How Experts Help Kids and Their Parents Fight OCD and Feel Better
By Jeanne M. Fama, Ph.D.
There are 2 main ways doctors and therapists help kids with OCD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one way to help you with OCD. Medicine is the other way. Taking medicine is not the best idea for everyone, and your doctors can tell you and your parents more about whether medicine might be good for you. A lot of times, doctors recommend cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD. This article describes cognitive behavioral therapy, which is sometimes called CBT for short.
Doing CBT for OCD is sort of like going to class to learn about OCD from an OCD expert. Actually, expert OCD therapists are like teachers and coaches. They can help you and your parents:
- Learn about what OCD is
- Learn about how OCD tells lies and plays mean games with kids to get them to feel bad about things they shouldn’t feel bad about at all
- Learn how to say “no” and disobey OCD so that you feel better
- Practice disobeying OCD and at home (and maybe even at school) so you can feel better there too
OCD usually feels even scarier when kids and parents don’t know too much about it. In CBT, experts teach you about OCD. They can tell you the symptoms of OCD, what might cause OCD, and who gets OCD (This is adults, kids, teenagers, grandmothers and grandfathers -- you are not the only one with these kinds of thoughts and urges!). Learning about OCD can help you to understand how OCD makes people scared. It can also help you understand the ways experts help people with OCD, and what you and your parents can do about OCD so that you feel better.
OCD fools kids by telling them they should feel worried and guilty about the weird thoughts that sometimes pop into their heads. Sometimes OCD even tries to convince kids that they are bad people. CBT experts can teach kids and parents how OCD fools people. Experts will show you and your parents how to spot OCD’s mean games on your own, so that you and your parents can see how OCD is making you feel scared and guilty when you don’t deserve it!
One of OCD’s biggest games is to get kids to do things that they think will make their OCD thoughts go away, but that really make their OCD thoughts even worse. You see, OCD sometimes tells kids to do things over and over again (things like washing their hands over and over, or asking their parents if everything is OK over and over again, or forcing themselves to read or write something over and over again). Doing these things might make kids feel better for a few seconds, but not for very long. For example, have you ever washed your hands until you thought they felt clean, and then felt better for a few seconds? But, then started worrying that you might not have done a good enough job washing them? And then, start worrying that you should go back and wash your hands again, even more than you did last time? Or, have you ever asked your mom if everything was OK, felt better for a while, but then thought of another reason that you had to ask her more questions later on? Or, did you ever check to make sure that you had put your homework in your schoolbag, and felt better for a few seconds afterwards? But then, start worrying that you might have made a mistake and didn’t really see the homework in your bag? So, then you felt like you had to check your bag again – twice this time so you could be sure? Doing what OCD tells you to do can make you feel better for a few seconds. But after a while, the good feeling wears off and the scary feelings come back even worse than before. This makes kids feel like they have to do even more of what OCD tells them to do the next time. CBT experts teach kids and their parents how to disobey OCD and stop doing the things it wants them to do over and over again. This may seem scary at first, but CBT experts can explain why it is the right thing to do and why it doesn’t make you a “bad person” at all.
CBT experts will help you and your parents understand how to disobey OCD one step at a time so that you actually stop feeling scared and guilty. Experts coach you and your parents to practice disobeying OCD. Then, the experts teach your parents how to coach you to disobey OCD at home. CBT experts also explain to you and your parents which things your parents should not do because they can accidentally make OCD worse. The idea of disobeying OCD can scare kids at first, but don’t worry about this now. CBT experts know how to help kids get through this. The experts will help you and your parents practice saying “no” to OCD until you are able to do it all by yourselves. It takes some practice, but most kids think it is worth it in the end! You see, learning and practicing this stuff is sort of like riding a bike. It can be scary at first, but with help and practice, most kids get so good at it, it feels automatic, and they can’t even remember what it was like to need help with it.