Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition where intrusive, disruptive repetitive thoughts and fears increase anxiety which drives the person to perform compulsive acts to try to ease their distress. These ritualistic urges and thoughts persist leading to a repetitive cycle of OCD which interferes with daily lives and routines.1
At Innercept, we help teens and young adults learn to manage their OCD symptoms, reduce or eliminate obsessive thoughts and negative compulsive behaviors, empowering them to resist urges and learn new healthy patterns so they can live positive, healthy lives.
OCD can occur at any age but typically first appears between ages 8 and 12 or between the late teen years and early adulthood.2
It is important for parents to watch for OCD symptoms in their teens and to have them evaluated early, so the condition doesn’t get out of control while waiting until adulthood for diagnosis and treatment.
The cycle of anxiety from OCD traps patients in extreme, unhealthy, and uncontrollable, repetitive behaviors. OCD does not go away by itself; it is a life-long disorder but can be managed with the proper treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of OCD?
Specific themes are common with OCD and severity varies throughout life. Symptoms can also change and worsen during times of stress.
Obsessive Symptoms can be intrusive and feel uncontrollable and may include:
• Fear of germs, dirt or contamination
• Doubting and having issues tolerating uncertainty
• Fear of making a mistake
• Need for order, neatness, symmetry and perfection
• Need for constant reassurance
• Fear of being embarrassed in public
• Aggressive thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or others
• Sexual thoughts that society may consider unacceptable
• Excessive religious thoughts about offending God, concern with right or wrong or morality
Compulsive Symptoms cause repetitive behaviors that a person feels driven to perform. These behaviors are excessive, have rules or rituals to help control anxiety and are usually not related to the problem they are intended to fix.
Examples of compulsions which have themes include:4
• Washing, cleaning and bathing repetitively
• Refusing to shake hands or touch an object that other people touch a lot
• Hoarding or collecting items that have no personal or financial value
• Counting repeatedly or saying words or prayers while doing other tasks
• Performing a task a specific number of times, focus on specific numbers
• Insistence on order or a specific arrangement
• Eating food in a specific order
• Following a strict routine
• Demanding reassurance
Risk Factors of OCD
OCD occurs in all races and backgrounds as well as all genders. It frequently begins in childhood to early adulthood. Having a family history of OCD increases a person’s risk for developing OCD. Traumatic and stressful life events increase the risk for OCD. Additionally, other mental health disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, or tic disorders can trigger OCD.5
Causes of OCD
The cause of OCD is unknown. Specific factors increase a person’s chance of having an episode or developing this disorder. Theories about the cause of OCD include:6
Biology: OCD could be a result of body chemistry or brain function changes.
Genetics: OCD could have a genetic component, but no specific gene has been identified.
Learning: Obsessive and compulsive behaviors can be learned from watching family members or learned over a period of time.
Factors where OCD episodes may increase include:7
• Change in living situation like moving, getting married or divorced or starting a new school or job
• Death of a loved one or an emotional trauma
• History of abuse
• Low levels of serotonin in the brain that maintains mental balance
• Overactivity in specific areas of the brain
• Problems with an important relationship
• Problems with work or school
How is OCD diagnosed?
There is no specific test to diagnose OCD. Diagnosis is made by trained and qualified therapists and clinicians who ask a patient about their symptoms. They use criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Diagnosis is based
on specific factors including:8
• Having obsessions, compulsions or both
• These obsessions or compulsions take up a lot of time, often more than one hour per day
• The obsessions or compulsion cause anxiety, distress and affect activities of daily life
• Symptoms are not caused by medications or other medical issues
• Symptoms are not explained by another medical disorder
How do we treat OCD at Innercept Residential Mental Health Treatment?
At Innercept Residential Mental Health Treatment Center, a full diagnostic assessment is made by our clinical and therapeutic teams. Then an individual treatment plan is created which will include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and habit reversal training which can help to stop negative habits and teach healthy coping strategies. We help teens identify what triggers their obsession and the feelings which coincide and cause them to perform the compulsive behavior. We also guide them in exploring the emotional feelings which could be a source of their unhealthy patterns. Medications that increase the level of serotonin are often used to treat OCD successfully.9
We also check for co-occurring conditions and other mental health disorders when someone suffers from OCD. Exposure and Response Prevention (EX/RP), a type of desensitization therapy, is sometimes used where the patient does the specific thing that causes anxiety and then is prevented from responding with a compulsion. This therapy can be very effective in treating OCD.
Our goal at Innercept is to empower teens and young adults to resist obsessive compulsive urges and to learn stress reducing techniques to ease their minds and manage their OCD, while incorporating healthy behaviors so they can lead healthy lives.