Kids often have doubts and worries but if such worries frequently compel them to do certain actions repeatedly, then it becomes a matter for concern. Children with OCD often feel insecure, worrisome and ashamed to tell their parents what is going on. Having OCD at home and school can be embarrassing and scary. Watching a child struggling with OCD can leave any parent feeling helpless. But, there is a hope for children with OCD – let us understand it.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
OCD is a disorder in which kids become preoccupied with some repeated behaviors owing to constant worrying, often irrational, wrong, dirty and scary thoughts that intrude their mind and make them think that something bad could happen if they don’t behave in certain ways.
OCD is a form of anxiety. It affects 1-2% of general population. An affected youngster could either have obsessions, compulsions or both obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent unwanted thoughts, pictures or urges that affect a child’s routine. Examples of obsessions can be counting up to a number or checking on things believing something bad would happen if they didn’t do it, worrying about germs, contamination and illness. This experience is very distressing for the child and they perform some behaviors often to relieve their anxiety; these repetitive behaviors are called compulsions. Children are aware that these behaviors are senseless but they feel the urge to do it. Examples of compulsions are- repeatedly checking that the light is switched off, washing hands again and again and counting or repeating words in their head.
How does OCD affect children’s day-to-day activities?
Children might be late to school, might not finish homework on time as the compulsions can be time consuming. They repeat these behaviors at school which distract them from their studies or class work. They might lose valuable friendships as they have no time to play or might feel conscious about these behaviors amongst friends and relatives.
Do all repetitive behaviors classify as OCD?
No. It might be normal for kids to place their toys in a particular order or say good bye so many times. Some kids might repeat their behaviors bit more due to stress or significant change in their life. If the behaviors upset the child and start affecting the child’s day-to-day life, please seek advice.
At what age does OCD start?
There is no age limit, OCD can start at as young as 4-5 years.
What causes OCD?
The cause is not very clear. Research suggests a role for chemical in the brain called serotonin. OCD can also run in the families. Sometimes, it can start following a traumatic life event.
What are the early signs or symptoms of OCD?
- If you want to know whether your child has OCD or not watch out carefully for the following early warning signs:
- Irrational fears of something bad due to happen
- Symmetrical Possessions: the urge to have something arranged symmetrically and not tolerating if things are moved around
- Performing task for ‘n’ number of times or fixing on a series of numbers
- Washing hands repeatedly fearing germs or diseases
- Counting steps while walking for no reason
- Repeating or redoing tasks mindlessly
Can OCD be cured?
Yes, OCD can be managed by two ways. 1. Behaviour therapy 2. Medication
It is therefore important for parents to develop awareness of OCD and have in depth knowledge to be able to detect these behaviors in children early on. As a parent, you could guide your child through the acceptance and recovery process. The good news is that OCD, in adults as well as children, is highly treatable if the treatment is started on time.
But the question is how do you know if your child really has OCD? In this regard, please seek help from professionals as early as possible.