How can you help a teenager with OCD?

helping a teenager with ocd

Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental health condition that is usually diagnosed before a person reaches the age of 25.

In many cases, signs and symptoms of the condition first become apparent during late childhood or teenage years.

The main symptom of OCD is obsessive thoughts and a compulsion to perform repetitive behaviours or rituals.

These urges cause overwhelming fear and anxiety that can have a far-reaching impact on a teenager’s daily life, education, and relationships with others if they cannot access appropriate treatment and support.

In this article, we find out more about the best ways to support a teenager with OCD.

How to support a teenager who has been diagnosed with OCD

Sometimes, encouraging a teenager to acknowledge that there is a problem, and speak to a healthcare professional, can be the biggest hurdle to recovery.

Teenagers are at a point in their lives where they are seeking greater independence, and so admitting they need help can be challenging.

They may also feel scared of admitting there is something ‘wrong’ or different about their thoughts or behaviour.

The top three things you can do to support a teenager who has been diagnosed with OCD are:

Learn more about the condition

Teenagers often feel misunderstood, those with OCD even more so.

While you’ll never truly know how it feels to be them, educating yourself as much as possible about OCD can provide helpful insight into what they’re going through and how best to help.

You can learn more about OCD by reading books, websites like OCD UK and OCD Action, or by attending an educational course in OCD.

Talk openly about OCD with them

Teenagers with OCD can experience a wide range of negative emotions including anxiety, shame, and isolation which cause considerable mental anguish at a time of life which can already be scary and confusing.

Often, the most beneficial thing you can do for a teenager with OCD is to provide them with a safe space where they can openly talk about their condition without fear of judgment or criticism.

Help them to find additional help and support

As well as medication and therapy, there are plenty of additional support groups and services that teenagers with OCD can join to help aid their recovery.

If they are open to it, helping them to find a suitable group or service locally can be very beneficial. There are also useful support groups available for friends, family, and carers of those with OCD, getting the whole family involved can show that everyone is behind them and wants to support them.

For more helpful advice, read our article, how can you support someone with OCD.

How can you help a teenager with OCD in their everyday life?

Depending on the severity of the symptoms being experienced, OCD can cause significant impairment to a teenager’s daily life.

Our top five tips for helping a teenager in their everyday life are:

  • Don’t engage in their OCD rituals or compulsions – While this may help to ease their anxiety in the short-term, in the long-term it only reinforces their belief that carrying out these behaviours is the only way to deal with their obsessive thoughts.


  • Watch out for warning signs – Knowing the warning signs that can indicate that someone’s OCD symptoms are worsening allows you to step in and offer more support before things start to spiral out of control.


  • Don’t change expectations – Keep routines and expectations as consistent as possible.


  • Get the whole family involved – Making sure everyone in your household has a good understanding of OCD can ensure your home is a safe space where someone with OCD can receive consistent support.


  • Offer a hug – Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a teenager with OCD is to offer them a hug when they need it the most.

How can teenagers with OCD be helped at school?

If a teenager is diagnosed with OCD while still in full-time education, they may find that the condition negatively impacts their performance at school.

Disclosing an OCD diagnosis to their teachers can help to ensure children and teenagers receive as much help and support at school as possible.

In cases where a teenager’s OCD has a substantial adverse effect on their daily activities, it may be classed as a disability.

Schools are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that students with disabilities are not at a disadvantage or being unfairly discriminated against.

Reasonable adjustments could include extensions on deadlines, extra time during exams, or the provision of an exam prompter.