Getting help with OCD
By Jeanne M. Fama, PhD
OCD can cause scary feelings and urges to do weird things over and over again. These feelings and urges can feel overwhelming at times. Kids can start to feel like they are sinking deeper and deeper into a pool of quicksand! With no way out! So, the bad news is OCD can be tough to manage at times. BUT there is some good news….. The good news is that there are lots of people who know a lot about OCD and a lot about how to make kids with OCD feel better. And these people are available to help you in different ways.
Some of the biggest sources of help are:
- People who write about OCD
- Medical doctors, people called “therapists,” and other people who help kids and their families fight OCD
- Groups of people (organizations) that are set up to help people with OCD
1) Help from your family
Sometimes kids find it hard to talk about their OCD symptoms with their families. In fact, in the beginning, some kids are afraid or embarrassed to even tell their families about the OCD thoughts that are making them scared (obsessions) and the things they do over and over again to try to make themselves less scared (compulsions). If you feel like this, it is important that you know that obsessions and compulsions are not signs that you have done something wrong or that you are weird. They are a part of OCD. You do not have to feel guilty or ashamed about OCD. It is usually a very good idea to tell your parents about what OCD is really putting you through.
Sometimes OCD tries to trick kids into talking about their fears in "disguised" ways. For example, OCD may tell kids to ask their parents for things that kids think will make them feel better. One example of this is when OCD tells kids to ask their parents to clean or cook or do the laundry in a certain way, so that things don’t get dirty or people don’t get sick. OCD might also tell kids to ask their parents to arrange things a certain order or to check the doors, stove, and windows over and over again to make sure everything is safe. OCD might tell kids to ask their parents to check on other family members over and over again to make sure everyone is OK. OCD might also tell kids to ask their parents certain questions over and over again or tell kids to check with their parents over and over again to make sure they are not bad or dangerous kids or to make sure they are not doing things “against god.” OCD might also tell kids to ask their parents to help them avoid things that make them scared sometimes. OCD may even tell kids to avoid things they used to like a lot! OCD might tell kids to avoid school, grandparents’ houses, friends' houses, swimming pools, public bathrooms, parks, gyms, etc.
OCD may tell you that when your parents do the things that OCD wants, your parents are helping you to feel better. But, people who know a lot about OCD have discovered that it is usually not a good idea for kids or parents to do what OCD is telling them to do. There are much better ways to deal with OCD -- without giving in to it.
Talking with your parents is one of the first steps to take to find out the best ways to handle OCD. Once your parents know what you are struggling with, you and your parents can get information to help manage OCD and help you feel better! The real truth is that in order to take power away from OCD, you and your parents will have to come up with ways for you to stop listening to what OCD wants!! This may seem scary at first, but there are people and organizations that can help parents and kids take power away from OCD (See below). If you want to talk with your parents, but are having a hard time starting the conversation, think about asking them to take a look at this very website to start.
2) People who write about OCD
One big help for kids and parents are people who write about OCD. These people write about what it is like to have OCD, how OCD affects other things in life (family, school, friends), what might cause OCD, and ways to get help for OCD. There are books written for people of all ages: for kids in elementary school, kids in middle school, teenagers, parents and other family members. Reading books about OCD can help kids and parents to understand OCD a whole lot better. Books can give kids and parents tips on how to do things to feel better and how to avoid doing things that might accidentally make you feel worse. Examples of these kinds of books can be found under the Kids OCD Books link. Also, if you are reading this now, you know that books are not the only places to read about OCD, people also write about OCD on websites and in articles. Reading websites like this one can be helpful, but it is important to talk to your parents about the websites you are reading, so they can make sure the websites you are reading are giving you good advice.
3) Medical doctors, therapists, and other people who help kids and families with OCD
Some people know so much about OCD that they have jobs that are devoted to giving people treatment to help OCD. The two main kinds of treatment for OCD are cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.
Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches kids and parents to manage the thoughts and behaviors that come with OCD. This kind of therapy can be very helpful with managing OCD. It is described more on this website under the heading “What Treatment Looks Like”. Different kinds of people can be trained to give cognitive behavior therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy can be done with psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and other therapists trained to do it. You may be able to find the names of people who give cognitive behavior therapy in your city or town by looking under the Treatment Provider Search link on this website.
There are different kinds of medicine that may help kids manage their OCD symptoms. In order to see if medicine might help you with your OCD symptoms, you and your parents must make an appointment to talk with someone who is able to give people medicine. Different kinds are people are trained to prescribe medicine for OCD. This medicine can be prescribed by psychiatrists, some primary care doctors, and some nurse practioners. Talk with your parents about finding these options on this website.
Therapists and doctors may also help kids and their parents by helping them figure out whether and how to talk about their OCD with other important people in their lives, like grandparents, brothers/sisters, teachers, principals, guidance counselors and school nurses, babysitters, etc.
4) Organizations set up to help people with OCD
In addition to doctors and therapists who help kids and families with OCD, there are also whole groups of people (or organizations) that are devoted to helping people deal with OCD. The International OCD Foundation is a group of people working to help kids and adults who have OCD and similar problems. They help people in different ways. One way is by making this website, which provides information about OCD. The International OCD Foundation also sends out newsletters with articles about OCD. And every year, the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation has a whole conference devoted to helping people learn more about OCD and how to treat it. You can find information about this year's conference here. Some cities even have groups called International OCD Foundation “affliliates” that are set up to help people with OCD. You can find information about these groups here. Some cities also have supports groups for people with OCD. Support groups are often groups made up of people who have OCD and want to share their stories with other people with OCD. You may be able to find support groups by using this page.