Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is linked with impairment of daily life functioning. Symptoms can come and go in severity over time and may be severe, moderate, or mild. Symptoms may fluctuate in their intensity from day to day and week to week. Some common symptoms to look for in children may include:
- Concern over harm occurring to a loved one
- Concern over germs
- Concern over being dirty
- Checking and rechecking items
- Desire to do things perfectly and becoming upset if perfect is not achieved
- Erasing again and again to get their school work to meet their standards – sometimes to the point of the paper having a hole in it
- Organizing and reorganizing materials at school and belongings at home
- Being very particular about the feeling of their clothing on their skin
- Needing to equal out body movements – if one hand touches something, the other one has to as well
OCD can be broken into two parts of understanding. One is defining an obsession. The other is defining a compulsion. When you put these two definitions together, you can gain an understanding of what your child is struggling with.
Obsessions are described as continuous thoughts, urges, or images that are intrusive and unwanted. These thoughts, urges, or images cause anxiety or distress in most people. The person experiencing obsession typically tries to ignore, stop them from happening, and/or tries to replace the obsessions with some other thought or action (through a compulsion).
Compulsions are described as repetitive behaviors (hand washing, checking) or mental acts (counting, repeating words or phrases to oneself) that a person feels that they must do in response to an obsession as described above. Compulsions are used in order to try to prevent or reduce anxiety or distress, or to prevent some dreaded event or situation from happening. Despite these attempts, the behaviors or acts performed are not things that will help to solve in situation in reality. Tip: Young children may not be able to speak about what they attempting to resolve or prevent through their compulsions.
A person living with OCD attempts to remain in control by performing tasks to reassure themselves that everything will be okay and to feel calm. For example, a person may have to check and re-check to make sure the stove knobs are completely straight and in the off position in order to feel secure enough that the house will not burn down. The number of times needed to check the stove may always be a pre-determined number or may increase as it takes more reassurance to decrease the anxiety.
Many people describe obsessive-compulsive disorder as feeling “stuck”. Their attempts to take control of the situation only result in being ruled by the disorder. With the right help, people can effectively manage their symptoms.
Treatment and Tips
1. Contact your child’s doctor and/or a mental health professional to help ease your child’s discomfort.
2. Have patience when working with your child. OCD can take considerable time out of the day. Providing a caring and patient approach with your child will help to keep anxiety at it’s lowest level.
3. Develop a behavior plan with your child that addresses their specific thoughts and ways to reduce the anxiety without (or reduced) need for completing the anti-anxiety task. Include many positive reinforcers and consistent discussion of how things are going.
4. Remember that children with OCD may not be able to move to a new task until they have completed their current activity. Do your best to plan accordingly for this factor.
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