Kinds of anxieties
Some kinds of anxiety have names like Generalized, Health, Social, Separation Anxiety, or Phobias. Young people and adults worry and feel fear about many different things. Coping with new people or places can be hard. You may worry and feel fear about friends, grades at school, sports, the dark, your health, dying, being laughed at or disliked, parents dying or being lost or stolen from parents, natural disasters, scary animals, the water, getting a shot, angry faces and voices, disappointing others, getting in trouble…and many other things too! Some young people just have one very, very strong fear. It could be about dogs, shots, throwing up or anything else.
OCD — Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
In this kind of anxiety, you might have scary or very uncomfortable thoughts, pictures or urges. They push into your mind, go around and around, and don’t go away easily. These are called obsessions. Urges are “have to” obsessions, and if you don’t follow the urge the feeling can get worse.
Types of obsessions
Sometimes you might have the urge to get something “just right” or perfect, even if it seems silly. You might feel you must fix things, prevent bad things or danger, or get rid of a bad feeling or else something really bad will happen. Some young people obsess about touching germs or fear that dirt, germs or poisons may have spread to them. Others may be fearful of throwing special things away, resulting in big piles of old stuff.
Others my have thoughts or pictures in their mind that they think are wrong or bad, yet they can’t get them to stop bothering them. These thoughts might be bad words and a fear they will say them out loud. Other thoughts might be a fear they have hurt someone very badly or they fear being punished for hurting others. At these times they can feel guilty, like they are very bad people.
Some young people may see awful or scary pictures in their mind. Often it is a scary character from a movie, game or book. The pictures seem very real and are frightening. These images can just pop in, especially if there is some reminder. These pictures or images can result in crying or panic.
Compulsions are what young people do to feel better when they are having an obsession. A compulsion is a certain behavior that seems to get rid of the obsession. Some young people do compulsions just in their mind. They might think, count or pray a certain number of times or a certain way, even though they have no reason and don’t want to. Or they may do a behavior. They may fix special items in a certain way or read, write, study or do anything over and over until “it feels right” or perfect. Some might touch or tap in 2s, 3s, or 4s.
Some young people do a compulsion because they believe it will stop a loved one from getting ill or dying. This is a superstitious thought—it could only work if we were magic!
Those with dirt or germ fears wash their hands or body over and over until it feels just right. They can get tired of spending so much time in the bathroom in the morning and at bedtime.
Compulsions work to make the obsession or urge go away, but only for a little while. The obsession returns again and then the compulsion has to be done again. And doing the compulsion can actually make the obsession stronger, more bossy, the next time. In this way, OCD grows if you do the compulsions. With some help, young people can get used to, or shrink, obsessions until they are boring and then they don’t need compulsions to feel better.