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“STARTS” to manage adolescent OCD and perfectionism
Sep 06 2019

“STARTS” to manage adolescent OCD and perfectionism

Mental Health

Adolescence is a time when most individuals feel vulnerable to social and academic pressures, putting teens at an increased risk of developing unhealthy compulsive behaviors that too often lead to poor mental health and substance abuse. These unhealthy compulsive behaviors, if not intervened at the right time, might worsen leading to the development of a mental health disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Managing an OCD may be tough and entail expensive therapies. However, a simple technique that may help one avoid the cost of medication and therapy and take control of their obsessive compulsions can be a program called “STARTS”.

  • Stopping: Despite OCD not being rooted in critical thinking, the anxiety it induces leads to excessive thoughts, exacerbating anxiety and obsessive compulsiveness in turn. Stopping oneself in their thinking can break the cycle of obsessive thoughts. Distracting one’s attention with activities or even planning of future ones can divert the attention away from symptoms and reduce anxiety.
  • Thoughts: Pay attention to the thought patterns that occur when experiencing obsessive compulsive symptoms. OCD and perfectionist thinking involves an inability to see a middle ground in a situation. People will think thoughts like “If I’m less of a perfectionist, I will be less successful.” Rigid thinking like this makes it difficult to handle the ability to enjoy whatever one is doing in the present moment and realizing that this is probably the closest they can ever get to the idea of being perfect.
  • Allowance: In order to change one’s neural pathways and reduce their perfectionist behavior, one needs to change the way they think and respond to things. Finding the common triggers responsible for one’s anxiety is a good place to start. Subjecting oneself to a small degree of failure can help condition the mind to become more comfortable with imperfection. Simply doing a task until one feels satisfied only reinforces OCD.
  • Refocusing: Obsessive compulsive thoughts are time consuming, directing the attention away from more important things. Refocusing one’s attention on things that matter in life cannot only divert one’s attention from their anxiety, but reduce it by thinking about more positive things. Although perfection seems obtainable in the mind of a perfectionist, it is important to realize that the mind will never allow it – chasing an idea that can never become reality only leads to anxiety, depression, and exhaustion in the long run.

Time: Perfectionists tend to procrastinate, filling their time with compulsive thoughts that are ostensibly unproductive. Instead of stalling to avoid anxiety and failure, taking control of one’s time and approaching the causes of one’s anxiety with a healthier attitude will not only reduce perfectionist thoughts but allow one to be more productive as well.

Many young adults can get caught up with the pressure of having to be perceived as popular, placing unneeded stress on themselves and prioritizing them over more important things such as focusing on their education. If left unaddressed, these unhealthy patterns of thinking can continue into adulthood, developing into serious issues. If obtaining some elusive notion of perfection really is something that one feels is a legitimate desire, then it may help to realize that the only true judge of it is yourself.

The most successful people tend to also be the ones that can accept failure without it destroying their motivation and hindering their efforts. If perfection is measured by the amount of happiness or success one amasses during their lifetime, then exhausting oneself with OCD and anxiety over petty things are not good ways to obtain either. By stopping and refocusing on the things that matter, one can find more meaning and happiness in their lives than an obsessive pursuit of perfection ever could.


In the pursuit to achieve perfection, teens are often put under tremendous pressure. Unable to handle the pressure and burdens, they often succumb to mental health disorders and substance abuse. It is important that one watches out their teens for symptoms of mental health disorders and seeks help at the earliest if and when needed.

If your teen or a teen you know is suffering from mental health problems, get in touch with the Adeona Health, the leading mental health rehab for teens  aged between 12 to 17. We excel in providing long-term teen mental health treatment personalized to help them achieve their treatment goals. Call our 24/7 mental health helpline (888) 997-3966 to know more about our research-backed mental health treatment programs. You can also chat online with our representative for further assistance.