4 Ways to Support Your Teen With OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
If your teen has OCD, here are some ways you can help support them. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Before a mental health disorder is diagnosed, everyone in the family can feel helpless and out of control to the point that finding a name for what is happening can start to feel like the answer.  Unfortunately, knowing what is causing the problem isn’t enough to solve it.  The real work of dealing with many disorders, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) comes after the diagnosis.  When your initial relief at knowing what is causing the problem begins to fade you will need to start the real work of helping your teenager learn to manage this condition and of changing your own behavior to best support them.  Here are some of the things you can do, now that you have the “what” to help define how to move forward.

1.     Educate Yourself

The most supportive thing you can do for your teen is to learn everything you can about their disorder.  This helps you better understand the struggles they are facing while also helping you understand what is the disorder and what is not.  It can be easy in the time period directly following diagnosis to blame the disorder for everything that isn’t “right” but in so doing you may miss other problems that need treatment or become frustrated when management strategies don’t “fix” everything.

2.     Identify Accommodations You are Making

More so than many other mental health disorders, OCD can become a family problem because other family members often do things to accommodate the person with the condition.  In the moment, these things can seem to be the best thing because they are helpful, supportive, and even participative.  Accommodating behaviors can include washing your hands whenever the person requests it, helping them to avoid uncomfortable tasks like cleaning the bathroom by doing it for them, providing unlimited access to cleaning supplies, or performing rituals to ease their anxiety and feed their compulsions.   For parents, identifying how they are enabling their teens OCD in these ways can be challenging.  Most parents only want the best for their child.  This generally means providing an environment that promotes happiness, comfort, and safety.  It can be difficult to follow-thru on what is “best” for them when it feels like that action is making them feel unhappy, uncomfortable, or insecure.

3.     Reducing Accommodations

Once you have identified what you and other members of the family are doing that is enabling the OCD the next step is to try and reduce or minimize those actions as your teen learns new ways to manage their condition.  This will take time and will be unpleasant for everyone at different times.  Remind yourself that all you are seeking to do is to treat this member of your family the same way you treat everyone else while supporting their recovery.  It can be very beneficial to seek the advice of a mental health provider as part of this process.

4.     Get Help

Learning to manage OCD and how to provide a healthy, supportive environment for that person is difficult to do without assistance.  Finding a provider that can work with your teen individually and with your family as a whole should be at the top of your list.  Building this kind of relationship is one of the most important things you can do to support your child.  This provider can help your teen learn new strategies for managing their thoughts and behaviors while also guiding your family unit through the first part of your journey to wellness.


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