Managing symptoms of OCD

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Many people may have mild symptoms that are associated with stressful life events or situations which often improve without the need for specific treatments. However, those who experience the severity, distress and impairment associated with more chronic and enduring OCD may benefit from some form of treatment [758].

The techniques outlined in Table 41 may help AOD workers to manage clients with obsessive-compulsive symptoms, whether they are transient or more entrenched.

Table 41: Dos and don’ts of managing a client with obsessive compulsive symptoms


  • Ignore strange or embarrassing behaviour if you can, especially if it is not serious.
  • Approach the client in a calm, confident and receptive way.
  • Move and speak at an unhurried speed.
  • Be patient in order to allow the client to feel comfortable to disclose information.
  • Minimise the number of staff present and attending to the client.
  • Minimise surrounding noise to reduce stimulation.
  • Reassure the client frequently (e.g., ‘This won’t take much longer’).
  • Explain the purpose of interventions.
  • Remain with the client to calm him/her down.


  • Crowd or pressure the client.
  • Become frustrated or impatient.
  • Laugh (or let others laugh) at the person.
  • Act horrified, worried or panic.
  • Confuse and increase the client’s level of stress by having too many workers attempting to communicate with him/her.
  • Argue with the client’s unusual beliefs or agree with or support unusual beliefs – it is better to simply say ‘I can see you are anxious, how can I help you?’
  • Use ‘no’ language, as it may provoke hostility and aggression. Statements like ‘I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to do____ but I can offer you other help, assessment, referral…’ may help to calm the client whilst retaining communication.
  • Use overly clinical language without clear explanations.

Adapted from NSW Department of Health [277] and Clancy and Terry [296], Jenner et al. [123].