A rock climber needs a partner to prevent them from falling. Divers almost always descend in pairs. Emergency medical services operate in droves. Homo sapiens are social animals and wandering through life alone risks everything. When the world seems darkest, when the spirals become too severe, when the intrusive thoughts won’t stop, those who love you can throw a lifeline. Support groups can save you from drowning and ignite the torch before the lights fade.
Anyone can constitute a support group: relatives, friends, therapists, and coworkers. In its simplest form, a support group describes anyone whom you can turn to for emotional support. They do not need to understand OCD, or even what OCD entails. They may not even know you have intrusive thoughts and perform detrimental behaviors. Perhaps they offer you a direct service—like a psychiatrist—or they may just hold you while you cry— a friend or perhaps a pet. Ultimately, a supporter is anyone who loves and listens.
Diversify Your Support
You have a unique and meaningful communication with everyone you befriend and anyone who supports you. If you have a small support group, they may not have enough experience to assist you when and where you need it. Keeping a varied group of caring people helps you express yourself as needed and wanted. Depending on your situation, you may find it difficult to keep more than a few people around you. Just remember that anyone you can turn to emotionally can assist you.
While a support group wants to help you, they may not know how to do so. Communicate with them openly and direct them to professional resources such as the ones found here. Additionally, the better you understand your OCD, the better you can teach others how to help you and create an empathetic relationship. As aforementioned, though, individuals in your support group do not need to know you have OCD. If you don’t want to tell them about your disorder, you can always let them know how they can comprehensively assist you. Better still, your relationship likely already has an element of mutual support, and you can access that extant connection.
I’ve talked a lot about what a support group is, but what specifically can they do for you? The following list contains a few things I and others have asked the support systems to help them with:
- Check on you regularly via text
- Help you keep a consistent sleep schedule (since OCD comes with an offset circadian rhythm)
- Let you cry in their arms
- Play a game with you
- Exercise with you
- Assist you with exposures
- Let you stay the night
Teach those around you the dangers of reassuring OCD. Reassuring people with phrases like “it will all be okay” or “nothing will happen” is a natural and instinctual form of consoling people. People with OCD compulsively seek reassurance that their obsessional fears can’t possibly make them a murderer, rapist, cheater, etc. When people reassure a sufferer, they validate their fears by engaging in their compulsions. This article does a great job highlighting a few of the reasons reassuring people with OCD is harmful. Instead of stating that “everything will be alright,” encourage your social circle to use language that acknowledges your feelings directly, such as “I understand that you are struggling.” Through education, you can help your friends and family help you.
Support groups strengthen and empower you. You don’t need to go through trials alone. Find reliable sources of strength and draw them closer to you—you’ll thank yourself later. Friendships may deepen as they come to understand your troubles. Ultimately, hold on to those who bring you light.
While this article explicitly discusses OCD, the concepts herein apply to every human being.
Have a great day and always practice self-compassion!A Fantastic Friend of Mine