Does My Teenage Daughter Need Therapy?
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Does My Teenage Daughter Need Therapy?

My wife and I have a 14 year old daughter. She's a fantastic kid. Kind, generous, helpful, smart, artistic and fun to be around. She's also displayed interesting episodes during her life. My wife and I used to kid that she might be OCD. When she was like 6 she used to wash her hands constantly and she would always smell them. That lasted for about 6 months and it was gone. There have been other similar type things. She has a severely guilty conscience. Just a few weeks ago she came up to me crying. I asked what was wrong and she said she lied to me. I asked her about what and she proceeded to tell me that she lied to me when I asked her what her favorite movie was. She told me one thing but now she remembers it something else. I told her that it wasn't a big deal and it wasn't a lie. She just forgot. But she beat herself up about it bad. Soon after that she told my wife that she has been having bad thoughts. Thoughts about sex (she's not having it yet for sure). We told her that at her age those types of thoughts can be normal. We aren't uptight about that issue in our house at all and we provide a very safe and open environment to talk about that kind of thing. Anyways, she also said that she thought about what would happen if my wife and I died and she felt horrible about it. Again, we stressed that these kinds of thoughts aren't abnormal. Many people think about the results and sadness that would result in someone they love dying. I told her that our thoughts aren't what defines us, that our actions do. I used some examples of how your brain can think some crazy stuff but that doesn't mean you're going to do them. Still she has been so focused on her thoughts and she even told my wife the other day that she is scared she's going to go to hell for her thoughts. We are at a loss here. We are talking about having her see a child psychologist or someone. Are we out of line with that? Does anyone have any opinions or thoughts on this? Our daughter is beating herself up so badly and it's really starting to hurt us to see this happen. We feel like we've done all we can. Please help us!!

Asked by Jonathan Byrd on Aug 31, 2011

9 Answers

Barbara Sonja Biller   L3: Expert   529 answers   +436 votes
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You say she is artistic? I'm hoping she isn't smelling toxic paints.

Posted on Sep 2, 2011
Sara Jones   L1: Member   1 answers   +0 votes
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Posted on Sep 5, 2011
Jacob Mack   L3: Expert   10 answers   +5 votes
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Hello Jonathan,

I think if you able to find your daughter quality counseling or therapy, it may be good for her. She does sound like she has many of the symptoms/signs outlined in the Diagostic and Statistics Manual IV-Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) which is used by most therapists, psychologists and psychologists to make a diagnosis. Cognitive Behavior Therapy for OCD and related disorders tend to work the best, in terms of overall remission or lessening of the symptoms/signs.

OCD hae been shown in various peer reviewed research to have a genetic component, but their is also a related disorder known as Obessisive Compulsive Personality Disorder, that may have similar but different signs and symptoms. Please do yourself a favor and find a kind/caring and experienced mental health professional for your daughter to see. Sometimes medications are necessary, but often symptoms can be relieved by seeing an experienced cognitive behaviorally oriented psychologist or therapist. 

Caveat: I am earning a psychology degree and I have a background in neuroscience but I am not a working professional. Always see a qualified health care professional. Good luck! Please let us know how you are doing!

Posted on Sep 15, 2011
Iram Danish   L2: Contributor   32 answers   +17 votes
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It is not a typical teenage behavior. She needs therapy and lot of confidence from your side. Maybe she is too sensitive.

Posted on Sep 17, 2011
leda jama   L1: Member   2 answers   +5 votes
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Just consult the psychiatrist to examine your daughter. There's something weird about the behavior of your daughter. I wish she can have treatment as soon as possible.  Are your daughter schooling? In what school? I suggest to send her in any therapeutic boarding schools so that she can have a regular one-on-one counseling, therapeutic group sessions, activities that promote success, and individualized academic programs with the finest certified teachers available to ensure academic success. Just take a move before its too late. Good luck.

Posted on Sep 19, 2011
Robert Jackson   L2: Contributor   3 answers   +1 votes
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These are symptoms of some sort of anxiety issue.  OCD may be going too far but as someone who IS diagnosed as suffering from that particular disorder I identify with what she is going through. These symptoms often manifest in or post puberty and it is important for her to gain an understanding of the tools that are often utilized to treat or at least help manage the anxiety. 

OCD symptoms come and go, and often folks will have different phases where they have different thoughts that they have a hard time controlling. OCD thoughts are just that; they are thoughts. They do not indicate a desire or propensity to act or feel a certain way. Most people who have thoughts about horrific things will dismiss them as unrealistic, or otherwise quash them with reason. A person with OCD cannot easily do that so the thought remains. Soon the thought spirals out of control and causes anxiety. The anxiety may cause other thoughts and the cycle continues.  It is important to note that the thoughts are "unwanted" and that they cause distress.

Often the same thoughts return, or patients sometimes do odd things in order to stave off the anxiety or to deal with the thought. Return to the handwashing example. A person might have a persistent thought that they will get sick or become incapacitated by touching contaminated surfaces. They might start a pattern of handwashing excessively to deal with that. A person might think that they are going to rape a random person they see on the street. To deal with that they may choose to not go outside, or worse - to follow someone or stare at them to make sure they aren't going to rape them. Or someone is afraid the house will burn down so they constantly check every fire source before leaving. They may turn off the stove repeatedly until it "feels right" or they may turn off the gas again repeating the action until they are comfortable that it worked. 

The best thing to do is to have her visit any mental health professional. Anyone with "psych" in the name. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health. They hold an MD and typically prescribe medications as part of therapy. They often are most concerned with the medications effect on the body and any side effects and hand-off day-to-day care and weekly or monthly therapy to clinical psychologists or therapists. Think of the psychiatrist as the "general contractor" of the mental health world. A psychiatrist is someone with a PhD that specializes in a field of mental health. These folks typically do the talking and education type therapy. A non-psychiatrist mental health practitioner (such as a therapist or a specialist) can be just as effective as a psychologist. 

I mention the difference simply because OCD and anxiety disorders are often treated with a multi-pronged approach. OCD is typically treated with "cognitive behavioral therapy" part of which is "exposure therapy" where they practitioner intentionally exposes the patient to the anxiety causing situation or thought. The idea is to have the patient use the tools taught in CBT to reduce or eliminate the anxiety associated with that thought, thus breaking the cycle. This therapy is often combined with medication known as SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). These are antidepressants and some of the common ones in use are Luvox, Lexapro, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil, less commonly Wellbutrin or Prozac. There are potential side-effects, the most commonly reported one is anorgasmia (maybe not a problem with your daughter) and with any antidepressant - if the patient is severely depressed they should be closely monitored for suicidal tendencies. A paradoxical effect of AD's is that they rarely cause the patient to actually act on pre-existing suicidal thoughts, where before treatment they were too depressed to do anything about it, lifting them up out of the fog gives them the motivation. Don't worry this is a very rare phenomenon. 

You are absolutely correct in counseling her about how the thoughts she is having are not abnormal. EVERYBODY HAS THEM! Sometimes they go too far and especially if the thoughts are having a marked impact on daily lift should the person seek help. 

A great book to review is "The Imp of the Mind" which describes these "crazy thoughts", and "The OCD Workbook" which is used often as a tool in CBT. 

The worst that can happen here is that your daughter gets a person to whom she can comfortably confide (and at that tender age I know certainly it wasn't my parents - not for everything at least). And that isn't so bad. 


Best Regards and good luck to you!


Posted on Sep 19, 2011
Gayle Haynes   L3: Expert   80 answers   +50 votes
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Please have her see a psychologist before you resort to a psychiatrist because psychaitrists are medical doctors that are likely to prescribe drugs first.  At least the psychologist will try behavioral interventions and behavior modication techniques first.  She does seem to be focusing on her own failures and short comings.  Some of that is normal, but this seems to be too much.  Don't panic.  Be reassuring and positive.  But don't ignore her needs.

Posted on Sep 22, 2011
Sandy Shannon   L3: Expert   420 answers   +312 votes
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Posted on Oct 10, 2011
B W1   L5: Authority   98 answers   +37 votes
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My immediate thoughts are that she is stressed? Has she suffered a bereavement/loss/trauma? Or, perhaps she is feeling pressure for some reason? 

Posted on May 13, 2012

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