Articles by Carol Edwards
Normalising Responsibility And Fear Of Loss
How To Help A Loved One Normalise Responsibility And Fear Of Loss
Have you ever been shopping in a store and suddenly thought that your wallet wasn't in your pocket? For a split second did you get a horrible feeling of blind panic? Were you fearful that you might have lost it?
When something like this happens, it can make you feel an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. But when you check your pockets or handbag and suddenly find your wallet is there, after all, the shaky feeling quickly subsides.
When the event is over, you might wonder why you were left standing in a store with the sudden thought or gut feeling that you didn't have your wallet on you. It's strange how a thought or idea like this can pop into your head for no particular reason, interrupting what you're doing at the time. And in that split second of thinking you've lost your wallet, cash, credit cards, photos and driving licence, the scene kind of bounces back at you later in the day. It gives you the feeling that you should check again "just in case". Still, the problem eventually leaves your mind, and you forget all about it.
For Someone Who Has OCD, Panic Doesn't Subside So Quickly.
Even when anxiety does come down for someone who has OCD, it rises again. It's because the person's brain doesn't believe what it sees. They know that on a rational level, the purse is there, but, emotionally, their feelings make them think they can't trust the evidence. Finding the item doesn't resolve the problem or settle their doubts because OCD loops the same information. It starts with the obsession (intrusive thoughts of losing something), then anxiety and compulsions immediately afterwards, which are the safety behaviours to check and reduce distress. But the anxiety relief is short-lived because uncertainty makes them think they need to check again and again. And OCD isn't just about losing an item; it can be about a fear of losing a child, partner, job, gender, sexual orientation, religion and health.
Obsessions And Compulsions Are On Repeat. It's Exhausting And Pointless, But Your Loved One Cannot Help It.
Remember how it felt when you thought you'd lost your wallet? Think back to the feelings of anxiety when you thought it had vanished, then relief when you found it. You may have checked once or twice but probably not more than that. But think about what made you do that first or second check. Was it your child's photo, driving licence, cash? How would it have felt if someone had said, 'You don't need to check twice?' And how might it have felt if they'd said, 'What made you get so panicky, anyway, don't you think you overreacted a bit?' You might have been hurt and wondered why they didn't understand why your wallet is important to you.
Remind yourself that someone who has OCD feels the same way, and often gets told the same things, but on a much larger scale. Obsessions and compulsions are on repeat. It's exhausting and pointless, but your loved one (or someone else) cannot help it. If ever you get the urge to say to them, 'Just get over it', or 'You're panicking for nothing' and 'Stop that silliness', think instead of how to help them through it, knowing how it feels to lose something valuable or precious.
Be The Benchmark For Right And Wrong.
For example, when a parent loses sight of a child in the garden, to them, the child has vanished, and all sorts of worst-case scenarios flash through their minds. In reality, the child is behind a tree and appears again quite quickly. Still, for the parent, those few torturous seconds feel much longer. They feel a sudden urge to double-check their child is there. Despite the child's visible appearance, they still find it hard to trust what they see. The more they check, the more they need to check because rituals make them doubt their memory.
When you help a friend or relative who has OCD, you can be a benchmark for right and wrong. Compulsions are wrong and resisting them is right. Let them know their anxiety will come down when they don't give in to the rituals and praise them when they do the right thing. It can help them manage probability and normalise fear of loss if this is their obsession. By modelling a non-OCD pattern, and showing that you understand to some extent what they must be going through, you can help them weaken OCD's influence.
Updated 2020 © Copyright OCD Topics