OCD causes the brain to create repetitive worries and fears. These worries, fears
and "bad thoughts" can pop up in the brain and might be hard to get rid of.
People who have OCD feel they can't stop thinking
about worries like these:
someone might get sick, hurt, or die
things might be germy or dirty
something isn't straight, even, or exactly right
something is lucky or unlucky, bad or good, safe or harmful
bad thoughts might come true
OCD also can cause people to feel they have to do behaviors to feel safe from worries
and fears. For example, someone with OCD might feel like they have to:
wash and clean too much
erase, rewrite, or re-do things
repeat a word, phrase, or a question more often than necessary
check and re-check if something is closed or locked
touch, tap, or step in an unusual way
put things in just the right order
These behaviors are called rituals. People with OCD may repeat
rituals over and over. Doing a ritual temporarily interrupts the bad thoughts.
The brain learns that doing a ritual brings relief. Pretty soon, people with OCD
do a ritual automatically. They may feel like they can't stop. But doing rituals causes
OCD to continue.
The name OCD is short for obsessive-compulsive disorder. "Disorder" is a medical
way of saying that something in the body isn't working properly. "Obsessive" is the
unwanted thoughts and worries. "Compulsive" is a medical word used to describe the
behaviors that people feel they must do to fix the worries.
What Causes OCD?
OCD happens because of a problem in the brain's message system. The problem causes
worry and fear messages to form by mistake. It also causes the strong feeling of having
to do a ritual to make things safe.
Scientists don't yet know what causes this problem to happen. OCD tends to run
in families. People may get OCD because it's in their genes
or they might have had an infection. There may be differences in the brain that cause
OCD to start. OCD is not caused by anything a person (or parent) did.
What's it Like for People With OCD?
Teens with OCD might have it for a while before a parent or doctor realizes it.
They may know that their worries and rituals don't make sense. They may want to stop,
but feel they can't.
OCD worries and rituals can multiply and begin taking more time and energy. This
makes it hard to concentrate, do schoolwork, or enjoy fun and friends. OCD can leave
people feeling stressed, tired, and sad.
People who have OCD don't have to go through it alone. The best thing to do is
tell a parent or other adult so you can go to a doctor.
How Is OCD Diagnosed and Treated?
To diagnose OCD, doctors who know the signs of OCD will ask questions and talk
about what's happening. They also will do a health checkup.
If a doctor decides that you have OCD, it can be a relief to know what's causing
the trouble. Now you can move forward and learn how to overcome it.
OCD can get better with therapy. Doctors sometimes also give medicines to treat
OCD. But not everyone needs medicine to get well.
Therapists and doctors
use a talk-and-do therapy for OCD. During this treatment, you will learn more about
OCD and how it works. You will learn that doing rituals keeps OCD going strong and
not doing rituals weakens OCD. You will learn and practice ways to face fears and
ignore worry messages caused by OCD. You will learn to resist doing rituals.
You'll spend time talking and practicing your new skills. This can take time —
how long depends on the person. But learning and practicing these skills stops the
cycle of OCD and allows the brain's message system to work better again.
How Can Parents Help?
If you're going through OCD, parents or other adults can be a big part of helping
you get better.
Your therapist can teach your parent the best ways to help you through OCD. Family
members can help you practice the things you learn in therapy, like dealing with fears
and rituals. They can help you with schoolwork if you have trouble getting it done.
They can talk with your teacher if you need extra help while you're going through
Parents and adults in your life can be there to give you love and support. They
can take your mind off OCD by doing fun or relaxing things with you. And they can
remind you that OCD can get better with time, practice, and patience.