OCD in Children
Minor superstitions and rituals are common in childhood. They usually come and go. Even if they are more frequent and extensive, as long as they don’t take up too much of the day and cause distress, they do not rise to the level of a “psychiatric disorder.”
What Is OCD?
Children with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) have disturbing thoughts and images (obsessions) which cause great anxiety and which they cannot stop, no matter how hard they try. Repeated rituals (compulsions) are behaviors the child feels forced to perform in order to stop the obsessions, but to little avail. The age of onset of severe OCD symptoms is usually in young adulthood, but it can start earlier. Anxious children and those with a parent or sibling who suffers from OCD are more prone to developing the condition, and stress may precipitate it. The child is very ashamed of the behaviors and tries to hide them. Full-blown OCD is a serious disorder. It can make the child’s daily life a misery. The rituals take up more and more time, disrupting functioning and relationships.
What Are the Symptoms of OCD?
If your child suffers from OCD, you will recognize some of the following:
- He is very afraid of germs and dirt and worries about getting sick
- She thinks that her parents will get into an accident and die
- He gets scary violent thoughts or sexual images
- She is constantly worried that the stove hasn’t been turned off or that the door isn’t locked
- He seems preoccupied with symmetry and order.
- She washes her hands over and over, until they get raw
- He gets out of bed several times to make sure that the door is locked
- She has complicated rituals, involving many steps. If she does one step in the sequence incorrectly, she has to start all over
- He needs the items and possessions in his room to be placed and lined up “just right.” If you move one thing while cleaning, he gets very upset
- She counts or repeats words to herself a specific number of times
- He is a hoarder, keeping all kinds of unnecessary stuff in his room or book bag.