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How do I Cope When a Family Member Refuses OCD Treatment?

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Updated April 29, 2011

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Question: How do I Cope When a Family Member Refuses OCD Treatment?

One of the most frustrating things for family members of people with OCD is when the affected family member refuses to see a doctor or other mental health professional for assessment or treatment. What can you do to cope when your family member refuses treatment?

Answer:

Although living with someone who refuses to acknowledge the impact of their OCD symptoms can be exceptionally frustrating - even infuriating – unless it can be demonstrated that someone with a mental illness such as OCD poses an imminent danger to themselves or someone else, they cannot be forced to undergo assessment or treatment. However, there are ways you can cope.

Prioritize Self Care – You need to prioritize your own well-being – this is not about you being selfish, this is about maintaining your physical and psychological health under difficult conditions. Take time to engage in exercise, preparing healthy meals and spending quality time with your friends. Engage in therapy or supportive counseling if need be.

Set Boundaries – Make it clear what is acceptable and not acceptable in your home and in your life. Of course, this may create conflict but in the long-term it may help to motivate change in your family member.

Do Not Engage in Compulsions – It is not uncommon for family members to become enmeshed in their family member’s compulsions. While participating in compulsions can help decrease your family member’s anxiety in the short-term, it only facilitates their anxiety long-term. Likewise, refuse to provide excessive reassurance. As with setting boundaries, this may be cause for conflict but it may also help move your family member along the road to treatment.

Don’t Push, Just be Available – Pushing someone into change they are not ready for almost always makes a troublesome behavior worse. Often the best thing you can do is simply be there for your family member when they decide to seek help.

Find a Therapist Skilled in Motivational Interviewing – If you can get your loved one to agree to see a therapist – even for one session - make sure they are skilled in motivational interviewing techniques. These techniques, while not fool-proof, are often very effective in combating ambivalence around change and resistance to treatment.

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  5. Refusing OCD Treatment - Family Member Refusing OCD Treatment

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