How to Help Someone with OCD

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mark Hrymoc, M.D.

Interested in learning how to help someone with OCD? Helping someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involves learning more about the mental health disorder, including recognizing the signs, symptoms, causes or risk factors, and various treatments available. You learn how to replace enabling behaviors with helpful support. You can also learn how to help them find the right type of treatment, which may include medication, therapy, alternative therapies, and self-care.

People with OCD often struggle silently, feeling trapped by their thoughts and rituals.

Acknowledging this challenge is the first step toward offering meaningful support. By learning about OCD and engaging in open, nonjudgmental conversations, you can encourage them to explore the benefits of seeking professional psychiatry and therapy in Los Angeles.

This article explores how to help someone with OCD.

How to Help Someone with OCD

Supporting someone with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be challenging, as it requires a delicate balance of empathy, understanding, and action.

In the United States, 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children have OCD (BeyondOCD). Recognizing the signs of OCD and understanding the impact it has on daily life is crucial for providing support. Encouraging and facilitating access to professional help while offering emotional support can make a significant difference.

Here’s how to help someone with OCD:

Support Without Enabling

It is easy to confuse helping behaviors with enabling ones. However, enabling someone can be harmful. Often, enabling is referred to as family accommodation behaviors. If you are not sure if you are enabling, you can assess your behaviors using the self-rated Family Accommodation Scale for OCD.

Enabling OCD behaviors may include the following:

  • Helping clean or sanitize areas or items they think are contaminated.
  • Giving them items that help them complete rituals.
  • Participating in rituals with them.
  • Spending a lot of time trying to reassure them.
  • Going out of your way to avoid their triggers.
  • Taking on their responsibilities so they feel less stressed.

You can support a person with OCD by doing the following:

  • Being a good role model of how to handle stress or triggers.
  • Using appropriate language and conversations about OCD.
  • Responding in a way that shows OCD is the problem, not your loved one.
  • Helping them practice coping skills.

Create a Supportive Environment

A supportive environment for someone with OCD involves verbal and physical interactions in the space in which they live. Living in a home where there is violence, verbal abuse, substance abuse, and other unhealthy behaviors does not support someone trying to overcome OCD.

Someone with OCD needs a living space that reduces stress and feels safe, and at the same time, it is not so comfortable and safe that it supports unhealthy OCD thoughts and behaviors. Creating a supportive environment is not rearranging everything to help them avoid triggers. It is a space where, when confronted with triggers, they have the tools they need to manage their thoughts and actions.

Communicate Clearly

Avoid making statements that make them feel inferior or guilty for having OCD. For example, don’t say, “Get over it,” or “Just relax.” Avoid joking about their symptoms. Instead, show empathy and say, “I’m here for you,” or “Let’s find help together.”

There are specific beneficial elements of communication in all relationships, including establishing trust between you and someone with OCD, seeing the person with OCD as having value, feeling safe to speak the truth without hurting the other person, and focusing on strengths rather than criticizing weaknesses.

Helpful communication is clear and supportive but also firm. Tips for communicating with someone with OCD include:

  • Use words that empower and encourage them to get help.
  • Let them know they are not alone and that you want to help.
  • Let them know you are not judging them.
  • Recognize their needs without enabling them.
  • Encourage them to ask for help when they feel overwhelmed or triggered.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are good for you and the person with OCD. They help you meet your needs, define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, make you feel safe, and let everyone know how you expect to be treated. There are many benefits to setting healthy boundaries, including:

  • Building trust and respect
  • Reducing codependency
  • Making self-care a priority
  • Protecting yourself physically and emotionally

If your relationship with someone makes you feel tired, anxious, fearful, dreading, or overwhelmed, it is time to set healthy boundaries. You can do this by refusing to participate in their OCD compulsions, continuing activities you want to do even if they are having compulsions, and taking care of your needs instead of putting everyone else’s needs ahead of yours.

Encourage Long-Term Management

There are things you can do to help someone with OCD manage their symptoms. Making small lifestyle changes support OCD recovery, such as

  • Eating healthy meals and snacks versus processed or fast food can improve physical and mental health.
  • Exercising each day can release endorphins and other mood-boosting brain chemicals.
  • Getting quality sleep each night helps the body restore itself physically and mentally.
  • Implementing relaxation or stress-management techniques may reduce feelings of anxiety or fear.
  • Rewarding or praising someone with OCD when they utilize healthy coping skills.
  • Seeking treatment for you and the person with OCD.

Explore Professional OCD Treatment

According to the International OCD Foundation, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication can successfully treat 70% of people with OCD. There are multiple types of CBT, medications, and other effective treatments to help reduce obsessions and compulsions.

Working with a psychiatrist and licensed mental health professionals can help someone with OCD reduce negative symptoms and learn positive coping skills. Providers working with The Mental Health Center offer numerous treatment options, including:

  • Medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Mindfulness-based CBT
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Trauma-based therapies
  • Ketamine infusions

Understanding OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves a pattern of unwanted, anxiety-inducing thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive actions or rituals (compulsions) aimed at easing these thoughts. These compulsions, often not logically related to the obsessions they’re meant to counteract, can significantly disrupt daily life.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) outlines specific criteria for diagnosing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, focusing on the presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both. Obsessions are defined as persistent, unwanted thoughts, urges, or images that cause significant anxiety or distress. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly

Common symptoms of OCD manifest as either obsessions, which are intrusive and unwanted thoughts that cause distress, or compulsions, which are behaviors performed to alleviate the distress caused by obsessions. Individuals with OCD may recognize that their obsessions are irrational but still feel compelled to perform compulsive acts as a form of relief. Common symptoms may include the following:


  • Fear of contamination or dirt.
  • Needing things orderly and symmetrical.
  • Aggressive or horrific thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or others.
  • Unwanted thoughts, including aggression or sexual or religious subjects.


  • Excessive cleaning and/or handwashing.
  • Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way.
  • Repeatedly checking on things, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or the oven is off.
  • Compulsive counting.

OCD Treatment in Los Angeles

Finding a doctor who provides OCD treatment in Los Angeles can be a pivotal step toward reclaiming your life and peace of mind.

The Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Towers can connect you with Los Angeles psychiatrists who are dedicated to creating personalized treatment plans.

Contact us today to discover how we can connect you with a doctor who can provide OCD support and treatment.


Millions of people around the world struggle with OCD. It can have debilitating symptoms that affect them and their loved ones, but there are many ways to help someone overcome the disorder.

By reaching out to The Mental Health Center, you can help someone with OCD get the treatment they need and deserve.

Categories OCD