How do I stop giving reassurance to someone with OCD?
If you live with or love someone with OCD you are likely familiar with reassurance questions. For those unfamiliar with this term, OCD is a pattern of obsessions (unwanted taboo thoughts that cause an unwanted emotional response) and compulsions (things we do or think to make the thoughts and emotions go away). Compulsions feed OCD by reducing anxiety in the short-term, but sending the wrong message to the brain and causing more anxiety in the long-term.
An OCD sufferer may have an intrusive thought about hitting a pedestrian while driving. Someone unfamiliar with OCD will likely answer this question and move on. But they would have just unknowingly fed the OCD. Once people find treatment for OCD they and their loved ones will be informed about reassurance and how to reduce it at home. But it can be harder that it seems! What do you do when your loved one continues asking reassurance questions? What do you do if they get angry? depressed? anxious? I have a few tips for parents and family members here:
1) Make it clear that you love the person, but you do not love their OCD! When we reduce reassurance we always want to put the message out that we are doing so to help the person asking the question, not as a punishment to them. Short sentences such as "I love you too much to answer that", "I am here for you, but will not be here for your OCD" are usually helpful ways to express love while staying firm against OCD.
2) Get out of conversations quickly! People with OCD will go to great lengths to get reassurance questions answered. Remember, to them it feels as if the world may end if their question is not answered! A quick sentence such as "I love you and I am not answering that", "asked and answered", or "I am happy to talk with you about anything in the universe except for that issue" can help everyone move on
3) If it feels like OCD, it probably is! Reassurance questions can be sneaky, if you have an inkling that you're getting asked a reassurance question trust your gut and tell your loved one that you do not think you can answer. Having a therapist trained in OCD is helpful, as you can often defer questions to them during a future therapy session.
I hope this is helpful; and if reassurance questions are still plaguing your house please reach out to me or find an OCD provider near you! You can also check out my YouTube page for more information!