How Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Ocd Manifests in Children

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Children are innately routine-oriented, which can mask signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, often referred to as “ocd.” Since these little people learn through repetition, they enjoy watching the same television shows and videos over and over without being bored. The same is true for story books. Children delight with having them read over and over, since they learn to memorize the words in this way. Therefore, how can parents recognize when there is a potential problem, such as obsessive compulsive disorder that needs attention?

According to, some ocd manifests itself in such ways as:

Chapped hands from over-washing them
Excessive use of paper towels or toilet tissue
Erasures in homework that cause holes in paper
Worries that something bad will happen to family members
Long time preparing for bedtime
Reluctance to wear certain clothes because they associate them with an unpleasant incident
Concerns about health of family members

The International OCD Foundation offers some additional observations that parents can make:

Physical illness due to stress and lack of sleep Low self-esteem, which can be due to the belief that they think differently from other children Anger can become problematic Problems dealing with friends Inability to deal well with disrupted routines

Certainly there are more signs but these are good triggers for seeking professional advice. You may observe your child will not touch an eating utensil that has touched the table or fallen onto the floor; they have a need to clean the seat of the chair before sitting on it; they won’t eat foods that touch each other or they repeatedly wear the same clothing.  While their actions are compulsive, children are keenly aware of how differently they may be from their siblings and friends, which adds more stress to their already anxious life.

Other tell-tale signs may be frustration over inability to perfectly line-up toys or crayon within a picture’s lines; clothes and personal items may be organized in such a way that they become upset when another person moves any item and their closets may be so orderly that shirts/blouses are grouped together but sorted by colors, as are pants, jackets, etc.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers this explanation of how the child’s brain processes thoughts.

“To cope with his/her feelings, a child may develop "rituals" (a behavior or activity that gets repeated). Sometimes the obsession and compulsion are linked; ‘I fear this bad thing will happen if I stop checking or hand washing, so I can't stop even if it doesn't make any sense.’”

These young people are acutely aware that they behave differently from others. They know that their worries are excessive when compared to those of their peers. Certainly they do not comprehend why such differences exist, but once diagnosed and presented with treatment options, their world begins to be lessen in intensity. There is some relief in understanding their condition and knowing that it has a name. In some cases, medicines are available that can bring some liberation from the isolation that they experience.

More about this author: Joyce M. George-Knight

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