Your Child Can Get Better With Effective Treatment
Information for Parents

What’s A Normal Worry and What’s Not?

Everyone has worries and doubts—it’s part of being human.  But OCD takes worries and doubts to the extreme.

Everybody worries sometimes.  It’s normal to worry about things like school, how you look, what you said or did in a certain situation, how your parents will react over something you did or what the future will bring.  That’s part of being a human being—specifically, a teen. But let’s get more to what may be bothering you.

Maybe you’ve had an unwanted thought that worries you—or embarrasses you.  Like if you wanted to hit your brother or sister really hard if they were especially nasty to you.  Or you thought about what would happen if you suddenly blurted out an obscenity in school or (worse yet) in church!  As bad as these thoughts may seem, it’s not abnormal for “bad” thoughts to come into your mind now and then.

Or maybe you started noticing that everyone in class seems to have a cold or a virus.  They cough and sneeze without covering their mouths and never seem to wash their hands.  You just “know” you’re going to get sick.  Well, give yourself some points for noticing their bad manners—that kind of germ-spreading is just plain gross.

But if the “bad” thoughts about hurting someone or the fears about germs keep coming back, are getting worse and worse, or you are really stressed out over worrying that you might do something bad or can’t stop washing off the germs, then it’s time to have a talk with your parents and let them know you are concerned.

Is it OCD?

OCD is diagnosed when obsessions and compulsions

  • Consume excessive amounts of time (an hour or more each day)
  • Cause significant distress
  • Interfere with normal routines, including school or work, social activities or family relationships

With OCD, you can’t get the worries out of your head (obsessive thoughts) and compulsive actions (physical acts or mental rituals) take a considerable amount of time and energy to perform.  Unfortunately, no matter how many times you perform the compulsive acts, you only feel better for a while.  And the more you increase the compulsions, the obsessions only seem to get stronger.

What are OCD Symptoms?

While there are many different symptoms of OCD, some of the more common examples of OCD obsessions and compulsions are:

  • An obsessive fear of contamination or germs that can result in compulsive hand washing, body washing, or even cleaning your room or the home you live in; avoiding touching others or shaking hands; avoiding public places.
  • An obsessive fear of uncertainty or harm (to yourself or others) that may result in compulsive checking that doors or windows are locked or appliances are turned off.
  • An obsessive fear of loss (or losing something important) that may result in compulsive hoarding of various objects.  Sometimes these are useless items (like scrap paper, broken shoelaces, used paper cups—you get the idea).  Sometimes the hoarding is of things you think you might need someday—clothes you’ve grown out of, old newspapers, leftover food, old school papers—you can probably think of lots of examples.
  • An obsessive fear of violating religious rules or sinning that may result in compulsive praying, confessing sins or believing God is mad at you.  This is called Scrupulosity.  Some people with this condition may be obsessed with prayer repetition to get the wording “perfect” and, if interrupted, must start praying all over again.
  • An obsessive need for symmetry that may result in a compulsive need to constantly “even up” or arrange objects in a certain order.
  • An obsessive need for perfection that may result in compulsively seeking reassurance, or compulsive revisions (including revisions to school work) so things are “just right”, or repeating actions until them seem “right” or “safe”—for example, walking in and out of a room or up and down stairs many times until it seems OK to stop and “feels right”.

The majority of teens with OCD are able to function reasonably well, and friends or teachers may not even suspect there is a problem.  But when symptoms worsen it’s time to get help.

Click here for more examples of OCD symptoms that may interfere with your normal routine and school progress

Treatment works.
Read personal stories of successful OCD treatment.

Does This Seem Like You?

If any of the examples sound like you, it doesn’t automatically mean you have OCD.  You should talk with your parents, your doctor or your teacher, though, because these fears and worries are getting in the way of a normal adolescent life.

Don’t be embarrassed—it’s a good thing that you’re noticing what the problem seems to be and are asking for help.

Your family doctor (or possibly your school) can arrange for you to see a mental health professional who can use some easy assessments to find out if you have OCD, or have another anxiety disorder.

And above all, there really is hope.  Effective treatment is available for OCD and for other anxiety disorders, so you CAN get relief.

When you look around you, you may wonder how some of your classmates or neighbors seem to be so happy, and are able to take part in activities you wish you could get involved with (but can’t because of OCD, what you think might be OCD, or another anxiety disorder).  In reality, some of them actually may have OCD or another anxiety disorder—but they’ve gotten effective treatment for it.  So their lives seem “normal”.

It’s never too late to get started feeling better.  Start by involving your parents.  And for more information about OCD, treatment options and support groups, go to the links below:

More information and resources about OCD for teens and parents

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