Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition where a child or adolescent experiences unreasonable fearful thoughts and performs ritualistic activities in order to manage those thoughts.
The frequent disturbing thoughts or images are referred to as obsessions. The repetitive rituals performed to try and dispel the obsessions are called compulsions.
Normal routines are healthy for children and can
help them develop and learn to master anxiety.
For example; mealtimes, bath, bedtime, and organized sports are all positive routine activities. However, OCD rituals are so frequent and intense that they can interfere with your child’s daily life.
How do you know if your child has OCD?
The following are examples of obsessions:
- Aggressive impulses, thoughts and/or behaviors
- Counting, thinking about numbers and sequences for long periods of time
- Excessive fear of something terrible happening
- Extreme attention to detail
- Intense preoccupation with dirt and germs
- Persistent thoughts of performing extremely distasteful sexual acts
- Preoccupation with perfection, symmetry or order
- Preoccupation with remembering trivial things
- Repeated doubts (for example, did I lock the door?)
- Thoughts about violence towards someone else or their self
- Thoughts conflicting with religious beliefs
The following are examples of compulsions:
- Asking the same question repeatedly
- Constant checking and rechecking (for example, checking if a door is locked)
- Excessive counting, recounting and/or grouping
- Hoarding objects
- Repeated obscene words or gestures
- Repeated words, sounds, numbers, and/or music to self
- Repeated hand-washing (often more than 100 times a day)
- Repeated words spoken by self or others
What causes OCD? The exact cause is unknown, but research suggests that it’s a neurological brain disorder caused by a deficiency of the chemical, serotonin, in the brain. OCD tends to run in families.
What should you do if you believe your child has OCD? Contact your pediatrician to set up an appointment for evaluation. If further assessment is needed, your pediatrician may recommend evaluation by a licensed behavioral health professional. OCD can be effectively treated, usually with a combination of individual therapy and medication.