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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


  • J


    Let me know if you start a support group. I am 14 and live next to Boston. I could use the support.



    • Sydney Nolan

      Hi J — If you’re looking for support before then, you can also always search our Resource Directory to see if there is already a group near you. A guide and link to the Resource Directory is available here, if you need help getting started. You can also always email info@iocdf.org or call us at (617) 973-5801 if you’d like to speak with someone in our office who can help you learn more about what might be available in your area.

    • Josh Steinberg

      Hi J,

      Apologies for the delay- I don’t get e-mail alerts when comments post to the blog. In the future, definitely reach out to me directly via email: joshsteiny23@gmail.com.

      The support group is happening — our next meeting is December 11, 2016, 5:30-6:30 at the Needham Public Library, 1139 Highland Ave in Needham, MA.

      If you e-mail me directly, I will add your email address and/or phone number (whichever you prefer) to the e-mail list so that I can keep you updated on meeting times, etc.

      Also, as Sydney said, the Resource Directory on the IOCDF web site should have more info about my and other groups in the area.

  • Katie Smallwood

    Lovely to read your comments and advice. My son Josh has OCD and is 15. Its a tough situation to be in for him and us as his family. Trying to get the help and support that we need. At the moment he is struggling to just exist. I hate OCD and what it has done to his life.

    • Hi Katie, I’m in the same situation my son is 14 and Anxiety/ OCD, Depression seems like it owns him, I try everything I can to help him, But he gives in and just shuts down. Trying to get help is like pulling teeth, ins. Comp. are in no rush to push things through you have to get referrals and the dr. doesn’t thing its bad enough that he needs to be referred out side of Kiaser, so we do the once a week visit, But I’m fighting it and waiting for an approval, I wont stop, But in the end I know he has to want the help and believe in himself, Right now he doesn’t, which is killing me inside. He is also just struggle to exist. I would love to talk with you more, Maybe we can shared emails of numbers.. Thank you Victoria


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