When a Spouse has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

What happens to Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt after the last scene in “As Good as It Gets”? Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable line in that movie where he suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder is “You make me want to be a better man.” It will be interesting to see how the characters played by Nicholson and Hunt live the “happily ever after”, knowing that one spouse has OCD.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Also called OCD, this is an uncontrollable urge to perform rituals (opening and shutting the door three times in a row, avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, washing in very hot water and only using a new bar of soap). These rituals are performed with the hope of warding obsessive thoughts. For one who has OCD, not performing the rituals gives a feeling of impending doom and anxiety. According to Provo therapists, the rituals are his or her way of coping with the anxiety that may creep up.

OCD can sometimes rule a person’s life. The need to perform the rituals can prevent one to live normally. It affects his or her work, relationships and health. About 2% of the population (or 5 million Americans) between 18 to 54 years old has OCD, which usually has its onset during the teenage years.

OCD and Marriage

OCD does not only affect the person who has it, but also the people around him or her, particularly his or her loved ones. The struggle with OCD becomes even complicated with a relationship. There is pressure to “want to be a better man”, and it also takes patience (and the help of therapists Utah) for the partner to help the spouse with OCD deal with his or her condition.

Living with OCD at the sidelights can lead to conflicts between the spouses. Arguments and tension can crop up due to the one spouse’s behavior. And this, in turn, makes the symptoms of OCD even worse. There is also the temptation for the other spouse to overcompensate for the spouse with OCD by helping him or her perform his rituals or allowing the rituals to dominate their lives. This is also an unhealthy way of dealing with the OCD.

Don’t agree to “help” him with his rituals. At least, not for all the rituals. You can provide support by making him or her choose the one ritual you can help him or her with, but not for the other rituals he has. Before starting this, though, you should get Utah marriage counseling.

Provide support but eliminate rituals slowly. For the spouse without OCD, it will be helpful to start eliminating ritualistic behavior. Begin with the things that feel the least scary for him. Once you have successfully eliminated these, you can work your way to the other ritualistic behaviors. Encourage the spouse with OCD to make use of his or her willpower to stop doing one ritual, but still be able to do other compulsive behaviors (at least, for this time). It is important to also have Provo counseling while you are working to eliminate the rituals.

Be open. Especially for the one with OCD, it is important for the spouses to have a deeper understanding of their feelings. Don’t be afraid to tell your spouse how you feel.

Provide understanding. Make the spouse with OCD understand that you are there to support him or her and that you know how hard it is for him or her.

Therapists in Provo make use of cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with OCD. Utah marriage counseling can benefit by getting support for the OCD symptoms, as well counseling to improve the relationship in general.

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