Teen OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is one of the more misunderstood mental health issues of our time. It has nothing to do with neatness or order, but is instead characterized by a vicious cycle of anxiety-inducing intrusive obsessions and resulting compulsions. Teens with OCD struggle with disturbing thoughts and feelings. Their compulsions form as a short-term coping mechanism for dealing with these thoughts and issues. Teens with OCD may form seemingly nonsensical habits and rituals. These obsessive thoughts often follow a specific theme, from fear of contamination to sudden thoughts about harming oneself or others. Due to the extremely negative impacts of teen OCD, it’s so important to know what to look for and how to recognize the signs and symptoms. The sooner teen OCD treatment starts, the better. Without teen OCD treatment, the obsessions and compulsions typically become worse over time.
Symptoms of Teen OCD Obsessions
For teens with OCD, an obsessive thought is sudden, unprovoked, and intrusive. This means these thoughts can often come out of nowhere, and they cannot be avoided without help. Examples of OCD obsessions include:
- Fear of using things up or throwing them away, with intense anxiety
- Feeling the urge to “correct” arranged objects
- Intrusive thoughts in public, from unwanted sexual imagery to the urge to drive a car into a crowd, shout obscenities, or hurt others
- Feeling unsure if the stove had been turned off, if the lights were turned off, if the car door or front door was locked, etc.
- Unwanted “taboo” thoughts, often sexual or religious, fear of almighty judgment/punishment
- Fear of germs, dirt, or disease
Symptoms of Teen OCD Compulsions
OCD compulsions help soothe a teen’s obsessions and are often related to the nature of the obsession (i.e. ritualistically locking the front door to make sure it’s locked, avoiding certain actions or behaviors because they can trigger anxious thoughts, etc.) Engaging in compulsions only brings short-term relief to a teen with OCD. The obsessions often start up again soon thereafter. Such compulsions include:
- Religious compulsions, including repeated prayers or mantras
- Insisting everything is counted a certain way, avoiding certain numbers
- Checking doors, lights, and faucets in certain multiples or a number of times
- Compulsive and excessive hand-washing, to the point of skin damage
- Compulsive hoarding, being unable to use or throw anything away
- Arranging and sorting things to fit some uniform code
Teen OCD Treatment Programs
At Visions Treatment Centers, we focus on finding therapeutic approaches to help teens identify OCD triggers and slowly confront their obsessions through exposure and response. Our teen OCD treatment programs include:
Both cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response training (ERT) play an important role in the treatment of OCD. To tackle and break the cycle, a teen must slowly work on neutering their obsessions and resist their compulsions. This does not happen overnight. Therapists use different techniques to help teens work their way through their obsessions and compulsions.
No FDA-approved medicines target OCD specifically, but antidepressants can and have been effective in alleviating symptoms. At Visions Treatment Centers, we work with a licensed psychiatrist to determine if medication is necessary on a case-by-case basis.
The symptoms of OCD are all-encompassing and affect every facet of life. Many are driven into social isolation due to their behavior. At Visions Treatment Centers, we help families stay together and overcome OCD via a strong support network and a better understanding of how the disorder works. Isolation can drive fear and feed anxiety – by staying together, families can help a teen dismantle their worries and make them less threatening. We also help teens find nearby support groups.
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Bridging the Gap Between Teen OCD Treatment and Recovery
Visions’ Teen OCD treatment programs begin with an in-depth assessment of a teen’s physical and mental health. The onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder is often during the teen years, but some of the signs and symptoms of the disorder can be mistaken or interchanged with Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, or other anxiety disorders.
Our assessment process both helps us accurately identify a teen’s condition, and better develop a treatment plan suiting their circumstances. Because OCD is a complex and sensitive disorder, we make note of a teen’s usual triggers and obsessions and take proper measures to make their stay at Visions more comfortable. With an eye on the long-term, we also make it a priority to stay in touch with a teen’s parents or guardians to ensure they find the necessary help and resources to continue treatment after the program ends.