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Obsessive-compulsive disorder refers to a pattern of recurring and uncontrollable thoughts, which lead to repetitive actions or behaviours. Contrary to widespread assumption, it can affect people of all ages, including adolescents. The disorder can worsen in teenagers due to preexisting challenges in their social and familial life and uncertainties in their moral, sexual, and gender identities. Due to OCD, adolescents can find it harder to concentrate in school, socialise, and perform daily activities. Over time, it may cause serious issues, including relationship problems, physical health conditions, and suicidal thoughts. Therefore, looking for professional help and joining a rehabilitation centre for treatment is better.

It is a common misconception that OCD in younger age groups is mild and easily controllable. If you think you or someone you know may have the disorder, consulting healthcare is mandatory. Adolescents may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms and behaviours without treatment, including using drugs or drinking alcohol. At rehab, you may get various treatment options that can assist in controlling OCD symptoms and associated issues. This article provides information on how to recognise obsessive-compulsive disorder, its signs, and treatment programs.

 OCD treatment in all age groups depends on different factors, including severity, underlying issues, and mental health status. Usually, you will have to undergo a medical evaluation performed by licensed professionals. Your doctor will provide appropriate options to control your disorder based on your evaluation. The same procedure is followed at rehabs to design a customised plan tailored to the patient’s needs. The program will also include treatment for any other mental health issues diagnosed through the evaluation. Since adolescents with OCD also tend to have other problems, personalised plans are ideal.

Typically, a customised plan for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder in teenagers includes one or more of the following:

Psychotherapy

Different forms of psychotherapy can help a teen with OCD control recurring thoughts and stop them from acting on them. One particular form, known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), includes a component known as exposure and response prevention (ERP). ERP works by slowly exposing a patient to fear or an obsession so they can learn to resist and control their urge to engage in compulsive behaviours. For instance, some teenagers with OCD fear dirt and germs or are obsessed with cleaning and hygiene. As a result, they consistently wash their hands or take showers even if it negatively impacts their skin health or causes problems like blisters and dermatitis.

In ERP, a patient with a fear of dirt is gradually exposed to it multiple times under the supervision of a specialist. Over time, the specialist helps the patient develop control mechanisms that can keep him from acting out on his compulsive rituals. Although CBT takes consistent effort and time to work, it can significantly improve the quality of life in adolescents with OCD.

Habitat Reversal Training

In habitat reversal training, a specialist helps you understand your triggers, develop competing responses, and practice relaxation techniques. Through this training, you can resist compulsive thoughts and behaviours by identifying them before or while they occur and taking steps to stop them. This training method takes several weeks of effort and diligent practice but has long-term effects that can be particularly beneficial to adolescents. It is common to combine habitat reversal training with other therapies at a rehab for faster results.

Medication 

Psychiatric medications, including antidepressants, can aid in managing symptoms of OCD, specifically in patients with other mental health disorders. Depending on your initial medical evaluation, your healthcare provider may simultaneously prescribe more than one medicine. Additionally, your medication may change after a specific period depending on your results, overall health, and associated effects.

Imaginal Exposure Therapy

Imaginal Exposure Therapy (IET) is an alternative to exposure and response prevention therapy for patients with severe anxiety. Teenagers unable to jump into real-life situations that trigger their fears may join IET, which may treat the disease via visualisation. In IET, a doctor may ask you to imagine an anxiety-inducing situation so that you may learn management techniques without experiencing the problem in real life. Visualisation over time can desensitise a person to the fear and make him more willing to move on to other therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy or habitat reversal training.

As mentioned before, many think the obsessive-compulsive disorder is limited to older age groups. As a result, it is widely neglected in adolescents, especially since its symptoms do not appear all at once. If you think you, a friend, or a loved one has OCD, you must watch out for specific signs. The disorder usually begins with seemingly normal behaviours such as staying clean or arranging things. Over time, these behaviours can worsen, and the affected person may continue engaging in them despite knowing they are harmful.

One way to spot the development of OCD in teens is to note any change in their behaviour following any adverse event in their lives, including a personal crisis or the death of a loved one. Even if the difference appears positive, keep checking to ensure the person is not developing a fear or obsession. In case you are unable to identify any negative behavioural and habitual changes, look for other OCD teenage symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty tolerating uncertainty
  • Inability to socially function
  • Repetition of words, phrases, or prayers
  • A compulsion to arrange things in the same way
  • Counting in certain patterns
  • Consistent urges to check door locks, stove, switches, and other utensils/machines
  • Isolation to avoid germs, dirt, and pollution
  • Strict routines
  • The consistent need for reassurance
  • Obsessively cleaning or washing
  • Poor work and school performance
  • Problems in developing and maintaining relationships and friendships

In addition to these signs, a teenager with OCD may acquire other conditions, including:

  • Blisters and skin damage
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Suicide ideation and self-harm

If you have any signs mentioned above, look for rehabilitation centres and seek help immediately to avoid further complications. On the other hand, if a friend or loved one is displaying such symptoms, try to discuss their issue with them and urge them to get therapy for their excellent.

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