If you've decided that your spouse has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and you’re trying to get help for the both of you, you’ve taken a step in the right direction. Recognizing that there's a problem with your partner’s behavior and that it needs to be addressed is the first step in finding a solution. In many cases, the spouse of someone with OCD denies that the condition exists or that it poses a problem. Many people in relationship with a person with OCD enable the obsession, catering to the behaviors and allowing it shape the marriage. Both these scenarios can be highly problematic.

OCD is an anxiety disorder that is neurological in nature. It is characterized by intrusive, anxiety-producing thoughts that are typically expressed in repetitive and ritualistic behaviors with the goal of reducing anxiety. When someone suffers from OCD, it's as if their mind is stuck on a specific idea or image. At the same time, their brain signals that danger is present and that an evasive action is required to avoid anxiety. OCD can manifest itself in all types of thoughts and behaviors but the types we are most familiar with are excessive hand-washing and checking the locks on doors.

Although the origins of OCD differ from person to person it is thought to genetic. It is also likely that environmental factors play an important role. Research has found that OCD often begins in childhood when a child's circumstances require them to take on a higher degree of responsibility than is appropriate for their age. Often, they are the responsible one in their family, looking after younger children and possibly a parent as well.

When living with someone with OCD, it’s important to recognize that view the world differently than you do. Sometimes it may seem as if they are living on an alternative reality that has an enduring pattern. You can gently help to loosen this pattern by questioning and challenging false perceptions. It is helpful if the questioning is positive and supportive to help reduce your partner’s defensiveness.

Take every opportunity to help your spouse reframe perceptions and reevaluate thoughts and behaviors. When your spouse is going to wash their hands for the fourth time, say, "You don't need to wash your hands again. They are still clean." It is important that you don't get angry, even if challenged or contradicted. Instead, hold firm and be compassionate.

It is also helpful to objectify the OCD by separating it from your partner's personality. When your spouse says, "Do you think I should wash my hands again?" you might say, "That's your OCD speaking, it’s not the real you."

Even if you spouse is on medication and in counseling, you still will need day-to-day interventions. If needed, marriage counseling may be helpful if you and your wife are agreed that it's necessary. Couples therapy can be an effective tool and should be regarded as a necessary first step toward more intensive treatment.

To learn more about living with someone with OCD and how marriage counseling can help, visit the following websites:


Author's Bio: 

Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. is a best-selling author, psychotherapist and marriage counselor in private practice in San Jose, Ca. She specializes in divorce prevention, improving marital communication, and increasing connection and intimacy in relationships. To learn more, visit https://onlinetherapywell.com or http://DrRandiFredricks.com.