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Coping strategies used by the relatives of people with obsessive–compulsive disorder


  • Katarina Stengler-Wenzke MD,

  • Johanna Trosbach MD,

  • Sandra Dietrich MA,

  • Matthias C. Angermeyer MD PhD

Katarina Stengler-Wenzke, Department of Psychiatry, University of Leipzig, Johannisallee 20, Leipzig 04317, Germany.


Background.  Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is a destructive mental illness that alters the lives of both patients and their relatives. Many investigations have described the coping strategies of relatives of patients with schizophrenia, depression and other psychiatric disorders, but there have been no studies reported about coping strategies and OCD.

Aim.  The aim of this paper is to report an investigation into experiences of burden in relatives of patients with OCD, and the coping strategies they had developed.

Method.  Narrative interviews with 22 family members of patients with OCD were analysed using a grounded theory approach.

Findings.  Relatives described different burdens and developed different strategies to cope with these. While parents tried to educate their ill children, spouses focused on the patient's resources. The attempts of family members to cope with patients with OCD included assisting in rituals, opposing the symptoms and supporting patients in dealing with the illness.

Conclusion.  Implications for clinical practice to support these relatives are discussed.