OCD in Children
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder that deals with obsessions – recurring thoughts and compulsions – recurring behaviors. Individuals who have OCD often find themselves dealing with thoughts that are sometimes irrational and mostly unwanted. These could be obsessive fear of touching dirty objects and compulsive rituals like excessive handwashing.
Preschool children often have rituals around their regular meals, bating, or even bedtime. They perform these rituals to have a more stable sense and view of the world. School-aged children create patterns around the games they play, how the sports they choose, or even when they recite rhymes. Teenagers start collecting objects under the guise of ‘hobbies.’ Doing these rituals enables children to effectively socialize and deal with anxiety.
These obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals can be persistent, and the urge can be powerful. So much so that they may even interfere with their daily lives and usual development.
How to Identify OCD in Children
The symptoms of obsessive thoughts in include:
- Unwanted and often disturbing thoughts or images of violent/alarming things, like harming people around them
- You may find themselves often worrying about bad things happening, or doing something terrible themselves like lying
- They may feel like they have to be right all the time
- Obsessing over symmetry, order, or exactness
- They often worry about getting sick or worry about people around them getting sick
Compulsions may sometimes be related to their obsessions. For example, germ-phobic children may feel the need to wash their hands again and again.
Examples of these compulsions amongst children who suffer from OCD include:
- Repetitive counting
- Elaborate rituals performed at a specific time every single day
- Excessive hand washing
- Repeating words, numbers, or sound to themselves
- Rearrangement of things
- Might seek reassurance from people around them
Coping as a parent of a child with OCD
It can be challenging to parent a child with OCD. While there is no one correct way to parent, as every child and every parent is different, there are always ways to cope. However, learning about OCD and getting acquainted with their disorder and its effects is the first step.
- Children usually don’t have heavy insight into their obsessions, unlike adults. Help them understand the nature of their irrational thoughts.
- The content of a child’s obsessive thoughts may be different. So as a parent, don’t compare. A child may fear a lot about losing their family members, and hence their compulsions may be extremely family-centered.
- Learning about your child’s OCD may help you reduce your own stress levels, creating a generally calm environment in the house for your child to function.
OCD can be a challenging disorder to deal with, especially if you parent a child with an OCD disorder. However, with the correct amount of understanding and empathy, you can make it a lot better for the patient to deal with it.