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Could Your Child Have OCD? A Parent's Guide To Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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Many children exhibit repetitive tendencies from time to time. They may prefer a particular bedtime ritual or they may need to carry a certain toy or stuffed animal with them throughout the day. Parents may wonder if their child's actions are normal or something to be concerned about.

Distinguishing whether or not a child is displaying normal behavior or not can be difficult for a parent. Understanding obsessive compulsive disorder and knowing what symptoms to look for can help you determine if your child needs to be further evaluated by a child psychologist.

What is OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder of the brain. Sufferers of the condition experience extreme anxiety. Their mind seems to get stuck on a certain image or thought. They have an uncontrollable urge to perform compulsive tasks or actions to help control their obsessive thoughts.

OCD typically begins in childhood or early adolescence. Most of the time, OCD is diagnosed before a teen reaches adulthood.

Symptoms of OCD in children

Symptoms of OCD include excessive worry or fear about a particular subject. For example, a child may obsess about a parent getting in a car accident or dying. They may have an unnatural fear of germs and illness. They may be preoccupied with neatness and may need to have toys or personal belongings arranged in a particular order.

Children may question a parent relentlessly wanting reassurance that the parent won't get in an accident or die. Those who are afraid of germs or illness may wash their hands repeatedly. They can be preoccupied with sequencing objects and arranging items in a room and, they may become very upset if anyone disrupts the order of the objects.

Children with OCD may count and recount items. They may repeatedly check to make sure their homework is in the proper folder or their school books are in their backpack, etc.

What causes OCD?

It is not entirely understood exactly what causes OCD to develop. Some studies indicate a possible link between OCD and insufficient serotonin levels in the brain. However, this is not conclusive and more studies are needed.

Environmental factors may also be involved. These may include traumatic life events, changes in lifestyle, or severe illness.

Treatment of OCD

If you child displays symptoms of OCD, they should be evaluated by a child psychologist. If the psychologist diagnoses your child with OCD, they will develop a treatment protocol specifically for your child.

The condition is typically treated with counseling, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. Family counseling may be suggested if there are issues in the home that need to be addressed.  Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor medications may also be used to ease symptoms.

Early diagnosis and treatment is typically very effective in controlling the symptoms of OCD.

Understanding OCD and its symptoms will help you seek the proper treatment if you suspect your child may have the condition. Early intervention, and working closely with your child's psychologist to find the best treatment protocol, will play a vital role in your child's future health and happiness. For more information, contact a professional such as Paula Conforti, D.C.S., C.Psych. Assoc.