You have a friend who’s behaved strangely for years – insisting on storing canned goods a certain way, double-checking doors, and locks, and quietly repeating a favorite phrase before doing something that brings stress. This person may have obsessive-compulsive disorder, but there are ways to help overcome the symptoms.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that result in repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions hamper daily life and lead to severe distress. You may believe that you’ll somehow be relieved by doing either, but this action often results in doing the same thing repeatedly. Some people believe they’re helping themselves, but these symptoms can interfere with facets of your life, such as personal relationships, school, and work.

What Are the Symptoms?

If you’re trying to help someone with OCD, it’s important to understand the symptoms they may experience. Symptoms include obsessions and compulsions and sometimes can be managed with different kinds of treatment, including ketamine therapy.

Obsession symptoms and examples

  • Fear of uncleanness or dirt
  • Problems with uncertainty
  • Requiring order and symmetry
  • Having bad thoughts about losing control and hurting yourself or someone else.
  • Unwanted thoughts
  • Being afraid of getting contaminated after touching something that was touched by someone else.
  • Questioning whether you closed your windows or shut off the water before leaving the house
  • High stress occurs when something isn’t facing a specific way.
  • Mental images of plowing your vehicle into a crowd of people.

Compulsion symptoms and examples

  • Washing, cleaning, checking, counting in certain patterns
  • Orderliness
  • Following a stringent routine
  • Demanding assurance
  • Hand washing until your skin is raw
  • Silently reciting a prayer, word, or expression
  • Arranging your clothing by color or style

Things You Can Do to Help Someone Affected By OCD

Learning how to help someone with OCD isn’t easy and may involve trial and error and feelings of frustration. But your friend or loved one didn’t ask to have such a condition, and there’s no room for blame. Helping can take many forms.

  • Don’t forget the power of a group support network in your friend’s battle against obsessive-compulsive disorder. As hard as it may sometimes be, do your best to exude positivity and don’t scold or share negative remarks. Research has shown that negative emotions like criticism and hostility can worsen OCD symptoms and harm treatment.
  • Be aware of warning signs and symptoms. Family members and others need to learn to recognize the danger signs of OCD. Someone with OCD could be thinking of something you don’t immediately recognize as a component of the condition, so be on the lookout for behavioral changes. At this point, it would be a mistake to dismiss certain behavior or comments as a personality quirk. Many of these changes can happen gradually but differ from how the person behaved previously.
  • Be honest with yourself. Recognize that you may be encouraging and even participating in some of your loved one’s obsessions and compulsions. Taking it upon yourself to make sure your friend’s house door is locked – after they already confirmed it – only validates their behavior.
  • Be encouraging of your friend in learning about OCD and possible treatment options. As a friend, you can mention the benefits of therapy, certain medications, or newer options like ketamine, but your role in sharing knowledge – and helping your friend become informed – should never be underestimated.
  • Try to maintain normalcy. If you and your friend have a tradition of seeing a new movie with their favorite actor on opening night, then stick to it. 

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing OCD begins with a physical examination and may also include a psychiatric assessment. In either case, the goal is simple – discover if there is a reason for the symptoms and treat the cause if possible. In the case of a medical exam, there is no recognized test or procedure to diagnose OCD. If you require a mental health examination, the goal is to uncover psychological triggers and develop a plan for you to manage them.

Treatment normally involves different kinds of psychotherapy, certain medicines, ketamine therapy, or participating in a private or government-funded clinical trial.

Final Thoughts

If you know someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, there’s only so much you can do to help overcome the symptoms. Seeing a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment options is a very personal decision. Still, your support, compassion, and understanding will go a long way toward this person learning to manage OCD symptoms and lead a healthy life.

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