If you’re a teen and you’ve just been diagnosed with OCD, you might think that the world is coming to an end. You might feel like you’ve been dealt a heavy hand. Or feel like it’s going to be too much for you.
The truth is OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is entirely manageable. You may have to learn some coping tools, perhaps take some medication to ease any anxiety, but aside from that, most people with OCD can live completely normal lives.
If you feel concerned or worried about having OCD, the first step you can take is learning a bit about the illness. Essentially, OCD is a neurobiological disorder that affects certain parts of the brain. Those with OCD have obsessions or compulsions or both. Obsessions are experiences where a person becomes fixated on something, which often includes having repeating thoughts. Someone with an obsession might also have strong urges or mental images that create feelings of unease, tension, or anxiety. Some types of obsessions include:
- Contamination, such as a strong fear of contaminating your body or mind or fear of germs
- Taboo subjects such as having thoughts about sex or religion
- Aggression towards oneself or others
- Perfection or order, such as the need to have things in a symmetrical order
- Hoarding and having the need to keep or possess things
As a result of having these obsessions, a person with OCD can begin to experience compulsive behavior. When a person behaves compulsively they feel like they can’t really stop themselves. The anxiety of the obsession they experience tends to prompt the behavior. Some examples of compulsions include:
- Excessive cleaning or washing hands
- Ordering things or attempting to keep things in a certain order
- Repeatedly checking that doors are locked or that the stove is off
- Counting things compulsively
At first you might believe that these obsessions and compulsive behaviors might get in the way of enjoying your life. But with the right tools, you can manage these symptoms. As mentioned already, you may need to take medication if the anxiety becomes too great, causing obsessive thoughts and producing compulsive behavior. Medication can ease the anxiety and minimize the obsessions and compulsions.
At the same time, you might also participate in therapy for a period of time. The type of therapy that is commonly used with OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Don’t worry, you won’t be analyzing your past or trying to figure out what traumatic event in your life caused OCD. Instead, you’ll learn to examine your thoughts and identify which ones may be causing anxiety. You’ll learn how to respond to those thoughts in a healthy way and resisting the urge to respond compulsively. In other words, therapy gives you tools to use right in the moment so that OCD doesn’t interfere with your life. At some point, once you’ve learned these coping tools and are familiar with applying them, you may not need to continue with therapy – unless the symptoms of OCD persist.
You should know that just because you have OCD, your life isn’t over. In fact, as a teen it’s just beginning! All you need are the right tools and support to keep the illness in check!
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