Teens and young adults with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) experience unwanted, invasive thoughts that can disrupt their lives. It’s important to know that, especially in adolescence, the obsessions and compulsions can morph over time.
Intrusive thoughts about religion, sex, grades, social status, hygiene, and now a pandemic can cause teens with OCD to lose focus in the classroom, make repeated trips to the bathroom, be late to class, miss assignments, ask constant questions, or seek reassurance or “guarantees” from friends or teachers.
Too often students feel overwhelming shame and guilt over their obsessions and compulsions and are so embarrassed they will not share their concerns or ask for help with managing their OCD. Note that sometimes OCD can occur simultaneously with other conditions, like depression, autism, attention deficit disorder, tics, panic attacks, or anxiety.
Things you can do:
- Suggest a meeting with the student and those who support the student if you’re seeing behaviors that concern you.
- If the student is diagnosed and has disclosed their OCD, ask the family if it’s appropriate for you to continue to reassure the student about an obsession.
- Consult with the school behavioral therapist if you and your student need a plan to reduce the number of questions asked during class. Enlist the student in setting goals, so that they feel in control.
- Boost student self-esteem and watch for bullying or ostracization.
- Discuss necessary accommodations such as extra time for assignments or tests.
For more information, see Five Things to Understand About Teens and OCD.