Helping a Loved One Cope with Anxiety and Fear
Anxiety and fear can make life difficult for anyone, but for those who suffer from OCD, anxiety and fear can lead to destructive and life altering habits as a coping method. If you are only familiar with OCD from depictions in the media, you may think that the illness is about actions that are physically compulsive, or you might associate it with an intense desire for cleanliness and order.
In reality, OCD can be anything that is compulsive, including reoccurring or repetitive thoughts that you can’t remove. Many times, those who suffer from OCD have an understanding of what is rational and what is not. The difference between them and others is that they have an inability to control their thought patterns and habits.
Ways You Can Help
OCD treatments may use a number of different methods including medicine and exposure therapy, but there are also some things you can do to help a loved one who suffers from anxiety and fear associated with the illness.
Because the root of OCD is often a fear or anxiety, distraction can be a very useful tool in helping someone you know move past an experience of completing the OCD behavior. It may take a combination of support and medication, and your first priority should be to show compassion for the difficulty of the struggle. Then, without using techniques that are invasive or surprising, you can talk through what triggers a person’s OCD behaviors. Instead of telling them to fight the fear or anxiety, encourage them to embrace it.
In a controlled environment and with the person’s approval, try some different distraction methods. Exercise is a good coping mechanism to reduce the thoughts and anxiety associated with the symptoms of OCD. The physical activity may serve for some as a distraction that prevents the thought patterns normally associated with OCD behavior.
Let the person know that where you are is a safe environment. While the person is working through understanding and learning how to cope in a professional OCD treatment environment, you can provide a place for that person to practice without fear of embarrassment or judgment. You may also be able to serve as a sounding board for talking through why a thought or action triggered an OCD symptom.
As with other anxieties, sometimes having a physical object to manipulate can help relieve some of the stress that comes from fear and anxiety. Beeswax, Play-Doh, and worry stones are just some of the self-soothing items that have been known to help relieve tension in stressful or triggering situations.
Small steps with positive results are the key to building mastery over the symptoms of an illness. Being available in whatever capacity you can may greatly enhance a person’s recovery time. Understanding and unconditional acceptance can sometimes put a person at ease enough to practice techniques and build confidence on a social level.
Ultimately, you will want to be there for a person in whatever capacity they need you. Asking how you can help is always a best practice, and sometimes you may not be wanted, and you should respect that wish. Support your loved one in whatever way possible while providing the room needed to grow and address the condition individually.