Residential OCD Treatment for Teens

Residential OCD Treatment for Teens

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a complex mental health disorder than often emerges in childhood or early teen years.  The disorder can manifest itself in thoughts and behaviors that are disruptive to the teen’s daily activities and concerning to parents.  When the OCD disorder becomes unmanageable, even under the care of a psychiatrist, then residential OCD treatment for teens might be the next step in appropriate interventions.

A residential program for teens with OCD can provide a calm, soothing environment where a closer look at the teen’s obsessions and compulsions can lead to improved and more finely tuned interventions, including reassessing medications and introducing new coping techniques that help to relieve the stress and anxiety that OCD can provoke.  

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is a psychological disorder within the anxiety spectrum of mental health disorders. OCD can cause teens to experience unsettling thoughts, called obsessions, which trigger ritualistic, repetitive behaviors, called compulsions, in response to the thoughts.  In this ongoing cycle of obsessive thinking and subsequent repetitive behaviors, the teen can become so enmeshed in the symptoms that they become frozen, unable to move forward with usual activities. For example, an obsessive fear of germs may lead to the teen washing their hands 20 times before being emotionally stable enough to then venture from the house.

In essence, the teen becomes controlled by the rituals they must conduct in order to achieve relief from fear or anxiety.  So, the compulsive behaviors become a salve for the obsessive worrying. As the condition worsens, the teen will have difficulty in completing tasks, fulfilling schoolwork, or maintaining relationships. Teens with OCD suffer a great deal of emotional distress due to the demands the disorder makes on them.  Some of the more common OCD subtypes are:

  • Contamination/Washing
  • Harm Obsession/Checking
  • Hoarding
  • Pure Obsession


A teen with OCD will experience recurrent, intrusive, and sometimes inappropriate thoughts or images that cause them to feel anxious and distressed.  Common obsessions include:

  • Fear of germs
  • Doubts stemming from fear, such as whether the door is locked or if the stove burner was turned off
  • Particular order or exact placement of items
  • Impulses to commit a violent act
  • Sexual obsessions regarding a repulsive sex act


The compulsive, repetitive, ritualistic behaviors that follow the obsessive thoughts help the teen manage the emotional distress that results from the obsessions.  Common compulsions include:

  • Washing or repeated cleaning is a response to the fear of germs obsession
  • Checking over and over that some task was properly completed is a response to the harm obsession
  • Ordering involves insisting on symmetry and particular order of items and is a response to controlling obsession
  • Counting things repeatedly and fixation on numbers helps reduce anxiety related to obsessions about violence or disturbing thoughts

Concerning Symptoms that Parents Might Notice

Parents are often the first people to become aware of the OCD behaviors and mannerisms.  Parents may notice that their child:

  • Is overly irritable, upset, or anxious
  • Has trouble concentrating on their homework
  • Is not engaging in the activities they once enjoyed
  • Takes too long to complete basic tasks, like taking a shower or getting dressed
  • Becomes demanding of a parent to do or say something in a specific way
  • Has difficulty making decisions
  • Seems to repeat behaviors too often
  • Exhibits excessive, irrational worry
  • Gets angry if something is out of place
  • Gets upset if they cannot do something perfectly

Diagnosing Teen OCD

When a parent suspects their teen might have OCD the first stop will be the primary care provider who can first rule out any medical condition that may be attributed to the symptoms.  They may order labs to check thyroid function and other screenings. If no health condition is responsible, then the doctor will refer the teen to a psychiatrist for a psychological evaluation.  This will involve interviewing the teen for more detailed information about the symptoms, and then see if they align with the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for OCD:

A. Presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both:

1. Recurrent and persistent thoughts urges or images that are intrusive and cause anxiety
2. Individual attempts to ignore or suppress them by an action or thought

3. Repetitive behaviors that the individual feels they need to perform in response to an obsession
4. The behaviors are aimed at preventing or reducing symptoms of anxiety or distress

B. The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming (more than one hour per day) and cause distress and impairment in functioning

C. The obsessive-compulsive symptoms are not attributable to a substance disorder or another medical condition

D. The disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder

Residential OCD Treatment for Teens

When outpatient interventions, usually behavioral therapies in combination with medication, do not adequately manage the OCD symptoms, and the condition is worsening, a residential OCD treatment program designed specifically for teens will provide a step up in care.  Residential programs offer a more focused approach to treatment with a deeper involvement with cognitive behavioral therapy and other associated therapies, such as exposure and response prevention (ERP). Antidepressant medications for treating OCD include:

Family therapy is included in the residential program and can be helpful in teaching the family members how to best respond to the teen struggling with OCD.  In addition, complimentary therapies, such as art and music therapy or recreation therapy, can benefit teens with OCD.

BNI Treatment Centers Provides Residential OCD Treatment for Teens

BNI Treatment Centers is a residential treatment center for teens aged 12-17 located in Los Angeles, California.  The BNI psychiatrists who founded and operate the treatment center are experts in the field of treating complex mental health disorders such as OCD in adolescents.  Utilizing only the highest standards of care and evidence-based therapies, BNI can make significant strides in helping your teen overcome the disruptive features of OCD and help them manage the symptoms.  BNI is teen-specific, so the adjunct therapies offered are tailored specifically to the teen client, including surf therapy, art therapy, equine therapy, and drama therapy. For more information about how BNI Treatment Centers can help your teen manage OCD more effectively, please contact us today a (888) 522-1504.

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