If you’re a teen with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), you know what it’s like to be faced with compulsions day after day. They may not be large, life threatening compulsions such as the drive to drink; but they’re enough to feel like your life is limited. However, believe it or not there are over 100 celebrities that struggle with the illness. Knowing their successes, they can be models for how to keep the illness from interfering with your life.
And Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an illness that can easily interfere with enjoying life! It is characterized by repeating thoughts and images that cause an individual to perform the same rituals over and over again, such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, or counting money. Billy Bob Thornton, Donald Trump, Cameron Diaz, and Leonardo DiCaprio have all reported that they suffer from OCD. DiCaprio once announced that he forces himself to avoid gum stains on sidewalks and walking through doorways several times. Despite his psychological tendencies, DiCaprio is an accomplished actor.
It’s essential that we have these sorts of examples. There are other stories that are not so inspiring. For instance, one psychological symptom of an eating disorder is body checking. It is the obsessive way that an adolescent relates to his or her body and appearance. This might look like frequent weighing, looking in the mirror, pinching the stomach or other parts of the body, or asking for assurance about their weight. Body checking can happen frequently throughout the day and become a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Another example is 20-year old Adam Lanza who was obsessed with school shootings and struggled with mental illness. He had a history of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and often refused to take his medication for this illness.
However, even if you take your medication, you might still feel the need to perform certain rituals in the morning, fearing that without doing them, your day won’t go well. Perhaps you also feel the need to complete certain compulsive rituals before going to bed as well. There might be days where you feel particularly tired because your OCD rituals keep you up late into the night. According to the International OCD Foundation, this is common among teens that have been diagnosed with OCD. Other challenges include having to perform rituals in the evening that prevent completing homework, attendance to school, and attention in class. This can lead to stress and lack of sleep, which in turn can result in physical illness.
Other adolescents might feel the need to hide their OCD patterns, which might keep them from spending time with their peers and even lead to problematic social relationships. Hiding a diagnosis might also contribute to a teen’s low self-esteem and their process of finding a sense of self, which is the main psychological task of adolescence. If parents, caregivers, and teachers do not appropriately address the needs of teens with OCD, they might express anger and anxiety. What makes this even more challenging is when teens do not communicate their needs because of feeling shameful about their behavior and hiding their impairments.
You can see how all of these symptoms and consequences of having OCD can be incredibly limiting. However, reading about the stories of those stars that have transcended these limitations can be moving. For instance, Jessica Alba, a young actress who has starred in many recent films has learned to not let her OCD tendencies get in the way of her success. She admitted suffering from OCD frequently in her childhood.
Research indicates that teens with OCD typically have additional mental illnesses than those who do not have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Depression, anxiety, and the not-so-well-known diagnosis of Trichotillomania (obsessive hair pulling or skin picking) are common co-occurring disorders. Medication treatment that improves the functioning for OCD adolescents can also treat these additional diagnoses. For instance, taking anti-OCD medication can work to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as anxiety. Antidepressants are also used to treat OCD, along with depression and other anxiety disorders.
Having a strong support network including parents, therapist, doctor, teachers, and friends is also an essential form of treatment. If everyone is aware of your OCD, it can make their supporting you that much easier. Although you may not feel comfortable talking about OCD, over the years, discussing it might become easier and easier. In this way, adolescence doesn’t have to be burdened by this diagnosis; instead, like the celebrities who suffer from OCD, you can have fun and enjoy your life.