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If your child has unwanted obsessions or compulsive behavior, or both, that interfere with his or her daily life, your child might have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is estimated that one in 100 children has OCD, which means that millions of children worldwide are suffering from this disorder. Therefore, if your child is exhibiting symptoms that could be OCD, he or she is not alone.

OCD is considered a neurobiological disorder, which means that the brain of a child with OCD functions differently than the brain of a child who does not have OCD. It is characterized by obsessions and compulsions that can happen, multiple times, on a daily basis. The obsessions can present as: imagining loved ones getting hurt, being afraid of getting sick from touching dirty objects, feeling that something terrible will happen if things are not in the right order, etc. In addition, compulsions can manifest as the child washing their hands repeatedly, continuous praying, counting or tapping, behaving in mildly superstitious ways, etc.

OCD can affect your child in many ways:

  • Ongoing problems at school such as trouble paying attention or doing homework.
  • Physical problems arising from feeling stressed or lack of sleep.
  • Social problems such as trying to avoid social interactions due to fear of behaviors being seen by others. The child begins to spend more time on obsessions and compulsions than spending time with friends or family.
  • Self-esteem can be impacted due to worrying and thinking that they are different from friends and family or that they are not in control of their behavior.
  • Other mental health problems.

To be the parent of a child with OCD can be challenging. Feelings of guilt or blaming oneself for your child’s OCD can impact the relationship and feed into the compulsive behaviors. However, if you notice your child has the following symptoms, it is advisable to have your child evaluated for OCD by a licensed professional.

  • Severe obsessions and compulsions beyond what his/her peers experience.
  • Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior that upsets the child, prevents them from enjoying life, and interferes with the family’s everyday activities.
  • Symptoms that last for more than six months.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for OCD. This form of therapy gives your child the support needed to develop skills to change their patterns of thinking and behaviors by identifying situations that might trigger their anxiety and resisting the urge to engage in the compulsive behavior. In addition, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and mindfulness together with the CBT are complementary forms of support that can be provided. Overall, these techniques help your child manage symptoms better and minimize the chances that the OCD will come back in the future. Monique Deely, LCSW at McLean Counseling Center
and Mount Vernon Counseling Center is a Child/ Adolescent and Adult Therapist who provides comprehensive OCD treatment.