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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

How to Handle a Teenager with OCD

Dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be tricky, and even trickier when trying to learn how to handle a teenager with OCD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unwanted, intrusive thoughts and worries (obsessions) and concurrent irrational, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions).

These two elements create a recurring cycle, where teens with OCD feel growing anxiety and discomfort through their obsessions and soothe them with their compulsions for a short time, only for the nagging feeling to return.

What is Teenage OCD Like?

Cases of teenage OCD can vary in severity and nature. Some teens exhibit classic symptoms, such as counting or repeating mantras, performing actions repeatedly (turning lights on and off a set number of times, etc.), or excessive cleaning. Some actions are more obscure, however, such as excessive religious repentance or superstitiously avoiding certain concepts, places, and numbers.

Obsessions Vary

Obsessions can greatly vary in severity and kind, as well. Some teens with OCD feel extreme mysophobia. They feel they are at risk of infection from others and fear contamination, even if it isn’t possible. This can directly relate to their ritual of choice, such as handwashing.

In other cases, a teen with OCD might have recurring thoughts about their loved ones getting hurt in an explosion or accident. They feel they can’t keep these thoughts from happening, so they check the stove, the lights, or the locks several times a day.

OCD Becomes Complicated with Time

OCD can become more complicated with time. What might have started as simply checking the stove once to make sure there’s no gas leak might turn into a complex set of checking rituals involving a precise number of checks. There is no pleasure or joy in these rituals. They’re forced because a teen with OCD feels they have no choice but to perform them or suffer from their unwanted thoughts.

For parents and loved ones, this behavior can range from irritating to worrying. If your teen likes being neat or clean and consistently organizes their surroundings, it might be time-consuming at first, but it probably doesn’t seem alarming.

When they begin to spend over an hour every day organizing and reorganizing their space, on the other hand, it can begin to disrupt their day-to-day lives and become a detriment to their studies, their work, and their relationships. OCD often begins during adolescence, which means that teens with OCD might struggle to keep up with their peers socially and academically as a result of their condition.

Seeking treatment as soon as possible is crucial. But this might lead to the next hurdle for some parents.

Dealing with Treatment Refusal

OCD is treated through a therapeutic method called exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), which aims to help teens come to terms with their unwanted thoughts and ignore their compulsions through a slow, step-by-step approach.

Like a form of behavioral training (and in turn, cognitive training), ERP might put a teen in a situation where their compulsion is triggered and then challenge them to ignore that compulsion for a few minutes, then a bit longer until they can eventually stop themselves from answering to their obsession (and thus begin letting it fade into the background of their thoughts).

Treatment Stigma

Some teens might not want to go through treatment for their condition, however. They might be worried about the stigma surrounding treatment, and if they haven’t told any of their friends or classmates yet, they might be worried that going to therapy might mean they would be treated differently. Perhaps they might also be worried about the side effects of OCD medication or potentially falling behind academically due to treatment.

The thing is that, for most teens with OCD, these worries come to pass anyway as their condition progresses, even if they don’t want to consider that.

Motivational Interviewing

One way to help convince a teen to get the help they need might be through motivational interviewing, wherein a mental health professional helps motivate change and reduce a teen’s worries regarding treatment by addressing their questions and helping them better understand both their diagnosis and their treatment process.

This is different from forcing or nagging a teen to get help – instead, it argues for the positive benefits of help versus the consequences of a growing OCD problem.

Reinforcing Positive Coping Skills at Home

As a teen’s treatment progresses, they may learn to apply healthier habits and coping skills to minimize the effect that their OCD symptoms have on their day-to-day life. They might be tasked with both nutritional changes and physical activity, embracing a productive hobby, or spending more time socializing with friends.

Keeping up with these healthy coping skills alone is incredibly difficult. It takes a serious commitment and self-discipline, as well as a love for things like physical activity or a newfound hobby.

Helping your teen reinforce these habits by joining in is important. Let them help you plan and organize healthier meals, cook quick or easy recipes, or make healthier take-out choices. Encourage them to join you on a morning run, hit the gym alongside you, or go on more outdoor trips over the weekend. Encourage them to help you out around the house, in the garden, or in the garage.

Taking Care of Yourself

It’s only natural to want to put our loved ones first, especially if you are in the role of caretaker as a teen’s parent or guardian. And while the health of your teen is important, it can begin to affect your own mental health as well. Don’t try to help them alone.

Enlist the help of other relatives, teachers, and mental health professionals, and consider working with a mental health professional to develop your own habits and coping skills to deal with the stress.

Even just beginning a journal, writing in a personal log, picking up an old hobby you used to enjoy like model painting or balcony gardening, or going for outdoor walks more frequently can help make a difference and improve your resilience.

Getting Help Together

Being in the position of the caregiver also tends to make it easier to ignore the warning signs when we begin to develop our own set of worries, intrusive thoughts, and low episodes.

The connection between a parent’s mental health and the mental health of their child is strong. No matter how much you might try to hide your own negative thoughts, your teen can and does pick up on them. Don’t think that you must be strong enough to handle both your teen’s symptoms and your own. Be a supportive parent, be there for your teen, but seek professional help for yourself as well.

Categories
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

5 Signs of OCD in Teens

Does your teen exhibit patterns of repetitiveness, rituals, or constantly redoing everyday tasks? These are all signs of OCD in teens, and uto 4 percent of children and adolescents are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition characterized by unwanted and intrusive thoughts and ensuing repetitive and compulsive behaviors.

OCD is commonly misunderstood or misrepresented as a disorder of extreme cleanliness and neatness, but there are varying symptoms and archetypes that exist under the OCD umbrella and differences in severity that range from functional OCD to severely debilitating compulsive conditions, and co-occurring, co-dependent anxieties, or depressive symptoms.

Recognizing OCD early in a person is important, as it may be key to reducing the likelihood of chronic OCD later in life and the development of co-dependent mental health conditions. While OCD may remain static for some, it is usually a condition that waxes and wanes over the years, especially if left untreated. This means it might disappear for some years and come back stronger later, especially if the diagnosed person is going through a high-stress period in their life.

What is OCD?

OCD is best understood as a form of anxiety. A person with OCD experiences two crucial elements: an unwanted, unavoidable, and powerful, intrusive thought or series of images and repetitive, debilitating, and compulsive behavior.

The two are often linked. For example, someone who is frequently thinking about their potential exposure to deadly germs may compensate with extremely frequent and excessive handwashing.

Both the obsession and the resulting or paired compulsion will be inherently nonsensical and irrational. A person with OCD knows this, and they understand the irrationality.

However, they cannot respond rationally to this portion of their brain. The driving factor behind both the obsession and the compulsion is overwhelming anxiety. This fear goes above and beyond what you can argue your way out of. In the same way, a person with OCD cannot simply stop acting the way they do through dialectics and rational thinking.

As such, treatment for OCD is a little more complicated than treatment for depression or other forms of anxiety. A person with OCD is less likely to respond positively to cognitive behavioral therapy, for example.

Types of OCD

There are archetypal thoughts, obsessions, and compulsions in people with OCD. While they differ from person to person, they generally fit into the following categories:

Obsessions:

  • Being contaminated, dirtied, or touching something dirty.
  • Aggressive thoughts, harmful thoughts, unwanted fantasies about violence.
  • Sexual fantasies, unwanted imagery of taboo scenes, intrusive thinking about sex.
  • Intrusive thoughts about religious taboos, a fear of being singled out by the divine, and scrupulosity.
  • Symmetry and perfection, both aesthetic and conceptual.
  • Constant fear of missing out.

Compulsions:

  • Frequent washing and cleaning – to the point of injury or destroying things/wearing them down.
  • Asking for reassurances from others all the time.
  • Repeating tasks and behaviors or checking things multiple times. Repeating sentences, mantras, or specific actions.
  • Arranging and rearranging things various times until it’s “just right.”

It’s important not to fall into the trap of stereotyping OCD symptoms or assuming that there are enough textbook definitions to fit any single case. OCD can develop and show itself in many different contexts.

For example, one form of OCD involves an obsession with sexual orientation. A person with sexual orientation-related OCD will constantly worry and second guess their sexuality and will ask for reassurance that they seem straight, or might compulsively look at pictures of the opposite sex to see if they’re still attractive.

The Common Signs of OCD in Teens

Understanding the general structure of a person’s OCD is just as important as recognizing telltale signs. OCD is ultimately an intertwined relationship between unwanted thoughts and unreasonable, futile behavior. Some common signs in teens include:

1. Repeated Cleaning Habits

A common sign of OCD is taking a relatively regular habit and pushing it to the point of damaging oneself. Excessive handwashing can break down the skin and damage a person’s health. Debilitating levels of cleaning can be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

2. Frequent Sequential Checking

We’ve all left the stove on or forgotten our keys at some point. But when you catch yourself or your teen checking the front door an exact number of times every single day or going back and forth into the kitchen to check whether the oven is off, again and again, there may be more than just a sensible obsession with safety at play.

3. Performing a Task Multiple Times in a Row

Locking, unlocking, locking, unlocking, locking, unlocking, and locking the door is an example of a repetitive task. As is turning a light switch on, off, on, off, on, then off again. These can include reciting something again and again, such as a personal mantra, a prayer, or something else.

4. Organizing and Reorganizing Constantly

It could be something as simple as arranging the cutlery on the dinner table in just the right way to keeping an entire shelf of books and figurines in a particular order and in perfect positioning. A single book out of place can cause anxiety so severe it results in panic. This is what OCD with an obsession with organization can look like.

5. Frequent Unwanted Thoughts

Most unwanted thoughts are of a taboo nature. Common ones include thinking of driving into crowds of people, feeling anxious about intrusive incestuous or pedophilic thoughts, and suddenly imagining sexual assault or violence against close friends or loved ones.

People with OCD never carry out any of these thoughts. But they haunt them to the point that it further deepens their reliance on compulsive behavior to soothe and reduce their thoughts. This destructive cycle is at its worst in cases of severe unwanted thinking because it can damage a person’s sense of self-worth and lead to self-harm.

Seeking Treatment for OCD

Treatments for OCD primarily center around cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), incorporating exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP). CBT on its own may not be enough to help patients with OCD find healthier coping mechanisms than their own compulsions.

The unique addition of exposure therapy and response prevention focuses on mediating the response a person has to trigger exposure to their fears. The idea is to teach them that it isn’t as bad as they make it out to be. And that the world isn’t crumbling around them due to their obsessive thoughts. This may not always work, and it works better with some patients than others.

There are no OCD-specific medicationsbut SSRIs, modern antidepressants, can help reduce the severity of a person’s OCD to a significant degree.  

At the end of the day, OCD can take on many different shapes and forms. A person with OCD will not always be afraid of germs or have unwanted violent thoughts. They may have multiple other obsessions or primarily focus on just one.

In the same way, their treatment may include multiple different modalities, and it can take time to find a treatment path that works best. Patience is required. If you or a loved one are struggling with symptoms of OCD, try to see a professional as soon as you can. 

Categories
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding OCD in Teens

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be an incredibly difficult condition to manage. Even mild cases can present a teen with extraordinary challenges in everyday settings, and adolescence is a particularly difficult time for individuals with OCD due to increased rates of victimization, and the effects of prolonged bullying on the symptoms of OCD themselves. Understanding OCD in teens is incredibly important for parents to know – how it affects their teen’s thinking and behavior, and how they can best help their teen cope with the disorder.

Understanding OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

At its heart, OCD is a mental health condition closely related to anxiety. When a person is diagnosed with OCD, it means that they present with symptoms of two major behavioral and cognitive signs: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are deep-seated and intrusive worries that present themselves are unavoidable and persistent in a teen’s mind, much like the little intrusive thoughts we generally experience, but far stronger.

Picture walking past your dog with a pot of boiling hot soup, and for an instant, experiencing the fleeting thought of what might happen if you dropped the pot. Such violent and disturbing thoughts are not harmful in isolation, and if you can ignore and move past them immediately, then they are no cause for concern. But a person with OCD experiences similar thoughts much more consistently, and far more strongly. These thoughts are much harder to shut out or move past, which is why compulsions develop.

Compulsions are behaviors that help someone with obsessive thoughts cope. They may seem completely unrelated or totally nonsensical on the outside, but they provide some measure of momentary or short-term relief before the obsessions start up again. In this way, a teen with OCD is usually stuck within a perpetual cycle of obsessions and compulsions, feeling bombarded by intrusive thoughts which can only be shut out by performing compulsive, ritualistic or repetitive actions.

How OCD Is Commonly Managed

Treatment for OCD in teens differs from individual to individual, depending on the nature and severity of their thoughts and behaviors, but most cases involve behavioral therapy that walks a teen through their thoughts and helps them avoid both the compulsion and the obsession by triggering an obsession and changing their response.

Teens with OCD go through a slow and gradual process of learning to shut out intrusive thoughts, disregard them, and dissociate themselves and their own thinking from the OCD – learning to separate normal logic from their condition. This is part of behavioral therapy. Treatment for OCD isn’t always easy or successful, and it can take time for changes to occur, particularly if the symptoms are severe.

Medication can help with co-occurring issues, such as anxiety issues and depressive thinking as a result of their condition and the effect it has had on their life, but there is no drug that treats OCD itself. Therapy is often a teen’s best bet at learning to manage and cope with their OCD to the point that they can lead a more normal and self-sufficient life.

Common Issues of OCD in Teens

Adolescence is tough enough as it is. But teens with OCD face unique challenges. Dealing with the changes that early adulthood bring while struggling with reality can be painfully difficult, for teens and parents alike. Here are some ways in which the symptoms of OCD may affect your teen’s treatment.

Your Teen Might Struggle With Accepting Their Diagnosis

Mental health issues are still heavily stigmatized, particularly among teens. If your teen has not fully accepted their diagnosis yet, then chances are that it might be difficult for them to come to terms with the idea that they need help. Teens live in a world of labels and groups, and the last thing they want to be is labeled crazy, or in need of medication and therapy.

Furthermore, your teen might have a false understanding of what OCD is, and they might feel that their symptoms don’t fit their preconceptions. They might reject their diagnosis because they worry that going into therapy will affect their chances at getting into a good college or pursuing their dream career.

One way of helping your teen accept their diagnosis is by offering learn more about OCD with them. While they might not like the idea of being “labeled”, their diagnosis is nothing more than a single facet of a whole – and if they don’t try to do something about it now, it will become an all-consuming problem in the future, especially if they’re hoping to avoid therapy as a way to do better in school in preparation for that future.

You May Be Inadvertently Feeding Their Compulsions

When we have children, we want the best for them. We also don’t want to see them suffer. And even though we understand it helps them grow, we sometimes find ourselves in the way of certain challenges that they have to overcome. While managing OCD is scary and difficult, the last thing a parent should do is actively encourage in compulsions.

If you find yourself doing extra loads of laundry or scrubbing surfaces multiple times or otherwise acquiescing to your teen’s strange requests because you think it might help them with their anxiety, understand that compulsions, while effective in the short term, are cyclical, and will always lead back to obsessions.

Therapy works on breaking the cycle. Avoid feeding your teen’s compulsions and avoid excessively reassuring them to help them get out of distress. Instead, work with a professional to learn how to alternatively cope with your teen’s specific obsessions and compulsions and help them avoid them.

Your Teen May Avoid Telling You Things

Obsessive thoughts can be violent, aggressive, and even repelling. Teens are especially caught up with sexuality and their budding feelings for other people, and their OCD might develop in a way that causes them to feel inappropriately towards family, pets, or things. These feelings have nothing to do with your teen themselves but are part of how the disorder takes things we fear or don’t want to think of and thrusts them into the forefront.

As such, your teen may try to hide obsessions and symptoms from you, out of embarrassment and out of fear of judgment. It’s important that both you and your teen understand that you can separate OCD from your child and recognize that it is a very different thing living inside their mind.

OCD Cannot Be Reasoned With

It’s important to remember that OCD does not obey rational thought. It certainly has its own internal logic, but you may not ever understand it, and you cannot simply convince your teen to stop acting a certain way. There is no profound realization to “snap” out of OCD. It takes time and extensive therapy, and lots of adjustment. By supporting your teen throughout the therapeutic process, identifying symptoms, and avoiding anything that might feed them, you can help your teen slowly overcome their condition.

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Addiction ADHD Adolescence Anxiety Bipolar Disorder Depression Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Personality Disorder Recovery Social Anxiety Stress

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental illness is a frequent partner of substance abuse and addiction, although the cause-and-effect between the two isn’t always clear. However, the issue is a prevalent one that needs to be considered anytime treatment is sought for substance abuse, because diagnosing both correctly is a key component to a healthy recovery process. There are a number of different types of mental illnesses that are often seen in combination with substance abuse and addiction.

Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses associated with substance abuse. In some cases, substances may be used to mask the symptoms of depression. Other times, substance abuse may bring on the depression symptoms or make them worse. Symptoms of depression might include:

  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or guilt
  • Loss of interest in or ability to enjoy activities
  • Diminished energy levels and fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Changes to sleep or appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are also a frequent problem for those struggling with substance abuse. There are different types of anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety and panic attacks. Substances may be used to lessen the symptoms at first, which often only serves to make the symptoms more intense over time. Symptoms of these conditions might include:

  • Feelings of restlessness or nervousness
  • Excessive and ongoing worry and tension
  • Irritability and fearfulness
  • Sweaty palms, racing heart, shortness of breath
  • Headaches, dizziness or nausea

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is a disorder often diagnosed in adolescents and frequently associated with substance abuse. This disorder is characterized by three basic components:

  • Hyperactivity – difficulty sitting still, excessive talking, always seems to be “on the go”
  • Inattention – disorganization, lack of focus, forgetfulness, distraction
  • Impulsivity – impatience, blurting out answers, guessing instead of solving problems

Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental disorder characterized by extreme swings of mood and energy levels. During the manic phase, the individual exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Excessive irritability
  • Bursts of energy, requiring little sleep
  • Distracted easily
  • Engage in impulsive, high-risk behaviors

Manic phases are typically followed by depressed states, which may include the following symptoms:

  • Extended periods of sadness or hopelessness
  • Low energy, excessive fatigue
  • Significant changes to appetite and sleep patterns
  • Thoughts and ideations of suicide

When mental illness accompanies a substance abuse disorder, it is imperative to address both disorders simultaneously to give the patient the best odds for a successful recovery. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we are experienced in treating both of these conditions at the same time, a situation known as dual diagnosis. Our team of healthcare professionals is equipped to work through both disorders and give our patients the best odds of successful sobriety and improved mental health. To learn more about dual diagnosis or our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Recovery Therapy

Body-Focused Repetitive Disorders

Trichotillomania (TTM) is a type of body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) specifically characterized by impulsive pulling out of one’s hair from the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, or elsewhere on the body. According to the DSM-IV of the American Psychiatric Association, TTM must meet the following five criteria:

  1. Repetitive pulling of one’s own hair that results in noticeable hair loss.
  2. A feeling of tension prior to pulling or when trying to resist the behavior.
  3. Pleasure, gratification, or relief while engaging in the behavior.
  4. The behavior is not accounted for by another medical (or dermatological) or psychiatric problem (such as schizophrenia).
  5. Hair pulling leads to significant distress or impairment in one or more areas of the person’s life (social, occupational, or work).

Though this criteria is useful, there is some debate within the clinical and scientific communities about whether or not all five of these criteria are present in every case. Since there are many who suffer from debilitating hair pulling behaviors but don’t meet all of these criteria, efficient and effective treatment is still paramount to one’s health and well-being.

Signs and symptoms of Trichotillomania often include:

  • Repeatedly pulling your hair out, typically from your scalp, eyebrows or eyelashes, but it can be from other body areas as well;
  • A strong urge to pull hair, followed by feelings of relief after the hair is pulled;
  • Patchy bald areas on the scalp or other areas of your body;
  • Sparse or missing eyelashes or eyebrows;
  • Chewing or eating pulled-out hair;
  • Playing with pulled-out hair;
  • Rubbing pulled-out hair across your lips or face.

Onychophagia (nail-biting) and Dermatillomania (skin-picking) are other BFRBs but are characterized by compulsive skin picking and nail biting. Nail-biting is the most common of “nervous habit.” I’m not talking about the occasional cuticle or hangnail, or the occasional blemish that someone may pick or squeeze. Instead, someone who suffers from onychophagia picks or bites their nails or skin until they bleed, finding themselves using Band-Aids like accessories. As those suffering from TTM will wear hats to cover bald spots and the like, nail-biters will keep their hands in their pockets, sit on them, wear gloves or those Band-Aids I mentioned. Those who excessively pick at the skin on their faces will try to cover up with makeup or when things get really bad, go so far as to stay inside and isolate. I mention these two together, because they often make intermittent appearances in the same individual.

Nail-biting (onychophagia) facts include:

  • Common in individuals of all ages.
  • Up to 33% of children ages 7-10 bite their nails.
  • Nail-biting can be triggered by stress, boredom, or nervousness.
  • About half of all children between the ages of 10 and 18 bite their nails at one time or another. Nail-biting occurs most often during puberty.
  • Some young adults, ages 18 to 22 years, bite their nails.
  • Only a small number of other adults bite their nails. Most people stop biting their nails on their own by age 30.
  • Boys bite their nails more often than girls after age 10

Chronic skin picking (dermatillomania)is characterized by:

  • Inability to resist urges to pick at real or perceived blemishes in one’s skin
  • For some, mounting tension before one picks
  • For some, gratification and relaxation while picking
  • Noticeable sores or scarring on the skin
  • Increased distress and/or interference with daily life

BFRBs have been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They can sometimes be linked to a sign of emotional or psychological disorders. They are all compulsive disorders, but their manifestations have varying presentations: For some, the picking or pulling will occur during sedentary activities like watching TV, reading, driving or being a passenger in a car, talking on the phone, sitting in class, or sitting at a computer or a desk. At times, there might be focused intent which drives the behavior–for example, planning on picking or pulling at an area as soon as one arrives home. At other times, it’s happens without conscious awareness, and the individual only realizes they’ve picked or pulled when they see the resulting pile of hair, open scabs or bleeding fingers.

This can feel overwhelming, but there is help. For starters, you have to say something to someone and let them know you’re suffering.  Your doctor and/or therapist will then work with you and help you redirect the negative behaviors and create new, innocuous behaviors.

The following therapeutic modalities are typically used to treat BFRB:

(Sometimes, elements from some or all of the aforementioned modalities are used to meet the BFRB client’s needs.):

Alternative therapies are also used, but are not as researched or predictable in terms of their success.

Support groups can provide a wonderful place for fellowship and to create positive social reinforcements.

Keep in mind, What works for one person may not work for another. The key will be in finding the treatments that do work and committing to them. Nothing is impossible, but everything takes effort. Feeling better is worth your treatment endeavors.

 

For more info, check out:

https://www.trich.org/

Mayo Clinic

https://www.trich.org/dnld/ExpertGuidelines_000.pdf

Categories
Anxiety Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Destigmatizing OCD

 

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OCD is a form of anxiety occurring when the brain has difficulty dealing with worries and concerns. As a result, someone with OCD will constantly worry and obsess over things that may seem banal to a non-sufferer. For some kids, their worries are focused on cleanliness or germs, resulting in repetitive hand-washing rituals. For others, it could be repeatedly straightening out an area, trying to achieve perfection. These obsessive and repetitive behaviors are done ritualistically or compulsively in order to quell the pervasive anxiety induced as a result of obsessive thought patterns. Often, an OCD sufferer will focus on things being in “order” or “just right,” also as a means to reduce the lingering, scary thoughts infiltrating their minds.  While some kids may recognize they don’t need to act on these behaviors, the disorder itself propels then to do it anyway. It’s not their fault. Interestingly, acting on the repetitive thought patterns does minimally reduce the anxiety, albeit temporarily.

I want to point out that worrying is also a natural part of childhood, so is having small rituals (like wearing your lucky t-shirt before a game), being super organized, double-checking to make sure the door’s locked, et cetera. Kids and teens naturally worry about things, be it school, whether they’re liked, whether they “look cool” for school or to impress that guy or girl, or whether their parents are ever going to get along. With OCD, these rituals become extreme. So, if you notice repetitive, ritualistic, and compulsive behaviors becoming more extreme and negatively impacting one’s day-to-day life, then it’s appropriate to take a closer look at the cause and take action.

That means seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist who will ask questions about obsessions or compulsions. Some of these questions may include:

  • Do you have worries, thoughts, images, feelings, or ideas that bother or upset or scare you?
  • Do you feel you have to check, repeat, ask, or do things over and over again?
  • Do you feel you have to do things a certain number of times, or in a certain pattern?

Once the diagnosis is made, then treatment can begin. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a preferred treatment for OCD. A CBT therapist will work with a child or adolescent with OCD and help them learn that they are in charge, not the OCD. Often the CBT will integrate Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) as part of the treatment. With ERP, the strategy is to gradually expose the sufferer to their trigger (fears) so they can develop skills and learn not to respond to them with such urgency. The process allows the OCD sufferer to begin to recognize that their fear is just that: a fear, not a reality; it also helps the brain “reset” the very mechanisms that trigger the obsessive behavior. It’s important to remember that treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder takes patience, time, diligence and hard work.

Remember, there is no shame in asking for help or in getting treatment. Having OCD doesn’t mean you’re crazy, or broken in some way. There is a solution.

Categories
Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) PTSD Recovery Therapy Treatment

MDMA: Is This Psychotropic Drug Helpful, Harmful, or Both?

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Last time I wrote about ecstasy, it was about the rise in ER visits and the inherent dangers of using a drug that inevitably depletes one’s levels of serotonin and has the potentiality of long-term brain damage. So, when I came across an article talking about using MDMA (ecstasy) to treat post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), my curiosity was sparked. Psychedelic drugs have been used to treat mental illness before, and with some success: In the 50s and 60s, psychology was in a Freudian phase, viewing psychological issues as conflicts between the conscious and unconscious minds. At that time, psychedelics were used to allow patients to face their unconscious minds while awake, which purportedly eliminated the variables of memory retrieval. Still, these methods of treatment weren’t without controversy.  With the influx of street use, and folks like Timothy Leary telling people to “”Turn on, tune in and drop out,” the use of psychedelia to treat mental illness was met with great discernment and fell to the wayside.

Currently, interest in using MDMA and other psychedelics to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and PTSD is gaining traction. MAPS is doing extended research on this subject, and states that MDMA isn’t the street drug we call ecstasy, noting that while ecstasy contains MDMA, it also may contain ketamine, caffeine, BZP, and other narcotics and stimulants. According the MAPS site they are “undertakinga 10-year, $10 million plan to make MDMA into an FDA-approved prescription medicine.” They are also “currently the only organization in the world funding clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. For-profit pharmaceutical companies are not interested in developing MDMA into a medicine because the patent for MDMA has expired. Companies also cannot profit from MDMA because it is only administered a limited number of times, unlike most medications for mental illnesses which are taken on a daily basis.”

The use of this drug has leaned so far from its psychotherapeutic roots, proving to be one of the most popular, highly sought-after street drugs around. Because of this, the useful aspect of this drug may easily be overlooked, forcing us to question how we can take something that has morphed into a social enigma and call it useful. I’m curious, will sufficient research place this drug at the discerning hands of medical professionals once again? And how do we, as a recovery community accept this when we have kids coming in suffering from the long-term, negative effects caused by this very drug?

Related articles:

MDMA May Help Relieve Posttraumatic Stress Disorder(time.com)

Ecstasy As Treatment for PTSD from Sexual Trauma and War? New Research Shows Very Promising Results (alternet.org)

Clinical Study of MDMA Confirms Benefits Noted by Therapists Before It Was Banned (reason.com)

Neuroscience for Kids

Ecstasy Associated With Chronic Change in Brain Function