Your Child Can Get Better With Effective Treatment
Information for Parents

Just For Teens

If you’ve been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)—or you think you might have OCD—this section is for you.

To the Point: You Have OCD.  Now What?

Having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder isn’t the end of the world.  Obviously, you’d rather not have it—any more than you would want to have diabetes or asthma.  But like those chronic conditions, there is a treatment for OCD.  You will be able to live with OCD and manage its symptoms.  Just give yourself a little time to learn about this disorder and get the right “tools” to use to keep it under control.

It’s Unfair

Yes, you probably feel that OCD is unfair.  It’s unfair that you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and it’s unfair that it makes you feel bad.  It’s unfair that it can make you feel and act differently from everyone else.  But getting down on yourself isn’t going to help you get better.  Getting the right treatment can.  And no matter how much your parents want to help you, you’re really the one person who can make yourself better (with the right treatment).

What Is OCD?

OCD is a neurobiological anxiety disorder. That means that OCD has to do with the way the brain functions. Scientists have found that certain areas of the brain work differently in individuals who have OCD compared to those who don’t. You’re not “crazy.” You didn’t do anything to cause OCD. You’re not alone. And your parents didn’t cause it either, even if you really hate a lot of the things they do!

If you don’t already know this, with OCD, fears, worries and intrusive bad thoughts pop into your head and just won’t go away. Sometimes, you may have certain urges or feelings that something has to be done “just right” or “just so.” Those are obsessions.  What you do to try to make yourself feel better—like washing your hands over and over or revising your homework paper until you run out of time and it’s not finished—those are called compulsions.  Unfortunately, the more you do the compulsions to make yourself feel better, the more times you have to do them—it doesn’t help. And you may find yourself doing the compulsions more and more as time goes by.

You’re not “crazy”.  You didn’t do anything to cause OCD.  And you’re not alone.

Most people with OCD have above-average intelligence, and you’ll find others with OCD come from all races, ethnicities and genders as well as all ages. Between six and nine million people in the U.S. have OCD, including one in 40 adults and one in 100 school-aged children.

Some televisions shows and movies feature stars who supposedly have OCD, and sometimes these characters are played for laughs. As you already know, OCD isn’t like this in real life and it isn’t funny.

Before you go any further, there’s one important thing you need to know.  OCD won’t go away by itself.  And without treatment, it’s likely to get worse.  That’s not a scare tactic.  It’s the truth.  That’s why when you’re tempted to say to everyone (including your parents) “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!” it’s really important that you take a deep breath and, if you haven’t already started treatment, ask your parents to help you find a cognitive behavior therapist.  There’s more about finding a therapist and about how Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) works later in this section.

Learn more about what OCD is and about obsessions and compulsions

How Can I Get Over OCD?

You need Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to get relief from OCD.  This therapy is different from what you might expect—it’s not “analysis” with a lot of talking about your past.  And it’s not something odd like “relaxation techniques,” diet plans or herbal remedies.  It’s about giving you the practical thought tools you’ll need to outwit OCD.  A specially trained cognitive behavior therapist teaches you to use what is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) tactics.

Learn more about CBT and ERP

Managing Your Parents and the Others at Home

Parents always think they are helping, but they can make you feel worse when they don’t know what to do, or are constantly telling you what to do. You can help manage the situation at home by not losing your temper when they nag, and by trying to remember that you’re not the only one affected by this disorder.

Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents—your home might include any number of these family members.  It might seem like they all want to tell you to “stop obsessing” or stop doing the compulsions.  Or they might try to help by helping you perform your rituals.  None of this will help you.  So YOU have to help manage the problem.

A well-known professional in the treatment of OCD has written an article called “How To Manage Your Parents When You Have OCD: A Guide for Teens”.  He gives practical ideas to help you live with the ups and downs of OCD, especially describing common mistakes parents and other family members can make when trying to help you.  It’s a good read.

You can show this article to your parents.  Maybe they’ll pick up some pointers about what to do, and not do, while you’re trying to get over your OCD.

Read the article: How To Manage Your Parents When You Have OCD

You can also check out two new books titled “Breaking Free From OCD: A CBT Guide for Young People and Their Families” and “The Thought That Counts: A Firsthand Account of One Teenager’s Experience with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder”:

How Do I Know I’ll Get Better?

You’re not like everybody else, so wondering if CBT will really give you relief from OCD is understandable.  Many thousands of teens, adults and children have committed to CBT therapy (which includes homework sessions between sessions with your therapist)—and gained control over their OCD.

It’s not easy to beat OCD.  It will take hard work on your part.  You’ll need to be open to trying CBT, be honest with the cognitive behavior therapist who you’ll work with on this treatment and commit to going to therapy sessions once a week or more.  You’ll also have to do the homework assignments. In some cases, your therapist may recommend prescription medication for a while if you’re feeling depressed (and OCD certainly can make you feel depressed) or to help ease your anxiety and fears. This can make it much easier to do your CBT work. But the medication can be given just for the short-term.  And you have to have some patience—with yourself and with your family, as you go through treatment.

You can read personal accounts of how teens and adults have learned to manage their OCD.  Their stories are in the Personal Stories section of this web site.

Read Personal Stories of success overcoming OCD

Everyone Thinks I’m Different—“The One With OCD”

You ARE different.  EVERYONE is different.  That’s what makes the world interesting—- everybody has different skills, different interests and very different personalities.  If you think of all your “good” traits, you might be surprised at how long the list is.  (Or you can get down on yourself and only think about the negative things, which we don’t recommend!)

OCD may seem to be all-consuming right now. The thoughts and fears are unwanted, and are sometimes almost too much to bear. no one should underestimate the pain you feel because of OCD. Obsessions and compulsions can take up a lot of time, too, especially if you haven’t started CBT treatment yet.

But OCD isn’t YOU.  It’s just one part of you.  And the rest of you wants to stop OCD from being a big part of your life. That’s why you need to get CBT treatment. You can learn to manage your symptoms, and feel more like yourself again.

Will I Ever Get “Back to Normal”?

No one can tell you how quickly you’ll get relief from OCD when you’re undergoing CBT therapy.  We’re not talking about a lifetime of treatment; in fact, it might only take a couple of months if you make the commitment to work hard at therapy.  (If you’ve had OCD symptoms for a long time, it may take somewhat longer to learn to manage the symptoms.)  You can talk about timing with your therapist. He or she has experience working with teens and may have some insight about how long you’ll be in therapy, and what to expect when treatment is completed.

Once you get control over your OCD symptoms, you can get back to concentrating on the things that matter most to you, whether that’s school work, friends and family, music, hobbies, sports—whatever.

Remember, OCD is not your fault, and no one wants you to suffer with this stressful disorder. You have the power to keep OCD under control, with a little help from those who love you and your therapist.

Read “Got OCD? A Guide for Teens”

Read books about Teen OCD

Back to top of page