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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder In Teens

Mar 23, 2021 | Mental Health, OCD

A teenager is already stressed out, confused, and feeling awkward due to a variety of life experiences along with developmental changes. The teenage years require a lot of work. Imagine being in such a difficult time and having obsessive compulsion disorder on top of that. Scary right?

In case you are wondering what an OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder is, it’s a mental disorder that consists of two parts. One is an obsession like having the extreme fear of getting hit by a car. And a compulsion or a ritual to avoid that obsession like avoiding crossing a road at all costs. Or you can be overly fearful contemplating as if every car is coming to hit you. Compulsion is the ritual that OCD victims use to cope with the obsession.

While teens are confused about a lot of things which can result in fearful behaviors as the information is limited, OCD can lurk into their minds quietly without even them realizing it themselves. Studies have shown that 1 in 200 children is affected by OCD in America. It’s a mental illness and can be destructive in adult life if left untreated.

Symptoms Of OCD In Teens:

Symptoms of OCD in adults and teens are almost similar. The distinction lies in the fact that teens don’t realize that their worries and obsessions are excessive. Moreover, the rate of symptoms may vary with their age. For instance, somatic and harm obsessions are more common in children as compared to teens and adults. Whereas sexual and religious obsessions are more common in adolescents as compared to children.

However, some common obsessions and compulsions are:

  • Obsession: Obsessive fear of getting germs from a person or a thing
  • Compulsion: Excessive hand washing, teeth brushing, or even excessive use of hand sanitizers every time they get in contact with the subject to prevent the obsession from coming true.
  • Obsession: Fear of getting contaminated by an object or a person.
  • Compulsion: Specific decontamination rituals like showering with a specific soap or showering 3 times in a row or spraying decontaminating substances over the body or nearby objects.
Getting hurt:
  • Obsession: Another form of obsessive-compulsive disorder is a constant and irrational fear of something bad happening to one’s self or a loved one. The person suffering from OCD will be obsessive with safety.
  • Compulsion: Keep checking on your loved one obsessively like checking your younger sibling’s breath or pulse during the night. A constant need to be aware of their loved one’s whereabouts at all times can be a compulsion. Some people may keep lucky charms or numbers with them at all times to avoid the obsession from happening.
  • Obsession: Some OCD victims may have an extreme fear of dying in a specific manner like drowning, an airplane crash, or getting hit by a bus. Some may even have an obsession with doing some things in a specific order, otherwise, they fear they will die.
  • Compulsion: Doing everything to avoid going in the water, not being able to take a flight, or even avoiding certain roads or routes to avoid the obsession coming true.
Symmetry issues:
  • Obsession: Feeling anxious around some objects when they are not in the desired order.
  • Compulsion: Some OCD victims feel the need to arrange or rearrange the order of things as asymmetry plays with their OCD. Some people may need to act in a specific manner like going through doors or touching objects or even carrying the everyday routine in a specific order.
Anxiety over everyday routines:
  • Obsession: Teens suffering from OCD can be anxious about little things in everyday routines like if they left the stove turned on, the door unlocked, or an iron plugged in.
  • Compulsion: Normally we check such things once and forget about them. But teens with OCD keep checking on these things and get so worried that they cannot perform other daily tasks. These things may look ordinary, but they are quite uncomfortable and can be traumatizing for individuals with OCD.

Seeking Reassurance:

A common compulsion found in teens with OCD is to ask or require repeated reassurance from other people, especially parents. While it’s very common for children of young age to seek assurance or validation from their parents, victims of OCD do not get satisfied with getting assured 1 or 2 times. They feel the need to hear it again and it can be uncomfortable for other people to keep repeating the same thing over and over again.

Treatment And Solutions:

OCD is a treatable mental illness. One treatment of OCD that is often effective is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help teens learn to regulate their thoughts and control their compulsive behaviors. In addition, medications can also be useful. A psychiatrist may prescribe medications in conjunction with therapy, especially if the disorder intensity is moderate to severe.

Expected issues if left untreated

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be dangerous in itself and can result in other health issues if left untreated. OCD can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Also, OCD teens are more prone to having anger issues as they feel anxious and fearful all the time

Physical problems may arise due to extreme compulsions like skin problems due to excessive hand washing and showers. Substance abuse is also common in OCD victims as they may take this route to numb the pain and anxiety about not having control over things.

Parent’s Guide:

Following are some tips about handling your teen if you suspect they are having OCD.

  • Look out for OCD symptoms: If you are having doubts about your child’s mental well-being and suspect a problem, look closely and find if they are having the symptoms of OCD. Being obsessively fearful of certain things or situations, requiring reassurance over things over and over again, and having strange and obsessive rituals can hint at their battle with the illness.
  • Create a safe non-judgmental space: Most teens are initially reluctant to talk and may try to isolate themselves from others. Create a safe environment for them so they feel more open to sharing their thoughts and feelings.
  • Non-involvement in compulsions: It can be uncomfortable and annoying to see your child being anxious and in discomfort. However, it is very important to not get involved in their compulsions. Some parents tend to go along with their children’s compulsions just to make them comfortable and relaxed. Unfortunately, this simply reinforces the behavior and doesn’t help them address the underlying problems.
  • Provide professional help: If you find symptoms of OCD in your child and suspect they are suffering from it, take them to a professional and get them help.
  • Look out for substance abuse: As mentioned earlier, OCD victims can turn to drugs and substance abuse to numb their thoughts and feelings. If your teen is suffering from OCD, look out for signs of substance abuse. Keep a close eye on their activities at home as well as outside.
  • Look out for suicidal behaviors: OCD teens can become suicidal or depressed. Watch for signs of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Do not take these things lightly and get professional help for your teen immediately.
  • Look out for bullying: OCD victims are more likely to get bullied by other children. This can only make the situation worse. Look out for your child and make sure they are not bullied at school or on social media.


Since emotional pain is often not overtly visible, mental illnesses can be difficult to identify or understand. Support and validation from family and friends can go a long way toward helping your teen live a healthier life. Be involved in your teen’s life and provide them with lots of unconditional love. Avoid nagging and hostile behaviors and get your teen help when needed.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.