OCD and siblings
We know it can be challenging when a brother or sister has OCD. We hope this helps all siblings better understand OCD. Siblings matter!
Tips for siblings
1. Learn about OCD
You should learn about obsessions and compulsions, symptoms of OCD and how it’s treated so that you can support your sibling and parents. We have some basic definitions here.
2. Talk. Talk. Talk.
Speak with your parents and even your sibling’s therapist so you understand what may trigger OCD and ways you can be supportive.
3. Speak Up
You probably know this, but OCD is selfish and wants to steal all the attention. Make sure your sibling knows you want to help, and that your parents understand that you have needs too.
4. Help Out with Therapy
OCD therapy isn’t easy for your sibling, so figure out what your role is. It may take a while to figure this out, but at least you'll know how to help every day. You may also find creative ways to join in his/her exposure therapy. For example, Charlotte from our film would play catch with her sister, Vanessa. They would toss "contaminated" clothes to each other across a room.
5. Don’t Let OCD Bully YOU!
OCD may make your brother or sister scared, anxious and do strange rituals. You need to know that your sibling’s OCD shouldn’t control you. Sometimes OCD may make your brother or sister demand you do certain things a specific way. For example, Holden from our film would demand that his sister Tatum not to touch things that his OCD said were contaminated. A therapist helped Tatum learn to talk back to Holden's OCD. Our friend and licensed therapist, Natasha Daniels, has these suggestions for siblings.
6. Meet An OCD therapist
Ask your parents if you can have a private session with your sibling’s therapist. This way you can get answers to your questions and hear from a licensed expert. Both Charlotte and Tatum had separate and joint sessions with their siblings therapists.
7. Establish boundaries
Sometimes in places where your parents are not, like school or camp, adults and teachers will look to you to help your sibling with OCD. This can be overwhelming. Sibilngs shouldn't feel responsible or pressured to help if they don't feel up to it. Tell the adults to call your parents or caregiver if this happens.
We want to hear from you. Please email us your advice so we can add your advice!
Quotes from other siblings
"I learned it’s not like my sister has a choice. She’s not choosing to do rituals.”
- Zach, 16
"My brother's therapist explained OCD in a way I could understand. I learned I could be an active part of the solution. ”
- Matthew, 21
Dr. Michelle Witkin talks about sibling inclusion via The OCD Stories
Learning to Thrive When OCD is in Your Family via OCD SoCal
Sibling Resource Page via Peace Of Mind Foundation
"When a family member has OCD" a book by Jon Hershfield
"Guidelines for Living with Someone who has OCD" via iOCDF
"A note from a sister to a brother" via The Mighty
Hear siblings speak out about OCD
Want more advice? Watch UNSTUCK