Jeremy had always been a high-achiever and a perfectionist. After starting high school, his fear of making mistakes became overwhelming and started to take over his life.
He would obsess about small details on homework and tests. He would redo things to try and calm his worries that he was fundamentally careless and irresponsible. Of course, in reality, he was more careful and responsible than anyone!
Jeremy got into a habit of spending hours checking his answers on assignments and rereading homework to ensure that he didn’t miss anything.
When he would get a 97% on an exam, he would obsess about the 3% that he missed, and viewed it as a failure even though he still earned an A. He started spending so much time in his room doing schoolwork that his friends gave up on trying to hang out with him. By now, it was becoming clearer to Jeremy’s parents that he might have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Jeremy became upset very easily when he was not sure whether he had forgotten other things, like locking the door before bed. He couldn’t sleep without running downstairs several times to ensure that his parents had set the alarm properly. He would check the locks at least 5 times before leaving the house for school, which was very annoying to his parents and sister, as it often made them late for school and work. His family was so confused by his unusual behaviors.
Things became even worse when Jeremy got his learner’s permit and began driving. He was constantly terrified that he had hit a person or an animal, which led him to pull over and check under the car every time he drove, even when his mom assured him that it was nothing. His worries continued to haunt him, and he started checking local news website dozens of times per day to see whether there was a hit-and-run that he was responsible for. Part of him knew this was irrational, but he felt like he couldn’t stop himself.
In addition to his constant anxiety and stress about making mistakes, Jeremy felt extremely frustrated that no one else seemed to be tortured by these thoughts. He felt weird, crazy, and embarrassed by it.
When his parents became exhausted by Jeremy’s relentless questions and repetition, they decided to try Exposure Therapy for his OCD, which they had heard about from a friend.
At Anxiety Solutions, I (Dr. Camaione) showed Jeremy how to face his fears, and he quickly learned that he was much stronger and braver than he thought he was.
Rather than seeing mistakes as something intolerable, he learned to embrace them and even find humor in slip-ups!
His parents felt relieved even after the first session when we made a behavioral plan that they put into practice right away. I showed them exactly how to respond when Jeremy did his OCD behaviors, and I helped them learn how they could best help him at home.
After several sessions, Jeremy was feeling more relaxed overall and conflict with his sister decreased.
By the end of treatment, he felt like a normal kid. His sleep improved, he stopped worrying about school, got homework done quickly, and he even became more popular in his friend group.
Most importantly, by no longer questioning himself constantly, Jeremy’s self-esteem increased and he felt much better about himself.