Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder found in children and adults from all races and ethnic backgrounds. Although OCD in teens is neurobiological — meaning it has to do with an abnormality of the brain — it is similar to any common illness in that it is highly manageable once treated. However, the first step to getting treatment for your teen is noticing the symptoms they are portraying.

Most teens suffering from OCD have a noticeable amount of constant anxiety. Their brain is not putting their worries into typical perspective, resulting in them constantly being uncertain or fearful of normal situations. This leads to the “obsessions” and “compulsions” OCD in teens is characterized by. 

What does OCD in teens look like?

Obsessions are defined as unwanted thoughts or urges, often being irrational and uncontrollable. These thoughts lead to a high level of anxiety, especially as teens are already in a high stress part of their lives. They are developing and changing daily, and the obsessions related to OCD add a new frustration to this. Generally, obsessions are thoughts, whereas compulsions are the actions related to the thought.

In order to decrease their anxiety, OCD in teens causes compulsions, or rituals. These are repeated behaviors often used to keep unwanted thoughts and urges in check, and can include counting, touching, washing or checking. Sometimes these rituals are rational reactions to their unwanted thoughts, such as a fear of germs resulting in obsessive handwashing throughout the day. Other times, the rituals are completely irrational, such as having to turn a light on and off multiple times in order to keep fearful thoughts from happening. Someone with OCD will find relief in their rituals; however, doing these repeated behaviors simply strengthens the illness.

Noticing these rituals is often the most obvious sign that your son or daughter may be suffering from OCD. However, when these rituals have been engrained into everyday life it can sometimes be overlooked. Signs of OCD in teens include:

  • Irrational worries, often reoccurring
  • Compulsions, or rituals, that result in distress when interrupted
  • Trouble concentrating, especially in school or while doing homework
  • Low self-esteem
  • Struggling to make and maintain friends

OCD is highly treatable, but can worsen over time when left untreated. If you suspect your teen to have OCD, it is best to have them diagnosed immediately. Once diagnosed, treatment for OCD can include behavioral therapy and in some cases, medication.
Throughout this process, it is highly important to keep an open line of communication with your teen. Encourage them to be comfortable sharing with you their fears and anxieties. Reassure them that having OCD is the same as having any illness, such as asthma or diabetes. Teens with OCD often feel as though they are “different” from their peers. With the right treatment, someone with OCD can be taught to manage their symptoms and understand their thought processes. It is up to you to be their support system while dealing with OCD, and to create a safe space in which they can develop and grow.

blueFire Wilderness can help

If your teen is struggling with OCD, consider blueFire Wilderness as an option for treatment. blueFire Wilderness therapy helps young people ages 12-17 find success.
For more information about blueFire Wilderness, call 1 (844) 413-1999 today!

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