Families often struggle to accept OCD
Thu 15/02/2007

The families of people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) often struggle to accept the diagnosis, which can lead to a worsening of symptoms in the person affected, a leading counselling psychologist has warned.

With OCD, people experience repetitive and upsetting thoughts and/or behaviours. There are two main features, obsessions and compulsions. An example of this is where a person becomes obsessed with dirt or germs and as a result, feels compelled to wash their hands excessively.

According to Leslie Shoemaker who works with support group, OCD Ireland, families can have a difficult time accepting that the affected person cannot stop their behaviour.

"Sometimes family members may even struggle with accepting the diagnosis and live in hope that the disorder will resolve itself. On occasion, family members may show their anger, frustration and resentment about the OCD and unfortunately, this can result in an increase in the sufferer's OCD behaviour", Ms Shoemaker explained.

In other cases, she said, in order to keep the peace, family members may assist the OCD sufferer with their rituals or give constant reassurance. This assistance is commonly referred to as collusion. Unfortunately in the long run, this only serves to 'feed the disorder' and can lead to a worsening of the condition.

Ms Shoemaker emphasised the importance of educating the family about OCD, as this enables them to make more informed choices about how to help the family member, as well as themselves.

"With assistance, families can learn specific ways to encourage the person with OCD to stay with his/her behaviour therapy programme and/or medication", she said.

OCD Ireland is holding an open lecture on this issue in March. The lecture entitled 'OCD and the Family', will be addressed by Dr Michael McDonough, a consultant psychiatrists and cognitive behavioural psychotherapist.

The lecture will take place in the main lecture hall of St Patrick's Hospital in Dublin on Wednesday, March 7, 2007 at 7 pm. It is free of charge.

For more information, email info@ocdireland.org.

See also Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.