Teen Anxiety and OCD

Posted by Phil Cardenas on May 01, 2014

If anyone tells you their teenage years were anxiety-free, chances are their memory is less than perfect. The years between 12 and 20 are often so filled with angst and self-doubt that being miserable is almost a rite of passage.

But does teenage anxiety lead to a predisposition toward obsessive and compulsive behavior? Fortunately, it does not. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a neurobiological disorder caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Without it, OCD doesn’t exist.

While many teenagers and younger children will have rituals and superstitions, they generally outgrow them. The time to be concerned is when those behaviors become inflexible and impossible (or at least very difficult) to avoid.

Obsessions about things like cleanliness or safety are often held secretly inside, so unless they are verbalized, they can be difficult to detect. When attempts to quiet those obsessions manifest themselves in compulsive behavior (extreme hand-washing or separation anxiety, for instance) the symptoms are easier to spot.

It is important to understand that persons with OCD are actually suffering, often considerably, as they try to cope with their thoughts and actions. Simply telling them to stop won’t work because even though they understand they should, they can’t.

Overcoming OCD requires the help of trained therapists. They work with the sufferer through a process called Cognitive Behavior Therapy in which patients are skillfully and carefully guided through exercises designed to desensitize them to their obsessions by exploring the reasons for them and reprogramming their responses.

Not all anxiety disorders in teens are OCD, either. As young minds develop there are plenty of bumps along the way, and for some teens those bumps can cause serious problems in adjusting to life’s challenges. Only a trained professional can accurately diagnose and treat them.

Fortunately, you and your teenager don’t have to go it alone. There are organizations that are there to help.

Beyond OCD is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing better understanding of OCD, its diagnosis, and its treatment to OCD sufferers and their loved ones. The website BeyondOCD.org has numerous resources for those seeking understanding and treatment of OCD, a condition that affects up to 1 in 40 adults and as many as 1 in 100 children in the U.S. of all genders, races, and ethnic backgrounds.

Beyond OCD is starting a new Chicago-area teen support group on April 25 to address anxiety and OCD in teenagers. For information about this group and other support groups for OCD sufferers and their loved ones, visit BeyondOCD.org. It’s there to give you the help you need to get Beyond OCD.

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