Guide For Parenting Teens with OCD

The teenage years can be one of the more challenging times in a person’s life to navigate. A lot of changes happen during this time as a child starts to grow into the person they will ultimately become.

It can be a stressful time not just for the child but for the parents of the child as well. While navigating through a child’s teenage years can be difficult enough on its own, when that child is also struggling with a mental health condition such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), it can lead to even greater challenges.

If you or a loved one has a child battling OCD, Shortridge Academy can help, specializing in OCD in teenagers.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Also known as OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a mental health condition centered around obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Obsessions often come in the form of repetitive thoughts, urges, and mental images that are often unwanted and can be intrusive to the point where they interfere with daily life. The behaviors are often a result of the obsessions, a way to try and scratch the proverbial itch that is a result of the obsessions.

Examples of obsessions that teens may experience include:

  • Fear of germs
  • Constantly worrying about becoming sick
  • Worrying about something bad happening
  • Having disturbing sexual thoughts or urges
  • Fear of doing something violent
  • Worrying about their sexual orientation

Examples of compulsions in teens include:

  • Excessive washing of the hands or cleaning
  • Constantly checking to make sure something was done
  • Repeatedly doing something until it is right
  • Constantly counting things
  • Putting things in a certain order
  • Constantly seeking reassurance from others

Especially in teens, OCD can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety, often resulting in the teen being unable to properly focus at school or work. In some cases, their OCD may be so severe that it prevents them from being able to go about their lives and perform even basic tasks.

What Is It Like To Live with OCD?

The way a person experiences OCD can differ based on a variety of factors such as the severity of the condition and if they are also suffering from any other types of mental health conditions.

A teenager suffering from OCD may also suffer from another type of mental health condition such as:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Eating disorders

Someone with OCD will often know that they have thoughts or rituals that don’t make sense. In some cases they may try and block these obsessions and compulsions out and be unable to, leading to feelings of frustration and agitation.

Often, these obsessions and compulsions can get in the way of a teenager being able to go about their daily life. They may feel as though they are a prisoner of their own brain, having to acknowledge and address their obsessions and compulsions even when they don’t want to.

How Can I Recognize If My Child Has OCD?

When left untreated, OCD can have devastating impacts on the life of a child or teenager. It can prevent them from being able to be successful in school or even from having a relatively normal teenage life.

If you think your child may be suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, below are some signs and symptoms:

  • Experiencing frequent and irrational fears or worries
  • Having compulsive behavior of any kind
  • Struggling to focus at school or while doing homework
  • Constantly checking and re-checking things
  • Complaining about having recurring, uncontrollable disturbing thoughts and feelings
  • Behaving in ways that can’t be explained
  • Becoming noticeably distressed if something is out of order and not being able to calm down until it’s fixed
  • Constantly being in fear that something bad is going to happen
  • Having trouble making or keeping friends as a result of their obsessions and compulsions
  • Getting visibly upset if they are not able to see their compulsion to conclusion
  • Constantly being anxious or depressed
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

If your child is experiencing any of the above symptoms you may want to reach out to their primary care physician or a treatment professional for a formal OCD diagnosis.

What Causes OCD In Teenagers?

As is the case with substance abuse and other mental health issues, OCD is typically brought on by various factors including genetics and the environment someone grew up in.

If there is a family history of mental health struggles including OCD and anxiety, then the child is more likely to develop Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as well. Additionally, as a child gets older and their brain starts to develop, a chemical imbalance can occur that can lead to the development of OCD.

OCD can also be brought on by environmental factors. A child that has experienced trauma or stress at a young age is more likely to develop OCD as they get older. In rare cases, certain illnesses can even lead to the development of OCD such as a streptococcal infection.

What Can I Do To Help My Child?

teens Obsessive-compulsive disorder

As parents, our first instinct is to protect our children at all costs. While you may not be able to protect your child from developing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, there are things that you can do in order to help them navigate through life with their mental health condition

Talk To Them

The easiest thing you can do, even though it might seem difficult, is to simply sit your teen down and talk to them about what they are going through and experiencing. You can let your teen know that you are worried about them but also let them know that you want to help in any way possible.

In the event that they don’t take kindly to your offer to help them, try and stay calm. They may not fully understand what they are going through and may even be in denial, trying to pretend that they are fine.

Just like with a substance abuse problem, it is important to remember that they have to be willing to accept help in order for that help to be effective.

Have Them Tested or Evaluated

If your child had a positive reaction to your talk and is willing to accept help, the next step is to have them tested or evaluated for OCD.

To get properly evaluated for a mental health condition such as OCD you will want to either take them to their primary care physician or even a treatment professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Should you choose the psychiatrist or psychologist route, make sure you find someone that specializes in children and teens.

Get Them Into Treatment

If they are formally diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, you will want to get your child enrolled in a treatment program right away. The professional that performed the evaluation will be able to provide you with treatment recommendations and may even be able to provide therapy.

Treatment for OCD typically includes a combination of psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants including Zoloft and Paxil.

Psychotherapy can help your child better understand what exactly they are going through. The therapist can often learn the underlying causes that led to the development of their OCD by talking to them and asking specific questions. Once they have properly figured out some of the triggers that can cause the OCD symptoms in your child they can work with your child in order to learn new and healthier ways to address their struggles.

In addition to therapy, your child’s treatment professional may also recommend taking certain medications to help alleviate common symptoms of OCD such as anxiety and depression as well as address any other accompanying mental health conditions they may have.

At Short Ridge Academy We Specialize in OCD in Teenagers

teenagers ocd

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, therapy, and mediation alone aren’t enough to help our children with their OCD struggles. In situations like that, specialized boarding schools, such as Short Ridge Academy, are available to provide extra help.

At Short Ridge Academy, we specialize in helping children with mental help conditions such as OCD get the education they need in a supportive and therapeutic environment where they can feel safe.

In addition to offering a challenging academic program, we also provide various therapy programs for our students and their families including:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Transitional support

Through our Positive Youth Development Program, we help our students identify their strengths, develop skills, and prepare them for a more traditional academic environment so that they can pursue a healthy and productive adulthood.

For more information about our boarding school, or to learn how we can help your child and set up a guided campus tour, contact us today.

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