Teen Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is classified as an anxiety disorder. Teens who struggle with OCD often experience incredibly intrusive thought patterns that upset them. These thoughts lead to compulsions and behaviors that are repetitive in nature.

It’s important to understand that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is far more complicated than just a preference for order or the need to pay attention to details. It is a complex condition with symptoms that can range from mild to completely debilitating. The severity depends on how persistent the unwanted thoughts are.

What Does Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Look Like?

  • Teens struggling with OCD know their behaviors are not normal. This leads to isolation because they want to hide from other people; though they are usually not successful at hiding their behaviors.
  • Your teen may want to stop their obsessive-compulsive behaviors. However, they will likely find it difficult or impossible to stop by themselves. This inability can and will tarnish their relationships and leave them struggling to handle their responsibilities.
  • The compulsions that come with OCD take up at least an hour of a teen’s day and cause dysfunction in what should be an otherwise normal routine.

Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive thought patterns

Obsessive thought patterns

Repetitiveness in speech and behaviors

Repetitiveness in speech and behaviors

Repetitively rearranging things

Repetitively rearranging things

Behavior that is intrusive and/or inappropriate

Behavior that is intrusive and/or inappropriate

Anxiety or nervousness

Anxiety or nervousness

Fear of germs

Fear of germs

The Different Types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Fear of Contamination - Teens who are afraid of some form of contamination will repetitively wash themselves. Some simply wash their hands while others are more extreme with their shower routines. Some teens merely worry about themselves while others are afraid that they will become “worse” or make others sick if they don’t cleanse themselves enough.

Fear of Harm - Teens with this type of OCD are afraid of making mistakes that could cause injury or harm to other people or to themselves. They will constantly check to see if the stove is on or if the doors and windows are locked. This type of OCD causes extreme anxiety.

Pure Obsessions - Some teens attach anxiety to a specific type of danger, be it physical, sexual, or religious. They become obsessed with counting or even praying because they believe they are protecting themselves from some sort of harm. These teens often report feeling guilty or ashamed, but for no specific reason.

Hoarding - Those who hoard simply can’t get rid of things without becoming upset or depressed. It doesn’t matter how insignificant the items are. They want to keep everything and are unable to cope with getting rid of things they don’t need --- even garbage.

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What Causes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

  • Genetics - A teen with a direct relative with OCD is more likely to develop the disorder themselves. Science has yet to confirm this link, but there is a clear correlation that genetics are a direct contributor.
  • Brain Structure - Scientists have traced the brain patterns that impact OCD to the frontal cortex and subcortical portions of the brain. No one knows why these sections tend to show the kind of abnormalities associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but knowing that these areas of the brain are impacted has allowed for the development of some symptom-relieving treatments, including magnetic stimulation.
  • Environmental Factors - Traumatic triggers play a major role in the development of OCD. Teens of have been abused (physically or sexually), who have experienced a trauma, or who are under extreme levels of stress are prone to developing OCD, especially if these environmental triggers happened in early childhood. Some instances of OCD have been linked to severe cases of streptococcal infection, however, this link needs more research.


of the US population struggles with OCD.


children are estimated to have OCD.


of people develop OCD by the age of 19. More than ⅓ of adults experienced at least some symptoms as children.

How Can I Help My Teen with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Recognize the Signs - It is not easy to live with OCD, and that includes being a sufferer and being the parent of a teen suffering. Sometimes teens will have more control over their symptoms and then have “flare-ups” where their symptoms are worse. Don’t try to manage your teen’s symptoms; instead, offer support and guidance. OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder, so your teen’s symptoms will become worse when they are under a lot of stress or when they feel judged. Be patient and let your teen know you are there to talk, but don’t force the issue. Be prepared with knowledge so you can better understand your teen’s mood changes.

Patience is Key - Treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a very slow process; setbacks can and do happen. Your teen will have a series of good and bad days. Do your best to hide your frustrations from your teen. There will be days where you feel like there is no progress at all, or as if treatment is moving too slowly. Allowing your teen to see the way you feel will increase their anxiety and cause additional setback. Make sure you are getting the help and support you need so that your own stress levels remain under control. Your teen will worry about you, which will just feed into a cycle of anxiety felt by your entire household.

Be Supportive - Focus on your teen’s progress and try to see the bright side in every situation. Take note of even small successes and encourage your teen to acknowledge them as well. Focusing on the positive steps your teen is making will help them to move past setbacks and negative thought patterns.

What Types of Teen Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment Are Available?

It is important to seek treatment for your teen’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as soon as you start to notice symptoms. Teen obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment often involves a combination of therapy and medication, but the use of medication is dictated by the type of symptom your teen presents with.

Talk Therapy

Your teen will take time in therapy to learn about the obsessive thoughts they are having and how to properly identify them. They will learn techniques and exercises they can use to actively interrupt the damaging thoughts. Your teen’s therapist will help them to identify the compulsive issues that are occurring as a result of the thoughts, replacing them with healthier habits and behaviors.

No two OCD patients are alike and the treatment process for OCD is often methodical and slow; it works best over time. OCD is not a curable condition, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a very effective treatment method. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a chronic disorder, and that means it can also be triggered by day-to-day stressors. Your teen can learn to manage their symptoms, though, and will very likely be able to lead a normal, productive life.


The stress and anxiety that comes with OCD can be crippling. Doctors have found that using medications to treat these symptoms makes it easier for a teen to cope and progress with other forms of therapy. In most cases, the use of medication is not permanent.

While other medications may be tried, the most commonly used medications are SSRIs. The dose used to treat OCD-related anxiety is higher than the dose used to treat depression.

Magnetic Stimulation

Different forms of transcranial magnetic stimulation have recently been approved for the treatment of OCD. This is a noninvasive technique that has proven helpful in treating the portions of the brain believed to be responsible for OCD. This treatment is often reserved for patients who seem resistant to other forms of therapy.

Teen Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

All of the programs at Paradigm San Francisco are tailored to meet the individual needs of each teen. Our accessible facilities are surrounded by nature and are carefully watched over by compassionate, dedicated professional staff members who will treat your teen with respect.

A Treatment-Focused Environment

Teens undergoing treatment for OCD often thrive in consistent environments with a strong schedule. Our therapists will work with your teen as they learn to identify their own negative thoughts, obsessions, and compulsions. They’ll learn to understand why these behaviors are different from the norm. After they understand their own behaviors, they’ll learn to better control them. This is not an easy task; patients and time is a must.

Social Interaction

Treatment programs at Paradigm San Francisco are designed to help small groups of teens learn to move forward with productive lives. Small group therapy sessions and activities, often set in different locations, encourage teens to not only learn about themselves, but about others, too.

It’s not uncommon for teens who have OCD to have been bullied at some point. This causes additional issues with anxiety and social development, leading them towards isolation and a lack of communication. The programs at Paradigm San Francisco help teens rebuild their confidence levels so they can develop healthier relationships and make new friends.

“ Outstanding! I believe Paradigm saved our daughters life and taught me invaluable things about how as her mother I can best support her in her journey to healing. “

– Dee

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Is OCD curable?

No – at least, not yet. Better treatments, and even cures, may become available as scientists begin to better understand the brain and how it works. For now, teen obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment involves teaching teens to manage their symptoms so they can go on to live productive lives and maintain healthy relationships. Teens should seek treatment sooner rather than later after noticing symptoms.

Is OCD genetic?

Yes and no. While a teen with a directly family history of OCD is more likely to develop the disorder, that same family history doesn’t guarantee it will happen. It also depends on how closely related you are to the person who has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. A teen is more likely to develop the condition if a parent has it than if an uncle or great-grandparent has suffered. And, even more importantly, some teens with genetic never develop symptoms.

When it comes to genetics, the risk is inherited but there are really other determining factors that will determine whether or not the condition is triggered. We know that it usually manifests during the teen years, but there is no way to know for sure. We do know that the earlier OCD treatment begins, the easier it is to manage.

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