Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) isn’t about only writing with a certain pen, having to have your books in alphabetical order or washing your hands loads.
OCD is life limiting – it is a compulsion which means it’s not a choice; it’s a psychological disorder that compels a person to check their hair straighteners 13 times before leaving for school; or having to turn the light switch on in every room 5 times or only eating green food on days beginning with T (these are all real struggles young people we have worked with have had).
OCD is very tough – it takes over a person’s life because they have to do these ‘checking’ behaviours often to control anxieties. Many people with OCD have experienced some difficulty and find they want to take back control of their lives by repeating activities/behaviours to manage the emotions related to the difficult event.
To help someone with OCD we need to be very, very, very patient.
If you rush them and their routine or activity isn’t completed, they will feel more stressed and may have to increase the repetition to calm themselves down.
Also, it's likely that they will need specific support through counselling or CBT: this helps the person address the underlying emotions of why they have developed the anxieties that led to the compulsive behaviours.
Try not to get frustrated or laugh: the person will be aware they are acting differently but, by your negative response, you might well be making their OCD worse.
Ask how you can help them – they might want to talk about it, they might ask you to count a certain number for them before they engage in the behaviour, they may find it helpful for you to hold their hand to stop their compulsive urges: whatever helps them, ask them.
OCD can grow into new areas – for example a person with issues of cleanliness may restrict their food intake to only eating at home where they know how it was prepared: be ready to observe changes in their behaviours and very gently and kindly point them out when you see them arise so they can develop a self-awareness and seek help.
OCD is a real struggle: let’s all learn some patience to help.