11 years old and in distress

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

what is wrong with me? i think it might be ocd but im not sure. i have a fear of going outside in my yard to the point where im almost housebound. the only places i can go out is in an completely enclosed area w a fence. i also have a big fear of being thought of as weak or stupid by strangers and try my best to make a “good impression” and i do not like being around the opposite sex. i am like completely obsessed w this girl i do not even know and i think about her way too much. thinking about her causes a lot of jealousy becouse she likes someone else. i was recently in a store and just went kind if crazy i held on to the cart and said to my family “do not touch the cart or anything in it” i did not want them to touch it because i imagined two levels of use on either side of the cart and i had to have them even for some reason. i had to tap both sides and rock the cart to get it even. it made me very angry when people touched it. it caused me a lot of anxiety. i am an aspiring artist and musician but sometimes i worry that my work will never get discovered and i doubt myself a lot. i am only in 6th grade but sometimes i think about suicide. my parents say just to get over it but i cant. i often fight w my mom. she does not believe me. i also have sexual images and religious images that cause me a lot of stress. i say the same prayer every night and if i dont i think someting bad will happen. i cannot look at or have anything to do w certain numbers and im obsessed w the number 3. i say things 3 times to make somw thoughts go away. i hate being 11 and hate being around people who are older than me even only by a year. i wish it would all stop and would like an answer. what is wrong with me?!

A: I’m very glad you wrote. And I’m very sorry that life is so hard for you right now. You are obviously a particularly smart and thoughtful guy. Your letter reads like someone much older. I hope you can use those smarts to learn ways to help yourself.

Here’s what I think: You are mixing up some stuff that is very normal (being obsessed with the girl, being worried that your work isn’t good enough, fighting with mom) with things that maybe aren’t (needing things to be completely even, upset by numbers, thinking something bad will happen if you don’t say exactly the same prayer). That adds a lot to your distress. Not that normal teen stuff isn’t stressful. It just helps sometimes to know that you’re dealing with the same stuff as the next guy.

As for the other stuff: I can’t give you a final answer type diagnosis on the basis of a letter, of course. But I can tell you that the things that are most distressing are possibly symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). If you do have OCD, it makes sense that ordinary teen issues are getting inflated to the point where they can feel unbearable. And it makes sense that you have trouble being around other people and in places where you don’t feel safe.

The good news is that OCD is treatable. There are medications that tone it down. And some talk therapy will help you learn how to manage it. Furthermore, many people “outgrow” it during their teens and early 20s.

Please talk to your mother about making an appointment for you to see a mental health professional to get a complete evaluation. Perhaps showing her this letter will help. There is no need to go through your teens with this kind of inner stress. A counselor can refer you to a prescriber for medication and can help you and your parents learn some practical strategies to help you take charge of the obsessions and compulsions.

Meanwhile, if you ever have those suicidal thoughts again, please keep this number handy: 800-448-3000. That’s the Boys Town National Hotline. There are counselors there 24/7 who will talk to any young person who is in distress.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jul 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). 11 years old and in distress. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/07/25/11-years-old-and-in-distress/