OCD Obsessive Compulsive Disorder written in notebook on white table

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may be known among adults, however much less is known about children with OCD. Parents of children with OCD may have limited access to understanding this condition which could be frustrating and worrying at the same time. It is important for parents to recognize the signs of OCD and understand why they feel this way before finding out how they can support their child suffering with OCD.

Understanding OCD in Children

Some children have thoughts from time to time that disturbs them even though these thoughts do not appear to be logical. It could be something as small as feeling the need to wear a certain piece of outfit or they will suffer bad luck, or the need to constantly wash their hands as they feel easily disgusted by touching things. For most children, these thoughts and behavior stop after a certain age. However, for other children, these thoughts persist no matter how hard they try to stop or ignore them. Children with OCD behave this way because they believe that the behavior will make them feel better. These thoughts are termed as obsessions and are also known as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Some Signs You May Look Out For

Different children have different forms of obsessions, compulsions or both. They may include:

  • Impulses, unwanted thoughts or images that flash in their mind repeatedly that causes them distress and anxiety
  • Doing something over and over following a fixed set of rules that has to be done following the exact order to make the obsession go away
  • Thinking or saying something over and over (like repeating words or counting again and again whether out loud or silently)
  • Doing something again and again (like checking repeatedly whether the door is locked)

A common misconception of OCD is the irrational desire to be extremely clean and tidy, but OCD is much more than that. Someone with OCD may get too obsessed with one thing that they only focus on the issue and do it again and again.

What Parents can do to Cope with Children with OCD

  1. Creating awareness between you and your child about OCD – the first step to supporting your child with OCD is to show understanding towards their behavior. They may show signs of embarrassment regarding their thoughts, hence it is important to reassure them and explain to them what OCD is about. It is also important for you to read up on OCD beforehand.
  2. Giving a nickname for their OCD – most of the time, children do not know how to communicate about their OCD and feel cornered or insecure when you try to stop them. Externalizing their OCD with a nickname like Uncle Germs (depending on what their OCD is) may help in communication between you and your child.
  3. Don’t repeatedly point out their rituals – stopping the ritual requires a period of time and constantly pointing out their habits may lead them to become secretive as they feel insecure and judged whenever you do so.
  4. Don’t participate in the ritual – show that you can choose not to be part of the habit.

Parental support is always important for children with OCD. It may be challenging but given time, effort, patience and seeking out professional help, it can be overcome.

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