College Stress Can Worsen OCD Symptoms

Posted by Phil Cardenas on Apr 26, 2013

Stress is a major trigger for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms and few events in a young person’s path to adulthood are more stressful than going off to college. Fortunately, there are things an OCD-suffering teen can do to help minimize, or even eliminate, its effects.

Anticipating OCD triggers is a good first step. At the minimum, college presents a whole new set of challenges, even if the student lives at home. The familiar routine of going to school and returning at the same set time each day is gone. The safety net of a school administration that looks over you and tells your parents when you need attention has disappeared. The responsibility for success is pretty much yours and yours alone. And if you think you had a lot of homework in high school, well think again.

Familiar friends and classmates who know you and understand your quirks and foibles are no longer there for support. Throw in living away from home and the adjustment becomes even greater, perhaps overwhelming.

Taking the time to plan ahead to proactively address these challenges and triggers will go a long way toward smoothing the path through college and into adulthood. Start by identifying the OCD symptoms that have caused you the most trouble. See if you can figure out what triggers OCD responses and put those triggers into the context of the college environment. Then think about what you’ve done in the past to cope with them and how you can carry that coping behavior with you to college.

If you take medication for your OCD and will no longer be near your doctor , be sure to identify a local source to monitor your medications and fill your prescriptions. There will probably be a physician on campus or a pharmacy nearby. Many college psychology programs are engaged in OCD research and have experts in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a discipline that has proven quite effective in treating OCD. New triggers and behaviors might also crop up at college, and knowing your resources there could save a lot of misery.

To learn more about OCD and college, visit our web site and read Overcoming OCD —The College Student’s Guide.

One in 40 adults in the US has OCD. When you’re in college, you’re one of those adults, too. So are your fellow students. You’re not alone.

If you want to learn more about OCD, its treatment options, and tap into our many other resources, visit our web site at It’s there to help you get the information you need to go beyond OCD.


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