Dear Annie: OCD controls friend

Dear Annie: I have a friend, “Sarah,” who openly admits to having obsessive-compulsive disorder but isn’t receiving any kind of treatment for it. She’s a middle-aged housewife with no need or desire to work. Now she has taken up crochet. What could possibly go wrong?

She buys huge quantities of the cheapest, coarsest yarn I’ve ever seen. Then she crochets it up. It’s obvious she has no concept of counting stitches, paying attention to detail or even looking at the finished product. I was there when another woman tried to tell her, very kindly and politely, what she needs to learn, even suggesting a local yarn store that offers lessons. That just made Sarah angry, and she said she already knows everything she needs to know about crochet.

Sarah has covered her house with this stuff, and now she’s started giving it to me. I thank her kindly and then throw it out. However, I’m starting to feel like some kind of enabler.

Now Sarah’s hands are all cramped up. Her doctor gives pain medication for it, and she keeps on crocheting. Her adult daughter who lives with her says Sarah has a crochet hook in her hand from the minute she wakes up until she falls asleep at night.

Do you know any way I could suggest to Sarah that she needs mental help for her OCD rather than medication for her over-stressed hands? Other than the OCD, she’s a really nice person. I’m worried she’ll develop an addiction to the pain medication. — Worried for My Friend

Dear Worried: You can and should express your concerns to Sarah. Do so with an open mind and without judgment, to avoid putting her on the defensive (though I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that, as you seem to be a thoughtful friend). Ease into the conversation by asking general questions about how she’s doing. Then tell her you’ve noticed that the crocheting seems to be impacting her health, with the hand cramping and subsequent need for pain medication. You might ask whether she’s ever followed up about her OCD diagnosis and say that though you know it’s up to her, you think it might be really helpful for her to see a counselor for some insights. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a very effective treatment for OCD and could give your friend a much better quality of life.

Seeing as an adult daughter lives with her, you might try having a private conversation with the daughter about your concerns and see whether she will join you in encouraging Sarah to seek help.

As for when she gives you her crochet creations, it’s perceptive of you to suspect that you are enabling her, and I think you’re probably right. Gently but definitively put your foot down and say you really can’t accept any more.

Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.