Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. Obsessions are recurring thoughts. Compulsions are recurring behaviors.
A child with OCD has obsessive thoughts that are not wanted. They are linked to fears, such as touching dirty objects. He or she uses compulsive rituals to control the fears, such as excessive handwashing.
As children grow, rituals and obsessive thoughts normally happen with a purpose and focus based on age. Preschool children often have rituals and routines around meals, bathing, and bedtime. These help to stabilize their expectations and view of their world. School-aged children often create group rituals as they learn to play games, take part in team sports, and recite rhymes. Older children and teens start to collect objects and have hobbies. These rituals help children to socialize and learn to deal with anxiety.
When a child has OCD, obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals can become very frequent and strong. They may interfere with daily living and normal development. OCD is more common in teens.
Symptoms of childhood OCD
Each child may have different symptoms. These are the most common symptoms:
- An extreme obsession with dirt or germs
- Repeated doubts, such as whether or not the door is locked
- Interfering thoughts about violence, hurting or killing someone, or harming oneself
- Long periods of time spent touching things, counting, and thinking about numbers and sequences
- Preoccupation with order, symmetry, or exactness
- Ongoing thoughts about doing offensive sexual acts or forbidden, taboo behaviors
- Troubled by thoughts that are against personal religious beliefs
- A great need to know or remember things that may be very minor
- Too much attention to detail
- Too much worrying about something bad occurring
- Aggressive thoughts, urges, or behaviors
Compulsive behaviors are the repetitive rituals used to ease anxiety caused by the obsessions. They can be excessive, disruptive, and time-consuming. They may interfere with daily activities and relationships. They may include:
- Repeated handwashing (often 100 or more times a day)
- Checking and rechecking many times, such as making sure that a door is locked
- Following firm rules of order, such as putting on clothes in the very same order each day
- Hoarding objects
- Counting and recounting a lot
- Grouping objects or putting things in a certain order
- Repeating words spoken by oneself or others
- Asking the same questions again and again
- Repeatedly using four-letter words or making rude (obscene) gestures
- Repeating sounds, words, numbers, or music to oneself
Support, guidance and assistance of a therapist is fundamental for a child to overcome repetition, anxiety and meet developmental mile stones. If you or someone you know match the symptoms listed above, I am confident that I can help and invite you to contact me today for a free consultation.