What to do if my child has OCD?

Pediatric OCD is diagnosed in school-age children between age 7 to 12. The diagnosis of OCD in kids and teens is often overlooked and under-diagnosed. If your child struggles with the following symptoms, your child may struggle with OCD:

These obsessions are the most common among kids and teens:

  • Fear of dirt or germs
  • Fear of contamination
  • A need for symmetry, order, and precision
  • Religious obsessions
  • Preoccupation with body wastes
  • Lucky and unlucky numbers
  • Sexual or aggressive thoughts
  • Fear of illness or harm coming to oneself or relatives
  • Preoccupation with household items
  • Inrusive sounds or words

These compulsions are the most common among kids and teens:

  • Grooming rituals, including hand washing, showering, and teeth brushing
  • Repeating rituals, including going in and out of doorways, needing to move through spaces in a special way, or rereading, erasing, and rewriting
  • Checking rituals to make sure that an appliance is off or a door is locked, and repeatedly checking homework
  • Rituals to undo contact with a “contaminated” person or object
  • Touching rituals
  • Rituals to prevent harming self or others
  • Ordering or arranging objects
  • Counting rituals
  • Hoarding and collecting things of no apparent value
  • Cleaning rituals related to the house or other items

OCD is like the hiccups of the brain. It makes your child get stuck and cannot stop doing the compulsions. When you attempt to interrupt OCD, your child can have a melt down. The cause of OCD is believed to reside in the deep brain circutry that involves prefrontal cortex (orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortexes), basal ganglia, and thalamus. Very rarely, certain autoimmune process after streptococcus infection can trigger OCD and it is called PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with Streptococcal infections).

When you suspect your child struggles with OCD, it is very important to work with professionals who specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Your involvement in treatment process is also very important to the treatment outcomes. Sometimes, medications can facilitate the therapeutic process of CBT for severe cases of OCD. Other alternative treatment for refractory OCD include transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and deep brain stimulation (DBS).

Please check out the following website for resources if your child struggles with OCD.


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