Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be a perplexing and frustrating condition for those who don’t experience it firsthand. The intrusive thoughts and rituals that characterize OCD may seem entirely irrational to an outside observer. However, for the person grappling with OCD, these thoughts and behaviors are driven by intense anxiety and fear that feels utterly real and inescapable.

If you have a loved one struggling with OCD, it’s crucial to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Attempts to logic them out of their fears or shame them for their behaviors are not only unhelpful but can be deeply hurtful and damaging. Here are some compassionate ways to support someone with OCD:

1. Don’t dismiss their fears or tell them to “calm down” during an anxiety attack. Their fears may seem irrational to you, but they are very real to them in that moment.

2. Avoid making fun of or belittling their compulsions, no matter how bizarre they may seem. Remember that these behaviors are driven by intense anxiety, not a lack of intelligence or self-awareness.

3. Never use their OCD as a weapon or leverage in arguments or conflicts. This is incredibly hurtful and can exacerbate their condition.

4. Respect their privacy and don’t share or mock their struggles with others outside their inner circle without their consent.

Instead of trying to logic them out of their fears, focus on being a supportive and understanding presence. Recognize that your loved one is already painfully aware of the illogical nature of their thoughts and behaviors, yet they cannot simply “stop” or “get over it.”

OCD is a complex and distressing disorder, but with patience, compassion, and appropriate treatment, it is possible to manage its symptoms and reduce its impact on daily life. By approaching the situation with empathy and avoiding judgment or dismissiveness, you can create a safe and supportive environment for your loved one to navigate their journey with OCD.