OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

What is OCD?

OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – was previously considered as a type of anxiety disorder. However, it’s now treated as a unique condition. Individuals suffering with this disorder have numerous recurring thoughts and behaviours. Children suffering from OCD are distraught with harmful feelings and actions. Such cycles of distressing images are endless, causing kids to act in certain ways, again and again.

Parents must be aware of the distinctive impact OCD has on children, so that they can help them in getting an effective cure for it.

Causes of OCD

Many parents cannot diagnose OCD, labelling it as a “phase” that their child is going through. They consider their child’s repetitive misbehaviour to be deliberate in order to attract attention.

There are also no confirmations on what exactly causes OCD. However, recent studies have shown a series of potential factors that may be involved. It’s a neurobiological disorder, one which makes children behave in a certain way.

The potential factors can also be classified into three kinds.

Biological Factors

Experts say that OCD comes from various brain pathways which have problems in filtering messages resulting in bad judgments and body movements. The brain is a complex structure. Each cell in the brain has nerve cells called neurons. In order to function properly, these neurons have to communicate with the help of neurotransmitters. These are chemicals which carry signals to the child’s brain. Previously, scientists related OCD with levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. When the flow of serotonin gets blocked, the brain’s system misinterprets information. There are further false alarms which trigger danger to the mind, and instead of getting filtered, the mind dwells on them repeatedly.

Genetic Tendency

Furthermore, there are numerous researches upon the fact that OCD can also be a genetically transmitted disease in some cases. This suggests that OCD can be inherited from parents or blood relatives as well.

Environmental Factors

Children already at risk of OCD may find it triggered by certain environmental factors.

  • Watching or experiencing emotional and physical abuse
  • Changes in their living environment
  • Death of a loved one
  • Relationship changes (divorce or separation)
  • School transformations
  • Past traumatic incidences or experiences
  • Sudden illness

Is It a Common Problem in Children?

It’s important to know that OCD in children is not common, or something that can be ignored. Children suffering from OCD cannot stop doing things the actions on their own. This makes life miserable for their parents and themselves.

Young ones with OCD feel extremely frustrated at not being able to do a task in a particular way. They also suffer from low self-esteem because of the shocking thoughts they keep having, and prefer isolation as a result of self-blame.

Obsessions and Compulsions in Children

A child with OCD has grave difficulty in being attentive as the disturbing thoughts keep returning. They might also become annoyed because of the pressure they receive on a daily basis.


In young children who develop OCD, the most common obsessions are:

  • Fear or repulsion of dirt and germs
  • Contamination fear
  • Need for precision and order
  • Aggressive thoughts that might be sexual
  • Religious obsessions
  • Obsession with household items
  • Fear of harm towards self or others


The common compulsions may include:

  • Repetitive grooming rituals (washing hands, bathing or brushing)
  • Checking rituals, making sure that a door is locked again and again
  • Arranging rituals (alphabetically or numerically)
  • Cleaning repeatedly
  • Reading and rewriting things or rituals of walking in the same spot
  • Hoarding things
  • Counting rituals

Signs and Symptoms of OCD

Recognising children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder might be a difficult task for grownups, especially when their child hides the symptoms. Adults often misinterpret their disorder as meaningless tantrums or opposition.

Symptoms of OCD may also fluctuate and vary over time which can cause difficulties in the diagnosis. Even though fear of dirt and its related cleaning rituals are the most common symptoms of OCD in kids, there are some children who don’t practice their worries and behaviour until alone, or in school.

As a parent, you must also be on the watch for the following danger signals of OCD:

  • Constant irritation when your kid’s toy arrangement is touched
  • Raw hands due to excessive washing and broken fingernails
  • Increase in laundry
  • Long hours spent in the washroom
  • High soap or shower gel usage
  • A fear that someone is going to come and cause harm
  • Asking the same questions and worrying too much about something or someone

Diagnosing OCD and its Treatment

Parents must not hesitate in taking actions if they see some of the above obsessions in their child. For that, first of all, they will have to comprehend if their kid has OCD or not.


No lab or test can identify OCD. It can only be pointed out by a mental health professional, who is aware of the disorder and is able to conduct a specific interview to determine it. Once diagnosed, your child’s therapist will tell you about the treatment options available for your child’s condition.


There are two combination of treatments for OCD—behaviour therapies and medications.

The behaviour therapy which can cause relief and is recommended by internationally recognized institutions is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Some children feel better by just CBT alone, while others may need a combination of medicines along with it. In most cases, the medicines are used until the child is able to manage successfully with the help of therapy alone.

The physicians often include the families of such children in the therapy as well, as parents play a crucial role in the recovery and treatment. Some tips that the therapist may provide include:

  • Don’t judge your child, as that will make them withdraw away from you and make their symptoms worse
  • Practice the “Talk Therapy” and listen to their fears and problems, at the same time being supportive about them
  • Join healthy sessions and OCD support groups where your child will meet children having the same difficulties
  • Keep in mind that it’s OCD that is causing the problems, not your child
  • Even if there are small improvements, praise them at once

Remember, your support and encouragement will go a long way in helping your child with OCD.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.

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