Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children – What is it?

From the time our children are small, we encourage them to have routines. Children function best when they have regular wake and sleep times, as well as times for regular meals, chores, and homework. If you’ve noticed that your children have developed routines of their own, especially if the routines are repetitive, don’ t count out a possibility of a diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

What Does Child Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Look Like?

OCD falls under the umbrella of anxiety disorders. As its name suggests, OCD is a condition that causes unwanted obsessions and compulsions. When children can’t suppress these thoughts and actions, they feel extreme stress and worry. Obsessions and compulsions usually have their basis in some internal rule that a child thinks will neutralize the anxiety. But, the thought or action isn’t connected in a realistic way to the issue that triggers the anxiety.

OCD, which is characterized by thoughts and actions that are repetitive in nature, can be a behavioral act. This may include repeatedly washing hands, locking or relocking doors for a specific number of times, or lining up objects. Touching a specific number or parts of their bodies in a symmetric fashion may also be present

A mental act of OCD resembles a child who repeatedly asks the same questions or repeatedly seeks reassurance. Mental acts of OCD are not as easy to detect, so they are not easily discoverable by parents or children.

Rates of Child OCD

OCD may be more common than you think. Tamar Chansky, director of the Children’s Center for OCD and Anxiety in Philadelphia, states that at least 1 in 100 American children have OCD and that the average age of onset is 10.2.

Is this starting to sound like your child? If so, it may be time to visit a psychologist who can diagnose a condition of obsessions, compulsions or both. One questionnaire that is commonly used to detect OCD is the Y-BOCS or Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale. A psychologist will be able to determine the extent that the obsessions or compulsions are interfering with your child’s normal activities and the severity of the condition.

The good news is that children don’t need to suffer with OCD because it is treatable. Your child’s therapist will set up a course of treatment that includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), possible referral for a medication evaluation with a psychiatrist, or both.

About Susan Gehrig, PhD

Susan Gehrig, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of Paradox Psychological Services located in Carlsbad. She has a passion for supporting the wellbeing of children and teens. Her expertise is in child mindfulness and self-compassion, cognitive behavioral therapy, and child development. Dr. Gehrig provides psychoeducational testing and therapy services to help build a plan for success. Paradox provides services for families of San Diego North County and greater areas.

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