OCD and Lack of Family Support


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A version of this post first appeared on my blog in February 2014……….

I have written about OCD and the importance of family involvement in treatment, and some of the comments I received on that post proved to be eye-openers for me.  My  assumption has always been that family members, especially parents, are totally supportive of their loved one with OCD. This theory has been backed up over and over. I get comments and emails from family and friends of those with OCD who desperately want to help them. I connect with people at OCD conferences who want to learn whatever they can about the disorder so they can encourage and advocate for their loved ones. I think of my own extended family who, when things were rough for Dan, offered to help out in any way they could.

While my experiences are real, my view is skewed. Obviously I don’t hear from parents who are not supportive of their children. Why would I? And these same people are not attending conferences or reaching out to others or advocating for their loved ones. There are many reasons why this might be, such as believing their child should just “get over it,” or not acknowledging they are dealing with an actual illness. Maybe they’re embarrassed. To me, the reasons don’t matter much. What matters is there are people with OCD out there who are not only suffering, they are suffering alone.

This is heartbreaking. Even with all of the support in the world, obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a devastating illness. But having to deal with OCD without that support? I can’t even imagine. And my guess is that many people with OCD who are unsupported are also ridiculed and totally misunderstood by those they love. Nobody deserves to be treated that way.

I am not talking about ignorance here. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge. Most of us who find ourselves catapulted into the world of OCD start off ignorant. I sure did. But we do what we’d do if our loved one had been diagnosed with any illness. We learn as much as we can about it and try to find appropriate help. I know there is stigma to deal with as well as preconceived notions and misinformation about OCD. I know families and their histories can be complicated. I get this. But it shouldn’t matter. When your child is suffering you need to put all that baggage aside, learn the truth about OCD, and take appropriate action.

For those suffering with OCD who have not gotten the support they need from their families, I hope they can find the strength to develop the support system they deserve. Good friends, clergy, social workers and teachers are some examples of people who could be helpful.

Unfortunately, I know I am likely preaching to the choir here. Those who have no interest in learning about OCD or helping their loved ones are probably not reading my blog. I hope someone can reach them.

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6 Responses to OCD and Lack of Family Support

  1. grannyK says:

    I agree that ignorance is usually the case. I struggled growing up and my mom would tell me to stop being sad, I had nothing to be sad about, and had a “get over it” attitude. But, I wasn’t diagnosed until later in life and I know she just didn’t understand. She was doing the best she could to get me to change my attitude and stop doing what she called “my habits”. It made me sad at the time that I didn’t feel like she was really listening, but when I learned about what was going on, I knew why she was so confused. I have no hard feelings about it. The knowledge just wan’t readily available that long ago!

  2. Doris says:

    My son refuses treatment that he knows he needs. I am doing everything i can – trying not to enable yet be supportive.

    Everyone tells me he needs to hit bottom and then he will initiate getting help – and until then, there’s not too much except let him know i love him and I’m there for him – which i think knows but does not like to go there as he wants to prove he independence. He is 17.

    Let me know if you have any suggestions?

    • Hi Doris, I’m sorry things have been so rough for you and your son. Maybe this article might help:
      The bottom line is you can’t force your son into treatment. I’d suggest meeting with an OCD specialist yourself to get some guidance as to the best ways to support your son without enabling. It can be so difficult!
      Also, please make an effort to take care of yourself. I know how all consuming it can be dealing with a loved one who has OCD. A good therapist could help you out in this area as well.
      Wishing you all the best!

      • Doris says:

        Thank you, Janet!

        I read the article – there is one bad link on recovery avoidance but i will check further.

        Main thing is i will setup an appointment with the ocd psychologist for advice on next steps and then have (another) heartfelt conversation with my son – even if it is through the door.

        Warm regards,


      • Hi Doris, That sounds like a good plan. Thank you for letting me know about the bad link – I will let my editor at Psych Central know. I’m keeping you and your son in my thoughts as you move forward.

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