There are numerous challenges that occur when looking to help a teenager with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Fundamentally, as a parent or guardian, you should understand that it is a mental disorder. Those who struggle with OCD, finding themselves in an obsessive state, are not able able to mitigate their compulsion despite being fully aware that the behaviour might be excessive or irrational.
This awareness can be a significant source of stress for a teenager, especially when coupled with the stigma of suffering from a mental disorder. As such, they may be hesitant to seek support or even reject it out-right. Other factors, such as the fear of being bullied or the potential risk of medication, can support their anxiety.
Helping Your Teen
Firstly, it is important not to in any way share in your child’s obsessive-compulsive behaviours. You may feel drawn to support your child or inclined to help them but by doing so, you may be normalising their actions or affirming its importance within their lives. In the same way, overly accommodating their actions can exacerbate their anxieties, so be sure to remain relatively neutral in your attitude.
A common issue with teenage OCD is the expression of anger and, in some cases, aggression, especially when a person is prevented from enacting their obsessive-compulsive behaviours. When confronted with such behaviour, it is paramount to remember that your teenager’s frustration and potential violence comes from a sensitive place of worry and fear. It is inappropriate to respond with greater stress and, instead, you should try to remain as calm as possible.
It is also important to note that not all OCD habits are physical. While many media examples are shown as washing hands or adjusting switches, other habits can be entirely internal, such as obsessive counting or checking of details.
As with many teenage issues and disorders, it is also best to create a safe and non-judgmental environment and welcome your child to discuss their thoughts and feelings when they are ready. However, due to the severity of OCD and the potential issues it may trigger, it can sometimes be important to seek professional help as early as possible.
Due to the compulsive nature of the disorder, OCD can lead to bullying or self-harm, especially if it manifests as what may be considered an embarrassing or extreme habit. When you have identified OCD, you should speak to the relative staff at your child’s school or encourage them to do so. Only when the institution is aware of the disorder are they able to ensure appropriate measures to support your teenager.
In some cases, teenagers may seek out drugs to better manage their compulsions. The potential harm that can occur from drug usage, as well as the risk of addiction, should prompt you to seek professional help as soon as possible.
If you are seeking professional support through therapy, I am a qualified and experienced counsellor in Bristol able to welcome young adults. To discuss your situation or arrange an initial consultation, I am available to call on 07751271709 or to email at firstname.lastname@example.org.