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How to Identify Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Your Child

How to Identify Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Your Child

Does your child seem to have an intense fear or obsession with topics like death, germs, organization or any other topics? Does it seem like these thoughts are frequent and uncontrollable? Does the fear of these topics seem to affect their home, school and social life? 

Does your child seem to have ritualized or repetitive behaviors that often take up most of their time? Are they unable to just “let it go” when they are completing these rituals or behaviors?  

Your child might be experiencing OCD. 

How Common is OCD in Children?

In the United States, half a million children suffer from experiencing OCD. To put it in perspective, every one in two-hundred children, or four to five children in an elementary school setting, or 20 teenagers in a high school classroom are affected by OCD. 

Although the root cause of OCD for individuals is never the same, there is effective treatment available for these persons to achieve a life less riddled by their OCD. 

What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is attributed for its intrusive, uncontrollable thoughts and fears, otherwise referred to as obsessions, present in one’s mind. These obsessions are extremely difficult to cope with. This results in individuals suffering from OCD to partake in behaviors that “alleviate” the intense emotional reactions that come with obsessions, otherwise known as compulsions. They’re defined as compulsory due to the nature of frequency in which individuals with OCD deem it necessary to complete their compulsions, which further impacts their everyday life. OCD has the ability to negatively affect an individual’s perception of reality, their relationship with themselves and others, sociability, and other co-occurring mental health conditions like anxiety.  

The exact root cause of  OCD also remains undetermined. Research displays that in some cases OCD can stem from a lack of serotonin in one’s neurological system, genetics, trauma, or even streptococcal infections, but these are not exact diagnoses for all. 

Signs & Symptoms of OCD in Children

OCD takes a unique form per child, and can begin to develop as young as four years old, so it’s important to note that these signs and symptoms are the most common, however are not the end-all be-all to OCD prognostics.

  • A severe fixation on dirt or germs.
  • Intrusive thoughts about violence, causing harm to others or oneself..
  • Preoccupation with order, symmetry, or precision.
  • Persistent thoughts concerning engaging in offensive sexual acts or prohibited behaviors.
  • Disturbed by thoughts conflicting with personal religious beliefs.
  • Intense desire to remember even the most insignificant details.
  • Excessive focus on minute particulars.
  • Excessive worrying about potential negative events.
  • Aggressive thoughts, urges, or actions. 

Signs of OCD in compulsions and behaviors in children could look like this: 

  • Engaging in frequent hand washing ( exceeding 100 times daily)
  • Repeatedly verifying and rechecking, such as ensuring a door is securely locked.
  • Adhering strictly to established rules of order, such as dressing in a specific sequence each day.
  • Accumulating and hoarding various items.
  • Engaging in repetitive counting and recounting.
  • Categorizing objects or arranging things in a particular order.
  • Iterating words spoken by oneself or others.
  • Repeatedly posing the same questions.
  • Persistently using offensive language or making vulgar gestures.
  • Reciting sounds, words, numbers, or music to oneself repeatedly. 

These actions are typically done multiple times in one day, enough to disturb and interfere with one’s everyday life. 

Camp Courage

Your child deserves the best quality care possible to them, and at Thrive we’ve developed a program specifically designed for children struggling with OCD. Camp Courage for children and adolescents with OCD are specialized and intensive, aiming to immerse patients, their families, and support systems in a comprehensive treatment experience. The objective of these programs is to equip patients and their support systems with the necessary tools and assistance to establish a path towards lasting recovery. 

Read more about our program and how to sign up. 

About Megan Meaney

Megan Meaney earned both a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) and a master’s degree in social work (MSW) at Roberts Wesleyan College in New York. As a therapist at Thrive Wellness Reno, she provides play therapy and outpatient therapy for children and adults dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), and perinatal loss and grief, among other mental and behavioral struggles. Megan loves the career path she’s chosen as she finds fulfillment in fostering healing in a safe and supportive environment. She believes we aren’t meant to move through our lives alone and enjoys lifting others up as she actively listens to what clients are going through and provides an outside perspective on how to process their experiences and emotions.