child with ocd

Does Your Child Have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Approximately one in 100 children lives with a condition called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). While OCD is a serious and chronic mental health disorder, treatments can help children with OCD live full and happy lives. Parents who are aware of this disorder, its symptoms, possible causes and treatment options can help their children if they develop the disorder.

Symptoms of Childhood OCD

As with adult OCD, the symptoms of OCD in children can be put into two categories: obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. A child has an obsession when he or she cannot stop thinking about a subject, even when the thoughts cause distress. Some examples of obsessions in children with OCD include:

  • Worrying about if things are placed in the right way (straight vs. uneven)
  • Thinking a lot about the health and safety of themselves or someone they love
  • Worrying about germs even in clean places
  • Obsessing over whether they have broken a rule, sinned, or otherwise been bad

Often, these obsessive thoughts cause children to have compulsive behaviors. The child may know that the behavior is illogical but still feel the need to do it. Preventing the child from completing the compulsive behavior may cause a major meltdown and anxiety. Some examples of compulsive behaviors include:

  • Repeating tasks a specific number of times
  • Washing and rewashing things
  • Checking and rechecking things for safety, such as door locks
  • Avoiding unlucky things

The specific obsessions and compulsions are unique for each child with OCD. However, the commonality between all cases is that these thoughts and actions cause significant distress in the child.

Causes of OCD in Children

As with most mental illnesses, the causes of OCD in children can vary between patients and sometimes are never fully known. In some cases, a streptococcal infection (strep throat) can trigger OCD in children. These rare cases come with a diagnosis called PANDAS, which stands for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. This diagnosis continues to be rare and even controversial, but it is important to note. Children with a family history of OCD seem to be more likely to develop the disorder than their peers. However, parents should avoid blaming themselves for an OCD diagnosis, regardless of family history. Children and their parents do not cause the disorder.

Testing and Treatment Options

If you believe your child shows signs of OCD, you’re not alone. An experienced psychiatrist can help you determine if our child’s discomfort is the result of OCD or a different disorder. The professional will talk to you and your child about symptoms and complete an assessment based on your answers. While getting a diagnosis of OCD may seem like a scary ordeal, it can be quite freeing for many families. Once the disorder has a name, families can seek treatment and start healing. Treatment options for children with OCD include medication, individual therapy, and family therapy. Most often, medications for OCD are SSRIs such as Zoloft and Prozac. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common counseling approach for individual therapy. Children in these sessions learn healthy coping mechanisms. Family therapy helps parents and other loved ones learn how to aid in the child’s healing and avoid triggers.If you believe your child may have OCD, reach out to a Georgia psychiatry clinic today. We can help you find the diagnosis and treatment you need to help your child feel happy and healthy once again.

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