Caring for Your Obsessive Friends

Written in one of my english classes during undergrad, this serves as a guide to understanding your friends who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is my own rendition of Jonathan Rauch’s “Caring for Your Introvert”. Enjoy!

THE HABITS AND NEEDS OF A CONSTANTLY ANXIOUS GROUP 

Do you know someone who is always worried? Who seems to conjure up the most absurd scenarios? Who makes room in their brain to map out their success and then turn around and plot their own downfall? Who seems to always find a way to ruin every fun event by bringing up what could happen? 

If so, do you tell this person to stop worrying so much? Regard his actions as overreactive and weird? Tell them to get over themselves? 

If you answered yes to these questions, you could very well be dealing with someone who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  

OCD is commonly mistaken—often by people who don’t take the time to understand—as a mental disorder that causes someone to just want things to be neat and clean. While this may be true, OCD is more than that: obsessing over wild thoughts that one can’t change, constantly thinking about and planning for the worst, ultimately causing themselves to have a panic attack. 

I know. My name is Khaila, and I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 

For years, I was called a Worry Wort; a Negative Nancy; a Prune. I was always shamed for being concerned or scared about the simplest things. Then, when my thoughts got totally out of hand and I could no longer control them, my mother decided to take me to a psychiatrist who ran tests and finally gave me a diagnosis. 

Now, don’t get me wrong…I love going out with my friends, making memories, and having fun. It’s just that sometimes, I must do a few mind-relaxing exercises to fight the obsessive compulsions that may try to invade my thoughts. 

What is OCD? 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is defined as a chronic and long-lasting mental disorder in which an individual has reoccurring, often disturbing thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that they feel they must complete to alleviate the anxiety. The classic example of a person with OCD is the germaphobe. This person obsesses over being clean, and must perform compulsive rituals—vigorous hand-washing, over usage of bleach and other strong cleaning products, and carrying around a bottle of Lysol—to combat the downward spiral of thoughts wreaking havoc on their mind. I am this person. I am also the person who must sit facing the door, constantly knowing that I can see the exit and whoever may come in or leave the room. Over the years, medical treatment has helped tremendously, and for that I am grateful. 

Are People Diagnosed with OCD misunderstood? 

In the simplest of words: yes. We are so misunderstood to the point where people think we are just exaggerating when we begin to obsessively worry. We are told that we should just get over ourselves and stop being dramatic. What most people don’t understand is that people who suffer from OCD suffer from a chemical imbalance in the brain, specifically the frontal lobe. This is scientific proof that one cannot just “get over it.” 

How can I make my friend more comfortable? 

First, do not—I aggressively repeat—do not invalidate their feelings, even if they seem irrational. Let them know that you genuinely care and want to help them in any way possible. Second, do not play along with their obsessions or compulsions. Instead, help them refocus their attention to positive things, usually based on their hobbies. And third, encourage your friend to stay involved in things that make them happy. Encourage them to stay in touch with people who alleviate their anxiety. Remind them that they are always enough. 

I truly hope that this short, unconventional guide helps you to have empathy with those who process life differently than most. I understand that it may a little bit of an adjustment, but it’s worth a try to save a meaningful friendship.

Hugs and kisses,

Khai  

Photo by Fadi Xd on Unsplash

Read ‘Caring for Your Introvert’ here.

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