Mental illness is extremely common within our society, but people often forget that mental illness is something that effects both adults and youth. Due to the stigma of mental illness, many people do not openly discuss or understand the variety of common mental illnesses individuals struggle with. This lack of acknowledgment—which leads to a lack of knowledge—is prohibiting children from being able to recognize symptoms of mental illness within themselves. A recent article by Psych Central discusses OCD in youth, and reveals different ways to recognize this common mental illness.

What is OCD?

Psych Central states:
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and disturbing thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive, ritualized behaviors that the person feels driven to perform (compulsions).”
Many people describe OCD as a “brain glitch,” in which the brain sends false messages—such as “the door is still open,” or “there are harmful germs on the light switch”—and the affected person needs to perform rituals to shut off the voice delivering the message.

How Common is OCD in Youth?

OCD in youth is, in fact, much more common than most people realize. While a least one in 40 adults are directly affected by OCD, the Clients’s Center for OCD and Anxiety state that there are more than a million children in the United States today with OCD. OCD in youth affects at least one in 100 American children, with the average age of onset being 10.
Adults with OCD are typically aware they are battling a mental illness, and are often able to separate their obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors from normal, healthy thoughts and behaviors. Clients, generally do not have the ability to recognize their condition due to a lack of life experiences or self-awareness.
The stigma of mental illness, or being called “crazy”, has caused children to feel ashamed of their OCD behaviors—which often leads to them refraining from talking to their parents about it. This is why it is essential for parents, and teachers or administrators in school to be aware and educated on OCD in youth.
Parents can recognize OCD in youth from the following signs:


  • Contamination – excessive concern over germs, disease, or illness.
  • Harm to self or others – irrational fears leading to them causing harm to themselves or others.
  • Symmetry – need to have possessions or surroundings arranged symmetrically or to move in symmetrical ways.
  • Doubting – becoming convinced that they haven’t done something they were supposed to do.
  • Numbers – fixation on a particular number or series of numbers, performing tasks a certain number of times regardless of convenience.
  • Religiosity – preoccupation with religious concerns such as afterlife, death or morality.


  • Washing and cleaning – washing hands until they are red and chapped, brushing teeth until gums bleed.
  • Checking – returning to check that a task has been completed more than once (such as locking the door).
  • Repeating/Redoing – performing a mindless task repeatedly until it “feels right;” redoing a task that has already been completed.
  • Praying – excessive, time-consuming repetition of protective prayer or chants.

If your child is demonstrating any of the following, the may be struggling with OCD. Thankfully, OCD in youth and adults is extremely treatable.

blueFire Wilderness can help

blueFire is a wilderness therapy program for struggling teens, ages 11 to 17. Our students often grapple with anxiety, depression, and other emotional or behavioral problems. At blueFire, we strive to help each client succeed.
For more information about blueFire Wilderness, please call 1 (844) 413-1999 today.

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