Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

A teenager suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (“OCD”) will generally exhibit unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead the teenager to engage in repetitive activities and behaviors (compulsions).  It is not uncommon to have either obsessions or compulsions and yet still have OCD.  Most individuals suffering from OCD are not aware that their obsessions or compulsions are unreasonable and they may ignore them or try to stop them on their own.  Ultimately, however, a teenager suffering from OCD will be driven to perform compulsive behaviors to relieve stressful feelings.  OCD often centers around themes such as fear of being contaminated by germs.  To ease their contamination fears and stress, they may compulsively wash their hands until their hands are sore, chapped and even bleeding.  Left untreated, the sufferer will be plagued by bothersome thoughts that lead to ritualistic behavior–a vicious cycle characteristic of OCD.

Symptoms of OCD

OCD symptoms usually include both an obsession and a corresponding compulsion.  However, it is possible to be diagnosed with OCD and only have an obsession(s) or compulsion(s).  For this reason the symptoms of OCD will be broken down hereafter into obsessive behaviors and compulsive behaviors:

Obsessive Themes

  • Fear of contamination or dirt
  • Having things and objects orderly and symmetrical
  • Aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming oneself or others
  • Unwanted thoughts, including aggression or sexual thoughts or religious subjects

Signs and Symptoms of Obsession

  • Fear of being contaminated by shaking hands or by touching objects others have touched
  • Doubts that the door was locked while leaving the house
  • Doubts that the stove was turned off while leaving the house
  • Intense stress when objects are not orderly or facing in a certain way
  • Images of hurting oneself or others
  • Thoughts about shouting obscenities or acting inappropriately
  • Avoidance of situations that can trigger obsessions, such as shaking hands
  • Distress about unpleasant sexual images repeating in one’s mind

Compulsive Themes

  • Washing and cleaning
  • Counting
  • Checking doors and stoves (as an example)
  • Demanding reassurances
  • Following a strict routine
  • Orderliness

Signs and Symptoms of Compulsions

  • Hand washing until the skin becomes sore, raw and even bleeding
  • Checking doors repeatedly to make sure they are locked
  • Checking the stove repeatedly to make sure it is turned off
  • Counting in certain patterns
  • Silently repeating a prayer, word or phrase
  • Arranging canned goods or books to face the same way

Causes of OCD

The cause of OCD is not fully understood.  The main theories include both biological causes and environmental causes.  There are theories that OCD can be caused by changes in natural body chemistry and/or brain functions.  Some studies suggest that there may be a genetic component to OCD.  Other studies have identified possible environmental factors such as infections.  However, the causes are somewhat mysterious at this point.

What should a parent do if he/she believes their teenager is suffering from OCD?

If you believe your teenager is suffering from OCD, seek help from competent professionals immediately.  Havenwood specializes in treating teenagers who suffer from OCD.  We would be happy to consult with you to determine how we can help–CALL NOW.