Youth OCD Description

When you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) it feels like you worry all the time and it won’t stop even if you try. It can also make you feel alone – like you are the only one who feels this way.

OCD can make you feel like you have to do certain things to try to make the worry go away or if you don’t do these things, something bad is going to happen to you, or to your family. So you do it over and over. Often people feel they have to make things just right and they get very anxious when things seem to be out of place. This is the compulsive part – the things you must do to prevent harm. Sometimes these things can't be seen by anyone else because you are doing them in your head.

Some people get thoughts that pop into their heads that make them worry or that make them feel bad. These thoughts are hard to ignore and very hard to stop – this is the obsessive part. It seems to make sense that if you do the things you have to do so that something bad won’t happen, then you will stop worrying about it. But this is only temporary, the worries come back and so you keep doing it over and over again.

OCD is much more common than you might think.

Kids don’t always tell their parents or friends about it because they are embarrassed or they don’t know how to explain what is going on their minds. It’s common for kids with OCD to be diagnosed around 7 to 12 years of age because this is when they start to feel anxious about fitting in with friends. Parents and teachers might notice something is not ok but do not always know why.

If you have OCD, you can’t just stop it by trying harder, but there are ways to recover from OCD with the help of parents or other family members. You might also have someone at school like a teacher or councillor who you can talk to.

The most common treatments are:

Deep breathing will help you to reduce your stress the next time you start to feel worried and anxious.

Obsessive-compulsive thinking takes up a lot of your time and energy, making everything else seem less important. It is really important for you to value all the other things you are involved in like school, sport, music, socialising, and recreation – try to concentrate your energies into staying involved and enjoying the things you really like to do.


Youth Obsessions Description

Obsessions are unwanted, upsetting, recurring thoughts that come into our minds over and over again. They cause us to worry about things that make us feel unsafe such as getting dirty; catching germs or that someone we love will get hurt. These unwanted thoughts can make it hard to concentrate on anything else - like school or to complete homework on time. Obsessive thoughts can be linked to compulsive behaviours. 

“I fear this bad thing will happen if I stop checking or washing my hands, so I can’t stop even if it doesn’t make any sense.”

... most of all, obsessions are CRAP!

Compelling – they are extremely difficult to ignore

Real – they are highly believable

Alarming – they always seem threatening, often shameful, bizarre

Painful – they are very nagging, distracting and tormenting

Obsessions are crap because they try to get us to feel worried all the time about things that might happen even if they are highly unlikely. Obsessions are crap because they keep going on and on about it – making us feel crapping, scared and annoyed. What we really want to do is tell them to go away and leave us alone.

Youth Compulsions Description

Compulsions are avoiding or repetitive behaviours that we feel we must perform like a ritual. We feel compelled to avoid certain things or to do particular actions to prevent us from worrying about something, to stop us from having unwanted thoughts or to stop something bad from happening. Things like washing our hands over and over to stop us from getting dirty or sick; checking power switches or doors; counting or touching things in a certain way; or rearranging things in a certain order around our room or house. 

One young girl said she was not happy unless her room was arranged in a precise order every day. If she didn’t get it right she would have to start all over again. Spending a lot of time in the morning carrying out certain rituals or completing tasks can make you late or even absent from school.

Like habits, the more we do the compulsive behaviours, the more we feel like we have to do them.
... most of all, compulsions are FAKE!

Feel right – they feel important, necessary and useful because they seem to relieve the threat

Automatic – the urge is so strong that they seem irresistible, like we have no choice and just have to do them

Keep on & on – the relief is very short-lived, so we repeat and repeat and repeat

Essential – it seems the anxiety and discomfort cannot be handled any other way

Compulsions are fake because they deceive us into believing that they must be done, and they are the right thing to do – but very soon afterwards it makes us feel just as bad and worried as before. They give us false hope about making us feel better and they disguise the real problem – that things in life are always possible and we can’t prevent this, so the doubt keeps coming back.

Talking about obsessions

CBT and Behavioural Therapy

Behavioural therapy can teach us how to decrease our compulsive behaviours through exposure to our fears. Being able to recognise that our anxiety will decrease and that the outcome of being exposed to something we fear will not be a disaster can help us to recover from OCD.

In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) we learn how our thoughts, feelings and actions are connected and how to deal with upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and feelings. The second part of this therapy involves training our minds to resist the OCD. Things like ‘bossing back’ and self rewards can help us to respond in more positive ways to our fears.

This takes time and needs an experienced therapist to help us retrain the way we react to things that make us worry. Support from family is a big help to us along the way to feeling more in control of our lives.

Useful links:

Online CBT programs

STOP Therapy Program at Swinburne University