Typical OCD-Related Family Stresses
Because OCD and other anxiety disorders tend to run in families, there may be one or more children and adults in your household currently battling the symptoms of OCD and anxiety. Particularly if you as a parent also have OCD, you may have a general resistance to recognizing the enormous impact the OCD is having on other family members. Part of the problem may be guilt you are unconsciously carrying about having “given” your child this difficult condition. Guilt like this can lead to denial. Denial of the dysfunctionality OCD has brought into your family relationships (also called family systems) is a barrier to treatment and must be recognized and dealt with before your child can get well.
Here are some typical family dynamics resulting from this type of OCD-related dysfunctionality:
Family members often believe they are being helpful when they participate in a child's compulsive behaviors; for example, sanitizing the home, preparing special foods, or rechecking stove burners and door locks.
Siblings often feel they have no choice but to accept their position in the family as the one(s) who needs less care and therefore receives less attention, often causing resentments and a feeling of abandonment by your child's brothers and sisters.
Because one child's needs (for a parent's time, emotional attention, physical care) are so overwhelming, normal household chores can be neglected.
Sometimes family members discourage the child with OCD from getting treatment out of fear they will be blamed for the OCD. This fear can be tied to a parent or sibling's misplaced sense of guilt.
Change is hard, and all members of a family, regardless of the amount of pain or alienation they may feel as a result of the OCD, will resist making changes — unless they are helped to understand their feelings and given tools to make the necessary changes.
Family involvement is absolutely necessary if a child is to succeed in treatment. A family therapist can help the entire family navigate this difficult situation.