How to Manage Obsessive Behavior in a Teen

By Martha Holden
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Obsessive compulsive disorder occurs in one in every 200 children, according to the International OCD Foundation. It begins with worry over little things, which instills fear and develops into compulsive behavior as your teen tries to address the worry. Your teen might spend more time than necessary washing hands or brushing teeth or engaging in the same activity repeatedly. This signals an early onset of OCD. Identifying obsessive behavior will help your teen deal with this disorder.


Identify instances of compulsive behavior. For example, if you notice that she spends too much time trying to make her hair and constantly checks whether it is out of place, discuss it with your teen, advises psychotherapist Karen Ruskin. Ask questions that will help you understand the motivation toward such behavior. Fear fuels obsessive behavior in teens, so address these fears by evaluating different outcomes with your teen and help her understand that failure is normal and acceptable. Talking to your teen helps her become more aware of her behavior and might help in lessening it, advises psychologist Martin Franklin.

Seek Help

Seek medical help from a psychiatrist, psychologist or your family doctor. A licensed mental health care worker can diagnose OCD or general obsessiveness and help your teen accordingly. She can also recommend behavioral therapy and give you tips to help your teen resume normal life. In some cases, the she might recommend medication for your teen. Ensure that your teen uses the medication properly. In addition, regular checkups for your teen help identify positive or negative changes.

Get Involved

Get involved in your teen’s life by creating time to talk and engage in activities that both of you enjoy. This helps you identify changes in your teen’s behavior and address her fears about life. Additionally, help your teen implement the behavioral advice from a doctor and encourage her not to give up. For example, involve your teen in visualization activities that help her become more aware of what she does. In case she tends to repeat an activity, take her back to the visualization moment, and firmly state that repeating the same act is unnecessary. Positive feedback and setting realistic expectation also helps.


Teens might engage in obsessive behavior away from home. Such behavior can affect their attention and performance in school. Talk to her teachers in case you notice such behavior and discuss ways you can help the teen. Making the school aware also makes it easier for your child to get permission away from school while attending therapy sessions. Additionally, discourage obsessive behavior; for example, do not allow your teen to keep checking her hair as you wait. Firmly ask her to leave and compliment her by telling her she looks good in that particular style.

About the Author

Martha Holden began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous publications. Holden holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Houston.