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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can i help my brother who thinks he has OCD?

    My brother says he has ocd. I dont think he has seen a dr and i dont think he use to be like this when he lived at home now that i think of it but hes about 28 and i noticed some odd things since hes moved out of home in the last year or so. I always thought he was just a bit depressed and had low self esteem but now im starting to hear more stories from my parents. How can they help him? Is it something he needs to get help for himself?
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    beyondblue is a national, independent, not-for-profit organisation working to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related disorders in Australia.beyondblue is a bipartisan initiative of … View Profile

    Check out the beyondblue websites, where we have specific information about the symptoms, what to look for, effective treatments for OCD. The best thing you can do at this stage is to assist him to get high quality information, have the conversation, and support and encourage him to get a proper assessment and if necessary, treatment.

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    Penny Lewis

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I am a Clinical Psychologist with more than 25 years experience working with adults with a broad range of backgrounds dealing with a wide variety … View Profile

    This is a very important question because if someone in your family has OCD, then the whole family can be effected, particularly if you are living in the same house.  Sometimes coping with OCD in the family can be very emotionally taxing and frustrating for all, leading to unhelpful behaviours like ridicule or hostility. There can even be major conflict between family members who are accommodating versus those who are intolerant of the symptoms. Learning as much as you can about this condition can foster understanding and the right kind of support. 

    OCD is a lifelong problem that waxes and wanes according to stress levels, so finding ways to support your brother to reduce stress in his life can be very helpful. However, you would benefit from seeking some professional guidance with this as often, the very thing you may be doing to “help” your brother may end up adding fuel to the fire of his OCD. OCD has a way of sucking everyone in to assist with the very behaviours that keep it going. For example, helping him with rituals (e.g. checking locks, washing your hands, disinfecting your selves) so he is less anxious, or reassuring him about the obsessions (e.g. Did I harm someone? Will something bad happen?) may calm your brother in the short term, but in the long term will strengthen his OCD.
     
    People with OCD often have a lot of shame about their condition and so hide much of what they are doing and thinking from others and are reluctant to seek help. So getting him to see a professional may be challenging. But there are very effective treatments for OCD, particularly Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT),  and OCD is unlikely to get better without some intervention. In fact, while some obsessions or compulsions may reduce, they are often replaced by different obsessions or compulsions. Getting treatment early is important as the longer OCD runs the  sufferer’ s life, the  more restricted their life can become as the OCD infiltrate’s more areas of their  life and leads to more avoidance of situations that are involved in the OCD system. Learning ways of gaining back control of your life so that the OCD does not control you is a big feature of therapy.
     
    A good starting point would be your GP who can do a mental health treatment plan and refer your brother to a psychologist. Most importantly of all, ask your GP to refer him to a psychologist who has a special interest in OCD as there has been a lot happening in this field in the last few years.  OCD is a very complex and challenging condition, so please do get professional help with it.
     

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