Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, can be a serious issue for children, adolescents, teens, and young adults, as it can lead to poor academic performance, low self-esteem, and problematic relationships with family and friends.
According to the International OCD Foundation, 1 in 200 children and teenagers — roughly 500,000 young people in the United States — are estimated to have the disorder, which affects all genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Because of this, knowing the signs of OCD in teens and young people and understanding the obsessive-compulsive treatment options that are available is important.
Obsessions are unwanted ideas, mental images, or thoughts that cause distress in youths and young adults with OCD or other disorders such as autism. In kids, adolescents, teens, and young adults with OCD, signs and symptoms of obsessions can include:
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts that happen unexpectedly and are difficult to control. This obsessive thinking can focus on violent or immoral thoughts, creating significant distress in youths and young adults. These thoughts can often be related to all-or-nothing thinking in kids, adolescents, teens, and young adults.
Fear of losing control:
When it comes to fear of losing control and OCD, children, adolescents, teens, and young adults can worry about not being able to manage their thoughts or actions.
Uncertainty, doubt, and fear:
Youths and young adults with OCD may not trust themselves or their memories. This could lead to feelings of fear and uncertainty.
The connection between OCD and symmetry is young people with obsessive-compulsive disorder can fixate on how certain objects are arranged or positioned. If something is improperly aligned, it could create strong feelings of anxiety.
What are compulsions? They’re behaviors that need to be performed repeatedly to relieve anxiety. In kids, adolescents, teens, and young adults, OCD compulsions can include:
When it comes to OCD and checking, youths and young adults check and recheck if a certain task is completed. For example, they might repeatedly look to see if an oven is turned off, if a door is locked, or they may engage in frequent body checking.
With OCD and counting, children, adolescents, teens, and young adults may repeatedly count to block out intrusive thoughts or provide a sense of control. For instance, they might tally up items in a room or perform actions in sets of a specific number.
The connection between ordering and OCD is that youths and young adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder may order and arrange items in specific ways to provide a sense of comfort and suppress anxiety. Young people might reorder books on a shelf by color or size or position pens to put the same amount of space between them.
With OCD and cleaning, kids, adolescents, teens, and young adults can have an overwhelming need to clean themselves, their living spaces, their possessions, and other people because they’re worried about being contaminated or getting sick. For example, symptoms might include excessively and repeatedly handwashing or showering for hours every day.
Following a strict routine:
OCD and routine are connected when children, adolescents, teens, and young adults feel that following routines can make obsessive thoughts go away. For instance, they might do homework assignments in a certain order at a specific time of day, always in the same location.
Adolescents, teens, and young adults who obsessively think about their repetitive thoughts are experiencing ruminating thoughts. Examples of this compulsion include constantly worrying about what may happen in the future and repeatedly thinking about how to solve a problem.
Avoidance and OCD can be related because kids, adolescents, teens, and young adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder can avoid people, places, or situations related to their obsessive thoughts. Signs and symptoms may include refusing to use public restrooms due to a fear of germs.
Children, adolescents, teens, and young adults with OCD may struggle with reassurance seeking. For example, they might repeatedly ask friends and family members if they’re angry at them to reassure themselves that a relationship isn’t in jeopardy.
Types of OCD
There are several types of OCD that kids, adolescents, teens, and young adults could experience. Below are some of the most common ones.
1. Contamination OCD
Contamination OCD is characterized by a fear of germs or some other form of contamination. Children, adolescents, teens, and young adults with this type of obsessive-compulsive disorder may have intrusive thoughts about people, places, or objects infecting them. This leads them to adopt compulsive behaviors, such as excessive handwashing.
Contamination OCD can also take other forms, such as emotional contamination OCD or mental contamination OCD. In these cases, youths and young adults believe certain people, places, or objects contaminate them with taboo thoughts or beliefs. This can cause them to spend hours in prayer or confession to feel “clean.”
2. Harm OCD
With harm OCD, children, adolescents, teens, and young adults worry they may be a danger to themselves or others. Those experiencing harm OCD symptoms may engage in compulsive behaviors to avoid accidentally hurting anyone, such as removing all sharp objects from their home.
3. Pure OCD
Also known as pure obsessional OCD, pure OCD involves using compulsive mental strategies to deal with intrusive thoughts. For kids, adolescents, teens, and young adults with pure obsessional OCD, compulsions can include repeating silent prayers to themselves or mentally singing a song.
OCD Treatment Testimonials
Embark offers multiple treatment settings for obsessive-compulsive disorder, making our OCD therapy convenient for kids, adolescents, teens, young adults, and their families. Treatment settings include family, group, and individual therapy sessions.
Children, adolescents, teens, and young adults receiving treatment at Embark can benefit from two types of therapy for OCD.
Attachment-focused therapy is a relational treatment approach that promotes establishing safe, secure, nurturing relationships that help youths and young adults regulate their emotions. It sets the foundation for treating OCD because it addresses anxiety, which can cause obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is an evidenced-based therapeutic approach that helps youths and young adults who have OCD by exposing them to situations that trigger their obsessions and teaching them how to avoid using compulsions. Embark uses ERP therapy for severe cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder.