When talking about mental health or mental illness, we tend to focus on the sufferer and rightly so, dealing with any mental illness from anxiety to bipolar, is a daily battle, some days are better than others, some days are worse. There are a countless amount of blog posts, articles and YouTube videos about what it is like to suffer from a wide range of mental illnesses. But what about, the people who live or spend a lot of time with someone who is suffering from mental illness? What happens to them?
I think close friends and family, are some of the key people, that can make the recovery process a lot more manageable. Having a good support network around you, when you are going through the darkness times are so valuable. They can help you get the professional support you need, they can reassure you, in the gloomiest of times when you can't see any light at all. They can be your shoulder to cry on, a person to talk to about all your concerns and can make me smile, when all you feel like doing is bursting into tears.
But what about the people, who go through their battle with mental illness alone? The people who don't have a close support network of friends and family around them, to help them get through the worst times. A significant amount of people suffering from a mental illness goes through it alone, without the support of friends and family. Many choose to go through it alone, because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness, they don't want to appear weak or be rejected. So they don't tell anyone. Others, try to tell those closest to them but they get no support whatsoever. They stay silent too.
As well as reassuring those going through the mental illness, they are not alone. It's equally important to reach out to the friends, family and even people like teachers, to educate them about how they can support the sufferer. Which includes; what to say, what not to say and ways you can help make sure that they are safe, healthy and making progress to beat their mental illness.
Mental illness can't be beaten on its own by one person. It is a team effort. So I've decided to do more posts reaching out to the non-sufferers of mental illness and help them understand how they can support those closest to them battling, because I know how hard it can be when you feel totally helpless. Today's post is going to focusing on OCD.
#1 Don't make a big deal of their compulsions
It's likely that the sufferer will feel the need to perform compulsions in front of you or out in public. Or they might be performing compulsions in their head, resulting in them concentrating on that and not what you are saying. DON'T MAKE A FUSS OF THIS. PLEASE. Obviously, if they are doing something which is putting themselves in danger, you need to do something and get help. But if they are touching everything with their left hand and then their right or are cleaning their table, books and hands often, there is no need to make a fuss. Although it's important that eventually, the sufferer starts to reduce their compulsions, this needs to done gradually and through the help of a medical professional, like a counsellor who is trained and knows what they are doing.
#2 Don't take things away from them that they need to perform a compulsion
Okay, that is a bit of a mouthful, let me explain. If the sufferer is washing their hands excessively, using bleach or something else, removing it or reducing their exposure to it, is not going to hep them. You may think this is the best thing, put it's really not. If you take what the sufferer needs to reduce their anxiety away from them, they will only find other ways to ensure they can perform their compulsion to relieve the anxiety caused by the intrusive thoughts.
#3 Don't tell them that they are making it up and it is all in their head
Biologically, yes, it is all in their mind. But you can't see the fear and anxiety that is causing them to do things, which you see as abnormal behaviour. They believe what the thoughts in their head are telling them are true, even though they know what they fear is not rational, they still carry on doing it. This is because once your start to fear something, the fear builds and builds, you fear more things and see what you are doing to avoid what you are scared of as completely normal. OCD feeds of anxiety which is why it is so hard to stop. Telling the sufferer it is all in their head, is not going to help. You are pointing out, that they are different and abnormal, which is likely what the sufferer already feels and just makes them feel a million times worse.
#4 Listen to them
This is the same for all mental illnesses. It can be hard to understand what the sufferer is going through especially if you see their thoughts and behaviours as completely irrational. But just try and put yourself in their shoes. Being bullied by your own mind isn't easy. You don't have to offer advice, your not a medical professional after all. But what you can do is listen to them. Sometimes we just need someone to talk to about our feelings. We don't really want advice, we just need comfort and support. Be that person. Don't undermine their illness by believing it's not true or they are putting it on for attention. You wouldn't want people to do the same for you if it was you in this situation. It costs nothing to be kind.
#5 Educate yourself
You may think you know what OCD is, what it means etc. The chances are you are probably wrong. If you do have a good understanding of what OCD is, what it really means, maybe have a read of a few blog posts of mine about what it's like to suffer from OCD, from a sufferers perspective or read someone else's personal experiences of OCD, to enrich your knowledge further. Some my best blog posts about OCD include; 10 Things not to say to someone with OCD. 20 myths about OCD and 9 lies my OCD tells me. Some of my favourite mental health bloggers, who suffer from OCD include; Mel, Naomi, Marc, Kayleigh and Rich. All of which you should check out because they do a brilliant job of raising awareness of OCD. If you want to know the basics, NHS Choices, OCD-UK and OCD Action are the best places to start.
I hope this has provided you with some insight into how to support those around you suffering from OCD. If you are a sufferer and want more people to understand how to support those like, you with OCD, share this post as much as possible to help spread the word and hopefully help those suffering from OCD in silence reach out and get the help and support they need.
This post is going to be part of a series on my blog, addressing how to support people with different mental illnesses. I obviously haven't experienced every mental illness out there, so I will definitely be looking for bloggers to guest post with their suggestions on how to support someone with the mental illness that they personally suffer from.
No one should have to suffer in silence.
Thanks for reading, as always X