Working with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is marked by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are considered intrusive and unwanted thoughts that are experienced frequently that cause distress. To combat the distress the person tries to alter these thoughts by focusing on other thoughts or actions. Compulsions are the actions a person may complete to alleviate the obsessions. These are often repetitive and ritualistic in nature. The obsessions do not need to be related to the compulsions and often in our field, we will not know the obsessive thought triggering the compulsive reaction.
What does this mean? Well, we all have our own specific actions that we like to do but that does not mean that we have OCD. To have OCD one needs to engage in these obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions over an hour a day! Additionally, it must interfere with our ability to function.
How do I support someone with OCD? First it is important to remember that the person does not want to engage in the compulsion. Their obsessive thoughts are so disruptive that they feel they need to engage in the compulsion. It can be really frustrating to work with but its important to remember that is has nothing to do with you!
Keeping this in mind we almost never recommend stopping a person from engaging in their compulsive behavior. Frequently you will support someone engaging in a ritual. Let them carry it out! The person may become upset or aggressive if you get in their way.
The only time we would recommend stopping a compulsion if it may hurt the person or someone else. Otherwise, it is just engaging in a power struggles over repetitive movements, actions, or items that can be replaced!
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.