Ana begins her morning routine at exactly 6:15 a.m. every day.
“I get up at the same time every morning, and I have to do the same thing every morning from start to finish,” the Spartanburg County high school freshman said. “And it’s the same at nighttime. I have to do the same exact thing — always, no matter what.”
Routines are a major part of Ana’s life. As a teenager with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, she relies on routines and lists to help ease her anxiety.
“If I don’t do everything exactly right, then I feel uneasy — out of control,” she said.
The disorder effects about 1 out of every 100 school-aged children, according to the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.
Because it runs in Ana’s family, they had some idea what to look for.
“We discussed it with my doctor, and we started working on ways I could manage my feelings,” she said.
Many teens with OCD experience anxiety that goes beyond the typical worries of high school life. They have compulsions or rituals such as hand washing, keeping things in order, or checking something over and over again. These obsessions can cause significant anxiety and can often interfere with a teen’s normal life, academic performance and relationships.
Ana dedicates much of her time to making lists.
“I have a list for everything — everything,” she said. “Just packing for Spring Break means I have to make a list of every possible item I may need.”
Ana spent her spring break on a nine-day mission trip, and she spent hours making lists – 15 of them.
She said it can be frustrating to see her friends get through a day so easily while she feels compelled to spend hours getting ready.
“I pay way too much attention to the details,” she said. “It takes me a lot longer to do basic things, because it has to be perfect.”
Ana said she hopes to control her OCD without medication. Right now she spends a lot of time talking to friends and her parents, and she is open about her feelings, especially when she’s stressed or worried.
“I think that as of now I’ve mastered how to be organized, make lists, write everything out,” she said. “But I try to have ways to calm down when I feel things getting worse.”