Does Your Child Have OCD?

Does Your Child Have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Common OCD Behaviors in Children

OCD can make daily life difficult for children and families. The OCD behaviors often take up a great deal of time and energy, making it more difficult to complete tasks such as homework or chores or enjoy life. In addition to feeling frustrated or guilty for not being able to control their own thoughts or actions, children with OCD also may suffer from low self-esteem because the disorder can lead to shame or embarrassment. Children often involve their parents in their rituals (for example, asking about a potential illness they think they have), leading to increases in family stress.

Children with OCD may feel pressured because they don’t have enough time to do everything. They might become irritable because they have to stay awake late into the night or miss an activity or outing to complete their rituals. They might have difficulties with attention or concentration because of the intrusive thoughts.

In addition, obsessions and compulsions related to food are common. These can lead to abnormal eating habits (such as eating only one kind of food), thus compromising nutrition.

Studies of children and adolescents with OCD have revealed that the most common obsessions include:

• fear of dirt or germs
• fear of contamination
• a need for symmetry, order, and precision
• religious obsessions
• preoccupation with body wastes
• lucky and unlucky numbers
• sexual or aggressive thoughts
• fear of illness or harm coming to oneself or relatives
• preoccupation with household items
• intrusive sounds or words

The following compulsions have been identified as the most common in children and adolescents:

• grooming rituals, including hand washing, showering, and teeth brushing
• repeating rituals, including going in and out of doorways, needing to move through spaces in a special way, checking to make sure that an appliance is off or a door is locked, and checking homework
• rituals to undo contact with a “contaminated” person or object
• touching rituals
• rituals to prevent harming self or others
• ordering or arranging objects
• counting rituals
• hoarding and collecting things
• cleaning rituals related to the house or other items

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