Obsessive-compulsive disorder in children and adolescents has become more common in recent years. There are about one in 200 children with OCD.
All children have negative thoughts and worries at times. But the child with OCD cannot stop his disturbing thoughts, images and impulses, no matter what he tries. These obsessive thoughts tend to cause you to behave in a particular and repetitive way.
Parents and caregivers must understand the unique impact that the child with OCD can suffer, so that they can help him or her to obtain effective treatment. Although the signs and symptoms of OCD in children and adults share many similarities, there are important differences.
Similar Symptoms of Other Syndromes
In addition, the signs of the child with OCD may be similar to those of ADHD, autism and Tourette’s syndrome . A thorough medical and psychological assessment can help the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis.
How does the child with OCD feel?
The child with OCD does not always talk about fears, behaviors of the causes of OCD. She may feel ashamed or confused by her fear and keep it to herself. Many children try to hide rituals they do. For worrying about the bullying that other children can do about their fears and rituals.
The child with OCD feels unable to stop focusing on his obsessions. He feels that he needs to perform the rituals to protect himself against bad things that he imagines can happen. For some children, doing a ritual is the only way to feel “that everything is fine”.
Signs Can Parents Watch?
The child with OCD has it for a while before parents, teachers or doctors realize it. Often, parents only find out about their child’s OCD when the child tells them , or when they realize that the child appears to be too preoccupied or is having ritual-like behavior.
Difficulties of Children with OCD
Sometimes, parents may notice other difficulties that may be the result of OCD. For example, a child with OCD may:
- Having trouble concentrating on schoolwork or enjoying activities;
- Being angry, upset, sad or anxious;
- Seeming insecure if you don’t know that everything is fine;
- Having trouble deciding or choosing;
- Take a long time to do daily tasks, such as getting dressed, organizing a backpack, completing your homework or taking a shower;
- Get upset and lose patience if you can’t do something perfect or if you notice that something is out of place;
- Insist on asking parents to say or do something exactly.
What Symptoms Does a Child With OCD Have?
The child with OCD has symptoms that involve repetitive thoughts or images called obsessions. Compulsions represent ritual behaviors that you redo over and over again to banish thoughts.
Examples of obsessive thoughts in a child with OCD may include:
- Excessive concern about germs, dirt, disease
- Repeated doubts, as if the stove is off
- Constant thoughts about an accident with the father or mother
- Excessive concern with symmetry, order and accuracy
- Disturbing thoughts that do not align with the religious education you study
- Excessive concern to know or remember facts that seem very trivial
- Irrational attention to detail
- Excessive worry about something bad happening, like a car accident or someone breaking into your home
- Aggressive thoughts and impulses (may be more likely in teenagers)
Examples of compulsive behaviors in OCD children can include:
- Washing your hands excessively, often more than 100 times a day
- Check repeatedly and recheck to make sure the stove is off or the door is locked
- Strictly follow the rules imposed by herself, such as storing personal objects on a shelf in a particular way and being very upset if someone changes the position of the objects
- Count and retell everything, like the amount of tiles on the floor, or bricks on a wall
- Concern with sequence or grouping of objects
- Repeat the same questions excessively
- Repeat words spoken by yourself or others
- Repeat sounds, words, numbers or music to someone or yourself
Causes of OCD in Children?
Experts do not fully understand what causes the development of the child with OCD or OCD in adults. The studies point to the involvement of a combination of biological and environmental factors.
Research shows a link between insufficient levels of the neurotransmitter (chemicals produced by neurons) and serotonin, in the development of children with OCD. There is some evidence that indicates that parents may pass serotonin inefficiencies to their children. Because of this, scientists also suspect heredity in the development of OCD.
Certain environmental and stressful situations can trigger a child with OCD, as some are predisposed to the disorder. Environmental situations that can cause symptoms or get worse include:
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Drastic changes in the living environment
- Illness (such as streptococcal infections)
- Death of a loved one
- Divorce of parents
- School-related changes or problems
- Other traumatic events and experiences
Since there is no laboratory test to diagnose a child with OCD, doctors base their diagnosis on a comprehensive psychiatric assessment, after ruling out other physical causes for OCD symptoms.
Treatment For Children With OCD?
The individualized treatment for the child with OCD will depend on the doctor’s assessment of the following information:
- Physical examination, health, maturity level, medical status
- Severity of symptoms
- The presence or absence of simultaneous disorders
- Tolerance level for certain drugs
- Tolerance for certain therapeutic strategies
- Expectations for the direction that the disease can take
The child with OCD can be effectively treated, especially if the disorder is diagnosed early . Doctors often use a combination of therapy and medication.
The OCD therapy strategy usually involves a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach . Selective serotonin reabsorption inhibitors (SSRIs) represent the most effective class of drugs for treating children with OCD and adults as well.
The doctor or mental health professional can also recommend family therapy because parents play a critical role in the treatment and recovery of their children.
A considerable number of children with OCD also have a comorbid disorder (they have more than one disease at the same time), which also requires treatment.
What Can Parents Do About It?
Talk to your child about what is going on. Talk supportively, listen and show love . Say something that works for your child’s situation, such as: “I see that you are concerned about small things like: if your socks are clean or if your shoes are aligned”. I realize that you are stressed when you can’t solve something ”.
Explain that something called OCD may be causing concern and fixation. Tell your child that an exam with a doctor can find out if this is what is really going on. Reassure him in the best way, saying that it can improve and that you will be there to help him.
Make an appointment with a child psychiatrist or psychologist. Your child’s pediatric doctor can help you find the right person.
Be part of your child’s therapy . Find out everything you can about how parents can help when their child has OCD. Overcoming OCD is a process. There will be many therapy commitments, and it is important to go to all of them. Practice the things the therapist recommends. Encourage your child.
Get support, and give it away. There are many resources and support for parents and families who deal with OCD. Knowing that you are not alone can help you cope. Sharing success stories with other parents can give you hope and confidence.
See also: Music Therapy for Children
My name is Dr. Alexis Hart I am 38 years old, I am the mother of 3 beautiful children! Different ages, different phases 16 years, 12 years and 7 years. In love with motherhood since always, I found it difficult to make my dreams come true, and also some more after I was already a mother.
Since I imagined myself as a mother, in my thoughts everything seemed to be much easier and simpler than it really was, I expected to get pregnant as soon as I wished, but it wasn’t that simple. The first pregnancy was smooth, but my daughter’s birth was very troubled. Joana was born in 2002 with a weight of 2930kg and 45cm, from a very peaceful cesarean delivery but she had already been born with congenital pneumonia due to a broken bag not treated with antibiotics even before delivery.