Teen Therapy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Avery’s House is an inpatient teen mental health treatment center in Arizona. Our specialized behavioral health professionals work with adolescents to evaluate, diagnose, and stabilize their Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

OCD diagnoses are primarily established during the early years of life. Children and adolescents comprise nearly 500,000 of the current OCD patients in the United States.

For parents who suspect their teen is showing signs of OCD, there are ways to get them the help they need.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. It impacts a person’s thoughts and emotions. Affecting 2% of the world’s population, it rarely manifests after age 40.

Patients with this mental illness are plagued by thoughts that will not let them go. The anxiety induces repetitive and obsessive thinking. This can then lead to compulsive patterns of behavior.

These distressing thoughts can interrupt normal life. They can make it challenging for the patient to focus on what is needed to do day-to-day tasks.

This happens because:

  • They have uncontrollable thoughts, feelings, images, and urgings.
  • They wish they could stop the thoughts from racing through their mind.
  • They feel discouragement and discomfort from a feeling that things must be done a certain way. When something is done ‘incorrectly’, anxiety, fear, and discomfort rise.
  • They spend the majority of their time obsessed with uncontrollable thoughts. They focus on completing compulsive actions. Often people with OCD find their interpersonal, social, and career goals interrupted.

Types of OCD

There are several ways obsessive-compulsive disorder manifests. The varying types of OCD are:

  • Hoarding of possessions (can be anything from food to clothing to animals to something less savory)
  • Repeated, unwanted thoughts
  • Continual checking that there aren’t any problems (i.e., checking lights, locks, memories, or even communication)
  • Fear of contamination by germs. This causes obsessive handwashing, toothbrushing, avoidance of crowds, and repeatedly cleaning around them.
  • Need for order which leads to objects’ repeated rearrangement


There are a variety of things to watch for in someone with OCD. It is good to clue in on the separate signs of obsessions and compulsions. Awareness of these symptoms can be instrumental in helping someone achieve therapy success.


The characteristic features of obsessive behavior are overwhelming thoughts. These thoughts are nearly impossible to ignore. They can create intense fear and worry. The obsessive aspect of OCD causes a patient to focus on one idea or image that cannot be ignored.

A person with OCD may display symptoms of obsessions like:

  • Gripping Fears: Fear can be a motivator for change. But in people with OCD, it can stop someone in their tracks. Many obsessive behaviors and thoughts tend to come from the root of fear.
  • Harm to Self or Others: Irrational anxiety over the possibility of coming to harm may become an obsession. It may be believing that they or a loved one will encounter grave danger or that a catastrophe could occur.
  • Germs: Someone with OCD may imagine that they will be hurt by the germs around them. This may lead to losing control over how often they wash their hands or shower. It may limit their activity level due to them not wanting to be in unsafe settings.
  • Inappropriate Thoughts: Obsessions center around inappropriate thoughts. Someone with OCD may focus on a variety of areas. Perhaps they imagine excessively hurting someone else or themselves. It may be that they have repeated sexual thoughts that the person knows are not appropriate. These are signs of someone who may be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Teens with OCD typically display obsessive symptoms such as:

  • Numbers that are lucky or unlucky
  • Phobia of germs and contamination
  • Urgency for orderliness and symmetry
  • Irrational fears of harm to self or others
  • Sounds/words that become intrusive
  • Inappropriate sexual thoughts or activities
  • Thoughts and acts of aggression
  • Obsessive focus on religion
  • Focus on inanimate objects
  • Preoccupied with body fluids and waste


Everyone has the ability to show repetitive behavior in some capacity. It’s important to note that not every repetition is a compulsion. For example, getting ready for school in the morning by a schedule leads to success. This is a routine but not a compulsion.

Compulsions are typically completed repeatedly, making them time-consuming and potentially dangerous.

Some compulsive symptoms people with OCD may display include:

  • Frequent washing of hands, clothes, dishes, or other items
  • Checking bodily systems to ensure nothing is wrong
  • Repetition of normal activities (like turning a doorknob a specific number of times)
  • Mentally replaying a past event

Teens with OCD tend to display the following symptoms of compulsion:

  • Repeated self-grooming
  • Repetition of certain actions (i.e., walking in and out of a room)
  • Decontamination rituals (when they believe they’ve come into contact with germs)
  • Harm-prevention actions
  • Rituals that involve touching
  • Collecting things of no value and hoarding them
  • Checking things to ensure their status (i.e. the stove or someone’s school work)
  • Household cleaning
  • Counting things repeatedly

Causes of OCD

Knowing the source of mental illnesses can be key to effective treatment.

Unfortunately, little is definitively known about what causes OCD. Further research needs to be completed. This would help to better understand the roots of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

There may be links to biology, genetics, or environmental factors. There is also some evidence suggesting an autoimmune response to certain infections.

There are certain factors known to increase the risk of OCD. They include:

  1. Family History: The risk of diagnosis increases if someone in the family has obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  2. Life Stressors: Traumatic life events can trigger the thoughts and actions associated with this disorder.
  3. Additional Mental Illnesses: People with one mental health diagnosis may have a greater risk of OCD.

Effects of OCD on Teens

The repetitive thoughts and actions caused by obsessive-compulsive disorder create problems. More than just a ‘bad day,’ this illness changes the scope of a person’s life. This can have a lasting impact on every area of who they are today and tomorrow.

For teens, the challenges can include:

  • Missing Out on Life Events: Because of the repetitive nature of this illness, much time is spent carrying out the obsessions and compulsions. This can cause interruptions in schedules and missing out on activities.
  • Negative Self Esteem: Teens who experience OCD feel a lot of doubt about their worth. Their opinions about themselves are negatively impacted by overwhelming thoughts and actions.
  • Poor Physical Health: Stress-induced sicknesses can manifest in different ways.
  • Difficulty with Relationships: Friendships and relationships can be challenging for people with OCD. This can be due to a variety of reasons. Examples include time management problems and feelings of insecurity. It can also come from a lack of understanding from others of the unique factors associated with OCD.
  • Suicidal Thoughts: Sometimes, the weight of a mental illness crushes in on a patient. A teen diagnosed with OCD may begin to experience suicidal thoughts. These thoughts must be discussed with a trusted adult or professional. If a teen feels hopeless, appropriate steps should be taken to get the help they need.

Helpful Information for Parents of Teens Diagnosed with OCD

If you are a parent of a teen diagnosed with OCD, you already know the difficult nature of this illness. Here are some key elements to help you as you walk with them in their journey toward healing:

  1. Educate Yourself: Learning all you can about obsessive-compulsive disorder is a great step. Being equipped with knowledge can ease the stress of what your child is experiencing. And it can empower you to walk through this challenging journey together.
  2. Inform Your Teen’s School: Letting your teen’s educators in on the struggles they’re facing can help. With their teachers on board, you can take a comprehensive approach to your teen’s future.
  3. Get Help From a Doctor: Ask a primary care doctor for a referral to mental health professionals. From this step, your teen can begin meeting with a therapist.
  4. Follow Through With Therapy: A teen’s therapy for OCD is highly important. Your child will learn the necessary tools to move forward through this treatment. Sticking with the therapy is vital.
  5. Take Care of Yourself: Taking care of your physical and mental health should be a non-negotiable part of your self-care. Even with the necessary work to get your teen the best treatment, your health is important. Remember that you can better assist in your child’s care if you start from a position of strength.

Treatment Options for Teens with OCD

As with every mental illness, getting the right treatment is essential. Typically, a combination of therapy and medication is used.

When treating OCD, a professional therapist will determine the best options. Teen therapy for OCD is often a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) encourages a mental reconsideration. It guides the patient to change their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. This type of therapy aims to change negative thought patterns. The end goal is to create more healthy, positive thinking.

CBT involves gradual exposure to the fear that keeps the adolescent overwhelmed. This exposure happens in a safe setting. Acknowledging the bad events, they’re afraid of helps the patient. They can understand they’re not responsible for stopping those things from occurring.

When a teen receives therapy for OCD, they’ll also likely be prescribed medication. The medicine chosen is important to the effectiveness of the overall treatment.

Some of the medication options available include:

  • Lexapro
  • Luvox
  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Zoloft

These medications are all antidepressants under the heading of SSRI drugs. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors have proven effective in helping treat teens diagnosed with OCD.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder may need a higher prescription dosage than someone with depression. It can take up to 3 months to respond to SSRI medication. Even then, antipsychotic medication may also be added. This is to bring further relief to symptoms.

Consistency is the most important aspect of a treatment plan for teens with OCD. Once the treatment has started, teen therapy for OCD should continue uninterrupted. Not giving up during the process will increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

Know a Teen with OCD in Need of Therapy? – Let Avery’s House Help!

Sometimes, a mental health diagnosis can feel overwhelming. This is true for the patient and their family. It can bring on the doubt that things will ever get better.

Avery’s House can help. There’s hope with proper therapy, the right medication, and an effective treatment plan.

We’re dedicated to helping teens get the therapy they need to overcome OCD and live fulfilled. Our professional staff will help you and your loved one. We can do everything needed to move forward into a healthy future.

Call us today at 855-506-1906. Or reach us by email at info@averyshouse.com, and we will be glad to help.

An obsessive-compulsive disorder doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Avery’s House is ready to help your teen get free today!

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Address 2416 North 113th Street Apache Junction, AZ, 85120

Phone (855) 506-1906

Email info@averyshouse.com


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