ocd resources

OCD: Reassurance-seeking vs. seeking support

Bonjour, I’m Marie, a 30-year-old designer from Paris. For years, my life was overshadowed by a constant need for reassurance, which I later understood was tied to my OCD.

In my profession, precision and attention to detail are paramount. Every time I completed a design, I’d be overwhelmed with doubt. ‘Is this good enough? What if the client hates it? Did I make a mistake?’ These thoughts consumed me. I’d send my designs to friends, family, and even colleagues, not for genuine feedback, but for them to tell me it was okay.

I remember one particular instance when I was working on a logo for a renowned brand. I must’ve asked my best friend, Claire, at least ten times in one day if she thought it was perfect. Each time, she’d reassure me, but the relief was fleeting. Within minutes, the anxiety would return, and I’d find another reason to doubt my work.

It wasn’t just work, though. I’d ask my partner if he loved me multiple times a day, needing to hear the words to quell the rising panic inside. I’d check the stove repeatedly before leaving the house, and then text my neighbor to check it for me, just to be ‘extra sure.’


Reassurances: what am I doing wrong?

Reassurance-seeking and seeking support are two behaviors that can appear similar on the surface, but they serve different functions, especially in the context of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Understanding the distinction between the two can be crucial for those with OCD and their loved ones, as it can influence the course of the disorder and the effectiveness of treatment.


  • Definition: This refers to the compulsive need to repeatedly seek confirmation that one’s fears or obsessions are unfounded. For someone with OCD, this might manifest as constantly asking loved ones if everything is okay, if they’ve done something correctly, or if they’re a good person.
  • Purpose: The primary goal of reassurance-seeking is to alleviate the anxiety or distress associated with an obsession. However, this relief is typically short-lived, leading the individual to seek reassurance again and again.
  • Impact on OCD: Reassurance-seeking can be counterproductive. While it might provide temporary relief, it reinforces the obsessive-compulsive cycle. The more one seeks reassurance, the more they come to rely on it, and the stronger the obsessions can become.

Seeking Support:

  • Definition: This refers to reaching out for emotional, psychological, or practical assistance in coping with challenges, including those posed by OCD.
  • Purpose: The goal of seeking support is to gain understanding, empathy, and tools to manage or overcome the challenges faced. This might involve discussing feelings, learning coping strategies, or getting feedback on how to handle specific situations.
  • Impact on OCD: Seeking genuine support can be beneficial for someone with OCD. It can provide emotional relief, foster resilience, and offer strategies to break the obsessive-compulsive cycle.

Understanding the Difference for Better Coping with OCD:

  1. Avoiding Reinforcement of Obsessions: Recognizing the difference helps individuals with OCD and their loved ones avoid inadvertently reinforcing the disorder. When loved ones consistently provide reassurance, they might unintentionally perpetuate the OCD cycle. By understanding this, they can offer support without feeding into the compulsions.
  2. Promoting Healthy Coping Mechanisms: By distinguishing between the two behaviors, individuals with OCD can be encouraged to develop healthier coping mechanisms, such as cognitive-behavioral techniques, instead of relying on short-term fixes like reassurance.
  3. Enhancing Treatment Effectiveness: Effective OCD treatments, like Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), often involve facing obsessions without resorting to compulsions. Understanding the counterproductive nature of reassurance-seeking can make individuals more committed to these therapeutic techniques.
  4. Building Genuine Connections: When individuals with OCD seek genuine support instead of mere reassurance, they can build deeper, more authentic connections with their loved ones. This can lead to a more profound understanding of the disorder and foster a supportive environment for recovery.

In summary, while both reassurance-seeking and seeking support involve reaching out to others, their impact on OCD is markedly different. Recognizing and addressing these differences can significantly enhance the coping and recovery process for those with OCD.

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