Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Adolescents

In adolescents, OCD may manifest in a variety of ways. Common obsessions in teens include obsessive worry about contamination, fears of harming others, intrusive sexual thoughts, images, or fears, over-concern with the appearance of school assignments, and superstitious fears. Common compulsions in teens involve reassurance-seeking, ritualized touching or tapping of body parts, compulsive washing or showering, and repeating words or prayers. When left untreated, OCD in teens can create patterns of avoidance, and rob young people of enjoyment and full participation in their lives.

After a careful differential diagnosis, effective treatment of OCD in teens involves psychoeducation for both the client and the family, and an individualized Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) protocol. ERP is an evidence-based form of CBT specifically for OCD, that has been shown to decrease over-activity in the affected area of the brain, and allow adolescents to effectively re-engage with their lives. For some teens, a referral to a qualified provider for a medication evaluation may also be indicated.