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Today’s entry comes from Josh Steinberg, a high school sophomore who was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and severe OCD in 2012. Josh found help with a therapist using ERP and is doing great. Now, Josh has decided to share his story with other teens affected by OCD. Josh will be presenting a talk in the Teen track at the International OCD Foundation’s Annual OCD Conference in Chicago this summer called “OCD in the Family: Becoming More Supportive Parents and Siblings.” He also plans to start a support group for youth with OCD in Boston, his hometown, in order to pursue his goal of helping those affected by OCD. Here, he shares five thoughts to help other teens affected by OCD. 

When I discovered that I had OCD four years ago, I found myself feeling lonely and overwhelmed. I feared that nobody my age or in my peer group had gone through anything like OCD and emerged intact on the other side. I felt I had no guidelines to follow that had helped other people “like me.” I am writing this post based on my own experiences in an effort to alleviate some of that same isolation and uncertainty facing kids who are struggling with their symptoms now. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned and wish I’d known during my own fight.

1. Don’t be embarrassed by your thoughts.

It can be helpful to think of OCD as a net that catches — and won’t release — your most random thoughts. Some thoughts can be scary because they involve death or sexual things; however, it’s important to remember that all people have these thoughts. You are — and I was — different because your net is not letting these thoughts pass through like other people can do. Don’t be ashamed of your thoughts. Share them with those who can help you.

2. Give your OCD a name and develop your “wise mind.”

I named mine “OCD” — granted, it’s an unoriginal name, but at least I could then refer to it in ways such as “the OCD is telling me to do X.” It is important for you to make the distinction between what your mind without OCD — what my therapist taught me to call my “wise mind” — is trying to get you to do or think, and what your OCD is trying to get you to do or think. Remember, as I had to learn myself while grappling with my OCD, that you are more than just your “thoughts” — they don’t reflect who you are as a person.

3. Don’t shut out your family.

Though the teenage years are typically the time we want to pull away from our parents and siblings, our families can be our strongest allies in the fight against OCD. While they might not always understand what you are going through, do your best to keep them in the loop because fighting alone is much harder than fighting with your biggest and most unconditional fans encouraging and supporting you along the way.

4. Tell yourself that OCD is only strong as you let it be.

This disorder is so powerful because it is in our own minds; giving into compulsions only makes OCD stronger. Though it may not always feel this way, remind yourself that you — and you alone — are the landlord and OCD is the unwanted tenant of your mind. OCD will not reside in your mind forever as long as you continually fight to evict it.

5. Stay positive — don’t focus on slip-ups, but on beating your OCD.

While defeating OCD requires hard work, not meeting all of the goals that you set with your therapist or performing a compulsion is not the end of the world. When you find yourself slipping, do not get angry with yourself. Easier said than done, I know, but being too hard on yourself is counter-productive. Rather, push yourself forward, toward your next goal, and remember that how you continue to fight your OCD will determine its effect on you.

You can find more information and resources related to OCD in kids and teens on the IOCDF’s OCD in Kids website here

10 Comments

  • Kim M

    Have you found medication helpful with ocd?

    Reply
    • Amy Jatczak

      This is great advise Josh. Way to go.

      Reply
    • Josh Steinberg

      Hi Kim and thanks for your question. Yes, I do find medication to be helpful. I started on medication shortly after I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 12. I have been on the meds since then and have found that the combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy have worked extremely well with my obsessions. Now, my obsessions are milder and less frequent. While this strategy worked for me, this form of treatment obviously may not be appropriate for everyone. If you are considering medicine as a form of treatment then it is definitely a good conversation to have with a psychiatrist.

      Reply
    • Has anyone experienced increased reflux and acid stomach on celexa? I started a few months ago on celexa and my reflux has gotten much worse. I have a hiatal hernia and have been on prilosec for a few years now, and just started celexa and the reflux is much worse. My GI md says it’s not due to celexa. It seems more than a coincidence to me. Anybody else have this problem?

      Reply
  • Thank you Josh for that wonderful advice.. I’m sure it will help a lot of people!

    Reply
  • Carla Stucky

    Thank you, Josh, for your courage and willingness to share. It is a battle worth fighting and your story is one of hope which is so important in the battle.

    Reply
  • Linda Werking

    Can anyone describe to me what their OCD is like? I was wondering if I could compare notes with someone with the same problems that I have with it. Some of my problems are with trying to remember if I thoroughly brushed my teeth, or can’t go into drawers or closets without thinking things are going to jump into my face, repeating questions that I’ve already asked, trying to remember if I’ve done something when I’ve actually just done it. The list goes on and on. I’ve been to psychiatrists, tried some drugs which only make me sleepy.

    Reply
  • Jennifer Burton

    Hi All – Josh, thank you for sharing your story. Personal stories are so powerful. I need some advice on anyone’s experience in being prescribed a mood stabilizer such as Seroquel or Risperidone (Risperdal) for OCD? My daughter who is 15 was recently diagnosed with OCD and was referred to Psychiatry for medication since the antidepressants that are normally prescribed for OCD quit working. I don’t find anywhere on this site so far that mood stabilizers are recommended for treatment of OCD. I am concerned about the side effects of course, but also the effects on the still developing adolescent brain. I have found information on other sites that talk about mood stabilizer medication to treat OCD, but not on this site. I would assume this site would be one of the best to look at for medications to treat OCD, but mood stabilizers are not listed here. Any advice?

    Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, My son was prescribed mood stabilizers and developed a lot of problems while taking them. I would suggest proceeding cautiously and carefully weighing the pros (none for him) versus the cons (potentially dangerous side-effects) as you make your decision. I do discuss my son’s story in length on my blog and there is a lot of information on this topic, as well as references to studies, in my book as well. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Jennifer Burton

        Thank you Janet!

        Reply

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