What It’s Like To Live With OCD

In the United States, between 2.5 and 3.5 million people¹ live with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While this mental health condition can be debilitating, it's possible to control the symptoms associated with OCD. In fact, around 70% of patients² respond well to treatment.

Living with OCD doesn't have to be tough or distressing. With timely diagnosis, comprehensive treatment, and family support, people with OCD may be able to lead a normal life.

Let's take a closer look at the key elements of living with OCD.

Have you considered clinical trials for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Getting a diagnosis 

OCD isn't a condition that can go away on its own. Unfortunately, its symptoms can worsen with time. If you suspect that you have OCD, it's imperative to contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Signs that you may have OCD include:

  • Obsessions - persistent thoughts about different subjects, including fear or contamination, aggressiveness toward others or self, and/or desire to keep things in perfect order.

  • Compulsions - repetitive behaviors (rituals) that may include frequent bathing or handwashing, putting items in the order, repeatedly checking on things, and/or counting.

Signs that your loved one may have OCD include:

  • Spending too much time alone

  • Repetitive behaviors

  • Frequent need for reassurance

  • Consistent attention to minor things

  • Extreme emotional response to minor issues

  • Sleep problems

  • Constantly being late

  • Irritability

  • Indecisiveness

More than 50%³ people with mental health disorders don't receive treatment. One of the main reasons is the stigma associated with these conditions. If you have OCD, know that it's not your fault nor is it a sign of personal weakness. 

Mental health disorders like OCD are illnesses that require treatment and recovery, just like any physical disorder or problem. Getting help for OCD is an integral part of improving your quality of life.

Implementing treatment

Proper treatment is the key to OCD symptom relief. If a primary care physician makes the initial diagnosis, they may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Therapists can recommend a suitable course of treatment depending on your symptoms, medical history, and intensity of your condition.

The common treatment options for OCD are:

  • Medication - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) – a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

The number of CBT sessions you may need depends on many factors, including the severity of your condition, duration of the symptoms, your motivation, coexisting mental health disorders, use of medication, and extent of family support.

People with mild OCD symptoms may only need around 10 hours of therapy sessions, which is typically about 10 sessions with exercises in between. Meanwhile, SSRIs could take around 12 weeks to start working to improve symptoms.

Getting support 

Support is an important part of OCD treatment. However, in some cases, family members can unknowingly make matters worse. Their desire to help can sometimes turn into supporting obsessions and compulsions if they are not properly educated on the illness.

For example, if a person is having thoughts about harming themselves, a family may respond by hiding dangerous objects in the home, such as knives. This provides a very temporary solution and may not even be entirely effective in keeping the person with OCD safe from harming themselves. 

Or, if a person with OCD is worried about leaving the oven on, a family member may try to help by repeatedly checking the oven for them. This could perpetuate obsessions and compulsions.

Effective support for a person with OCD includes:

  • Helping the person stick to their treatment plan (remind them to take their medication, encourage at-home CBT exercises)

  • Having patience and/or avoiding anger and frustration during communication

  • Not expecting the treatment to work quickly

  • Communicating in simple terms

  • Keeping the family routine normal

If you don't have access to family support, you can join a support group. The International OCD Foundation can help you find one in your area.

Celebrating victories 

If you are achieving your OCD treatment goals, reward yourself for it. No matter how small your achievements may seem, it takes courage and significant effort to accomplish them. Cheer yourself or your loved one on.

The road to recovery may also have setbacks. Since this is absolutely normal, there is no reason to blame yourself when you experience challenges.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What is it like living with severe OCD?

People who have severe OCD spend the majority of their time focusing on obsessive thoughts and doing rituals to ease them. This reduces their quality of life and often keeps them from working and socializing.

What should you not say to someone with OCD?

Things to avoid saying include: "Why can't you stop this?" "It's all in your head." "Just learn to live with it."

Can people live normally with OCD? 

With the right treatment, many people who have OCD can lead a normal life.

Is it hard to live with someone with OCD?

It can be hard to live with someone who has OCD. However, by offering your support, you may help a person control their symptoms and lead a normal life.

The lowdown 

Without proper treatment, living with OCD can be hard. Quality of life can be low due to persistent obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals. While there isn't a cure for OCD, therapy, and medication can help keep symptoms under control.

The key to improving your life with OCD is being evaluated and diagnosed by a mental health professional and getting treatment. If you think you may have OCD, speak to your doctor about your options.

Have you considered clinical trials for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Discover which clinical trials you are eligible for

Do you want to know if there are any Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) clinical trials you might be eligible for?
Have you taken medication for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?
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