In the know: Understanding patients who are obsessive compulsive

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, August 3, 2009

Patients can be quite hard to understand, making them difficult to treat. It's important to look out for certain behaviors, especially obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Remember:

  • Obsessions are thoughts that occur over and over again
  • Compulsions are acts the person performs as a way to deal with obsessive parts

Obsessive-compulsive behaviors are most often seen in anxiety disorders, called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In OCD, anxiety is the root of the problem. People with OCD develop rituals that need to be completed in a certain way each time.

When caring for people with OCD:

  • Work under the premise that anything that increases anxiety will increase the likelihood of needing to participate in rituals.
  • Understand that displaying anger or frustration does not help
  • Ask the person to tell you how he or she has been taught to handle rituals
  • Give the person plenty of time to get ready for procedures and daily activities

Source: Stressed Out About Difficult Patients, HCPro, Inc., 2007. 

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