Emily and Lindsay both struggled with OCD as kids. Even though they were sisters, OCD showed up in very different ways for each of them.
How your child views life in general can have a huge impact on their struggles with anxiety or OCD. If they see all the negative aspects of everything, they’ll automatically be more prone to a hopeless, defeatist attitude.
Is the cup half empty or half full for your child? How they view their world and their situation can make a huge difference in how they handle anxiety or OCD.
The balance between rescuing and empowering our anxious kids.
The math is simple. The more compulsions our kids do, the bigger their OCD will grow. And yet, OCD can make it feel more complicated in their head. It can make them go to the mental gym weighing out the dangers. It can make them calculate the risks. It can make them believe that their safety or even their identity is at risk.
So how do they stop fueling their OCD? First, they should learn what things are compulsions. Kids (and parents) often miss compulsions that only consist of avoidance, accommodations or mental activities. Second, they need to build their muscles to not fuel their OCD. The best way to reduce OCD is to cut off the fuel line. That can take time, patience and perseverance – but it is the sure fire way to reduce OCD symptoms in the long-term.
Anticipatory anxiety can be just as paralyzing as other anxiety themes. When we live in the world of what-ifs we can build up so much anxiety that we are immobilized by the time the situation or event arrives. It can help to teach our kids to build up skills on how to manage their anxiety prior to the situation. When they proactively quell the monumental avalanche of anxious thoughts they show up for the event/situation with less anxiety. In this week’s YouTube video for kids and teens I talk about some approaches to handle and reduce anticipatory anxiety.
Ben was always an anxious child, but behind that anxiety lurked something else. It took a stay in a treatment center for eating disorders and eight therapists to finally get the help he truly needed, with the diagnosis he actually had – OCD. In this week’s AT Parenting Survival Podcast, Ben walks us through his journey with OCD, from his inability to share his intrusive thoughts, to his unrelenting search to find an effective therapist trained in OCD. Ben is determined to be a part of the effort to remove the stigma attached to OCD, especially for men who all too often do not find help and strength complimentary words.
Getting relief from OCD is not rocket science. OCD is driven by intrusive thoughts that make our kids want to do compulsions. These compulsions can be mental, physical or even just avoidance. The more they do these compulsions, the more their discomfort grows, the more intrusive thoughts they have. OCD is predictable in that way. No matter what thoughts or OCD themes they have, this pattern exists. The only way to break out of this pattern is to have them see the illusions OCD is feeding them and disrupt the pattern that OCD wants them to follow.
Everyone handles anxious situations differently. Even kids with anxiety disorders have different ways of showing up to these situations. Some of it has to do with wiring and some of it has to do with skill building. Do they show up to anxious situations waiting to implode? Do they know it is not going to work out before they even begin? Do they agree with their anxious thoughts and team up with their anxiety? Or do they show up to anxious situations like it is a challenge, one they are willing to take on? Do they think that it could possibly work out? Do they recognize their anxious thoughts without owning them? Regardless of whether that is their natural inclination or not, they can train their brain to show up to these situations with an attitude that will help them. In this week’s Youtube video I talk to kids and teens about learning to shift their thoughts and attitude to one that is going to build their resilience and empowerment.
Ultimately we want our kids to live a life where they walk towards their anxiety or OCD fears and discomfort. The more they build those anxiety and OCD skills, the more resilient they will become. Natural exposures can help on two fronts. If your child is not ready to commit to formal ERP (Exposure Response Prevention), the main approach in OCD treatment, doing natural exposures can be a great first step. Second, we want our kids to develop an organic, authentic way of dealing with anxiety or OCD. When they learn how to create natural exposures when faced with triggers, they learn how to live their life while keeping anxiety or OCD at bay. In this week’s AT Parenting Survival Podcast I explore how natural exposures can help and how to get them started.
OCD can make our kids do a ton of nonsensical things, including touching or tapping objects or people. This can happen due to all sorts of OCD intrusive thoughts. Perhaps something bad will happen if they don’t touch it. Maybe OCD says it won’t feel right until they do? Regardless of why OCD is demanding them to do it, how do they stop it? It comes down to how they would handle any OCD compulsion. OCD wants to be fed. It is an itch that wants to be scratched. The reality is, the more you scratch it, the more it itches. It is a vicious cycle that offers no long term relief. In this week’s YouTube video for kids and teens we talk about how to handle touching or tapping compulsions. Remember all compulsions can be handled in this same way.
We all struggle to some degree when faced with discomfort. But when you have anxiety or OCD you are faced with discomfort on a completely different level. Anxious thoughts make us uncomfortable. Intrusive thoughts that are not satiated with a compulsion lead to discomfort. When we work on anxiety or OCD, a key component is building our muscles to tolerate discomfort. This can help us beyond our anxiety or OCD. Learning how to handle any discomfort can increase resilience. Life brings discomfort in many forms. Building resilience goes beyond anxiety or OCD. It can impact how we approach life, obstacles and challenges. It can make the difference between giving up and persevering. In this week’s YouTube video I talk to kids and teens about ways to build their ability to handle discomfort beyond anxiety or OCD.