OCD Symptoms in Teens

Many individuals will experience symptoms of OCD over the course of their lifetime. Teen OCD therapy can help adolescents when OCD symptoms occur for them. In Canada alone, almost 1% of individuals have been diagnosed with OCD. A variety of OCD symptoms may be experienced by any one person. Whenever experiencing symptoms, you want to consider how impacting they are, in terms of daily functioning within work/school-related activities, relationships and everyday tasks and functioning. Adults and teens often experience symptoms of OCD that are fairly similar. Teen OCD therapy helps teens with OCD, as well as the whole family, understand and manage the symptoms experienced.

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5R), there are specific symptoms that individuals with OCD will experience. Individuals will often experience obsessive thoughts or unwanted thoughts that feel distressing. In response to these unwanted thoughts, they will engage in compulsive behaviors in an effort to try and decrease the distress they are experiencing.

When these symptoms become interfering for a teenager, you might want to consider seeking treatment of OCD. Individuals experiencing OCD often have symptoms that fall under various themes. This is based on the presence of particular obsessions and compulsions. During teen OCD therapy, teenagers will learn psycho education regarding OCD symptoms and anxiety. During teen OCD therapy, individuals also learn what keeps these symptoms going and how they can manage them differently. Therapy sessions will involve treatment for your loved one and can also involve family support.

When obsessions and/or compulsions are time consuming and lead to frequent disruption in one’s daily functioning, it might be time to seek a psychodiagnostic assessment. This can help everyone to better understand the symptoms. Having an assessment done by a licensed healthcare professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist is very important.

Teen OCD Therapy

Young people with OCD experience a variety to OCD symptoms. And these show up in different settings. Here are some examples of common obsession or intrusive thoughts that your teenager with OCD might experience:

  • Contamination or germ-related obsessions (e.g., thinking objects are “dirty” and “contaminated” with germs or toxins)
  • Harm-related intrusive thoughts (e.g., having thoughts of harming or injuring loved ones)
  • Symmetry or ordering obsessions (e.g., needing to line up objects in a certain way or according to a specific criteria)
  • Sexual-intrusive thoughts (e.g., having or fearing thoughts related to pedophilia or a sexual orientation)
  • “Just right” intrusive thoughts [e.g., needing to complete actions (say reading or writing) in a certain way until it “feels just right”]

In response to these obsessions, teens with OCD might develop a variety of compulsive behaviours. These may include repetitive behaviors as well:

  • Cleaning or washing compulsions (e.g., cleaning items over and over again until one is “satisfied” that is is completely clean)
  • Mental review or “figuring it out” compulsions (e.g., reviewing thoughts or events in the hopes of reassuring oneself)
  • Checking compulsions (e.g., checking over what one has read or what one has written)
  • Reassurance-seeking or confessing “bad thoughts” (e.g., confessing OCD-related thoughts to a loved ones in the hopes they will provide reassurance)
  • Organizing or carry things out in a way that feels “perfect” (e.g., organizing one’s desk or room)
  • Moving or completing tasks in a way that allows the “just right” feeling to be achieved

However, the list above is not exhaustive and OCD can really be about anything and everything!

OCD behaviors can arise in day-to-day life because these behaviors might initially make sense. For example, checking over one’s assignment before handing it into their teacher is understandable. However, when a young person feels the need to review their work over and over again, it becomes problematic and interfering. And often allows for less productive behaviour to take place. Teen OCD therapy will target these compulsive rituals and allow an individual to manage their life differently.

If your teen has severe OCD, they would still experience the above-mentioned symptoms. However, they might be more time consuming and much more interfering. It might be hard for your teen to sleep as they stay up late reviewing their thoughts or engaging in OCD rituals. They might also find it hard to attend school because they are engaging in a great deal of avoidant behaviours. ERP therapy can help teens begin to approach all the different types of things that they have been avoiding. Exposure therapy is an integral part of OCD therapy for teens.

Teen OCD Therapy Options

Fortunately, there are many excellent treatment options for teen OCD therapy. Medication can certainly be an option. This would be an important discussion to have with your trusted healthcare provider. Speaking with your doctor regarding the pros and cons of medication is a very good idea and will help your entire family understand that treatment option.

Of course you want to find the right treatment for your teen’s symptoms. It is important to meet with an OCD therapist who has excellent training in working with individuals with OCD during the teenage years.

The gold standard treatment for teen OCD therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy, with an emphasis on ERP therapy. This is one considered a most effective treatment for OCD. Within this type of therapy, your teen will learn several important tools and skills to have a different relationship with their intrusive thoughts and compulsive rituals.

Here is an overview of teen OCD therapy:

  • Psychoeducation will be taught and educate your teen about anxiety disorders as well as OCD
  • The model of cognitive behaviour therapy for OCD will be reviewed to ensure your teen understands the cycle of OCD
  • ERP therapy, which involves approaching triggers that one normally avoids and engaging in response prevention (i.e., not doing the compulsive ritual)
  • Learning strategies and skills to be able to tolerate anxiety and uncertainty
  • Effective ways for families to reduce accommodating and supporting your teen’s behaviour, with respect to OCD
  • Cognitive strategies, such as challenging core beliefs and core fears

Teen OCD therapy incorporates all these strategies and more! Other key strategies involve learning about what matters to your teen and figuring out why they want to engage in exposure therapy. What might change for them should they do the hard work of teen OCD therapy? Having this conversation can be the first step in creating collaborative treatment plans that are meaningful for your teen.

Teen OCD treatment can also incorporate present moment awareness and other distress tolerance strategies. Together, this type of individual therapy can be highly successful.

Treatment Options with Family Members

Teen OCD therapy can also involve family members. Families will often want to engage in the treatment process. However, they are not always sure of the best way to do this. Your OCD therapist can help with this during teen OCD therapy. With consent, parents can join sessions to learn ERP therapy coaching strategies. They can also learn the best way to support teenagers with this mental health condition. Learning how to talk back to the OCD, as an entire family, can often be highly effective. Having a language that one can use with their teenager through OCD therapy can allow for progress that feels helpful and not punitive.

During teen OCD therapy family members can learn:

  • Psychoeducation about OCD and anxiety disorders
  • Understanding your teen’s behaviour with respect to their OCD and beyond
  • The cycle of OCD and how this applies to your loved one
  • Join session and learn ERP therapy coaching strategies
  • Language to use with your teenager and goals you can set as a family regarding pushing against the OCD
  • Regular check-ins with your teenager and their OCD therapist in order to understand progress and treatment planning

Finding the right Mental Health Professionals

Does FTPS provide teen OCD therapy near me? If you are interested in teen OCD therapy treatment, we offer virtual therapy in Ontario for OCD. We also provide in-person OCD treatment, as needed. These are great things to talk about with our team!

How do our services work? These are all the services we offer to get you started at FTPS for the best treatment possible.

  • We always offer a free intake call with our intake coordinator who know about OCD and will ask you important questions to understand what you are looking for
  • We will provide you with the opportunity to meet with an associate for a 30 minute no charge meet and greet. This provides you with an opportunity to speak with an associate, learn about their approach and ask all the questions you have
  • If the initial associate you met with is not a good match for you, you can meet with another associate – free of charge! 
  • Browse through our website and learn about the profiles of all our team members.
  • Talk to the intake team about who feels like a good fit. We will have suggestions as well, based on our experiences with the therapist-matching process

Reach out to us at Forward Thinking Psychological Services. We are ready to work with you and your teenager on symptoms of OCD. We will bring you closer to a life that is of value to you. We look forward to hearing from you!

DISCLAIMER: This content is meant for informational and educational purposes only. Only a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose a mental health disorder. The content of this website is not meant to be a substitute for therapy. Visiting this website should not be considered to be equivalent to a relationship with FTPS. Mental health concerns should only be discussed in the context of providing professional services after the consent process has been completed with a qualified FTPS associate outside of our website.