle is broken. Good luck!