My brother was diagnosed with OCD about two years ago and is following treatment. He lives with our parents (we're both 20-ish years old, but I moved out years ago). He has some conspicuous compulsions that are obviously interfering with his daily life, such as needing to perform some repetitive actions when moving from one room to another or when leaving the house or coming in. So, he gets a lot of help from our parents (fetch me that, bring me that, that kind of stuff).

This also adds difficulty when performing some mundane activities, such as dressing and brushing teeth. He also doesn't do any chores or help out our parents.

He has a social life, as he doesn't show a lot of conspicuous signs of OCD when he is outside.

His doctor recommended therapy, but he doesn't want to do it.
He had one session but the therapist said he has to want to go of his own initiative and not go because other people told him to.

He also spends a lot of time on the computer (mostly games) and has few hobbies or interests that could potentially turn into a career later on. He is in college right now, but he doesn't seem to have a genuine interest in it and is just getting passing grades.

I tried to tell my parents to stop offering so much help (fetching things) because as far as I can tell that is enabling his compulsions, but I can't do much except offer my parents advice, as I live in a different city.

What can my parents do to help motivate him to better himself, both in regard to working to treat his OCD and also to become a more productive/generally better person?

I'm looking for answers from anyone who has had any experience with OCD, but any advice is welcome.

Edit: What I was hoping to get out of this question were some actual examples of ways my parents could change their interaction with my brother in order to help him. One example I can think of is how I advised them to stop fetching water/food/whatever, to motivate him to get up and move through the house (i.e. to stop enabling his compulsions).

  • 3
    Questions that pop into my mind: is he on medications? Does he also have panic attacks (and how often)? Does he drink alcohol, and how often? Does he have a job? Has he had any run-ins with cops/school admins/figures of authority? I ask not to tailor this into medical advice. I ask because there isn't just one type of obsessive compulsive disorder and my answers run long as it is. Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 19:57
  • @anongoodnurse -Yes, he is on medication, if you need the exact type I could probably find out. -Regarding panic attacks, I do recall two episodes about two years ago, but none recently. -He doesn't drink at all, at least not around us. -No job. He worked for a week or so, decided to quit. -No problems with police or anything like that.
    – JohnC
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 22:44
  • 1
    How much do you and your parents know about OCD? It's really hard for me to offer advice that is not medical advice but, simply: support your brother to get treatment. It is sometimes useful to try different therapists. Support your brother to take medications. There are good reasons why people don't take medications so help him work his way through those. Find a local support group for families and carers of people with OCD.
    – DanBeale
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 14:20
  • @DanBeale What form should this support take? He takes medication, but is unwilling to go to therapy. What I'm taking out of your comment and Calphool's answer is that we should try a different therapist.
    – JohnC
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 12:22
  • I don't have an answer to your question (a therapist probably would - maybe your parents can go to one?), but I wanted to recommend a book which I think gives a great insight into OCD. It's called The boy who couldn't stop washing. It gives you some idea about what the compulsions feel like, and what an OCD person is, or isn't, capable of.
    – Ana
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 10:47

2 Answers 2


I know what your parents are going through, or at least I believe I do. I have a child with severe anxiety (OCD is typically an attempt to manage anxiety). I think the therapist that told your brother he needs to have internal motivation was technically accurate, but sort of unprofessional -- a therapist's job is to seek opportunities to help an anxious patient prove to him/herself that he can improve, and help him grow the motivation, not just cop a "sink or swim, loser" attitude. Anxiety is hard enough to overcome without that kind of judgement being heaped on, and that therapist did him a disservice with that little attitude, assuming his OCD is the conventional anxiety-based kind.

Cognitive behavioral therapy by someone who specializes in anxiety is the best way to get beyond this point, and family therapy is often necessary as well (as a support for the resentments that are inevitably present). Meds can help, but the true long term solution comes from therapy.


OCD is something that differs from case to case as I am sure any average person knows. I have found that in minor to minor moderate cases, it's doing things such as wearing 2 socks that are different in only the color of the words or of the feel of the interior.

If the case is more severe you have to be careful because you could seriously mess them up. Sometimes the best thing to do is to be a positive encouragement and just talk to them in terms they can understand, but DO NOT TALK TO THEM LIKE THEY ARE DUMB IT MAKES US VERY MAD!!!!! (I said "Us" because I am a teen, and I had very minor OCD. My mom has a more severe form, and my youngest brother had severe OCD mixed with over-sensitive nerves (not a good combo)).

Sometimes just showing them that it is okay to not do things the OCD way (if they like their food separate, eat yours mixed, but leave theirs separate, or if they like to clean their hands a certain number of times, wash your hands one time but let them wash their amount of times, and etc.) can work because if you treat them as their own person (in moderation) they will have more respect for you.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .