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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Intrusive or repetitive thoughts (obsessions) or the urge to perform certain activities in a certain way (compulsions) are symptoms that characterize obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In children, just as in adults, OCD can interfere with daily life, growth and development.

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and/or urges to complete specific behaviors (compulsions). For example, some children may feel the need to count to a certain number before performing a task. Others may have a certain and specific way they want their crayons laid out in order for them to be able to start coloring. OCD may include both obsessions or compulsions alone, or together.

What are the symptoms of OCD?

Symptoms of OCD include examples of obsessive or compulsive behaviors, like:

  • Having recurring and intrusive unwanted thoughts or urges that make it difficult to concentrate and can cause stress
  • Having the urge to do or say something over and over, or in a specific order

For many children with OCD, they are only able to truly be done with a task or relax without ongoing intrusive thoughts if certain things are done or said in a specific way. For others, obsessions and compulsions are driven by a fear that if they are not conducted in a certain way, something bad will happen. This can lead to anxiety and depression if left untreated.

Treatment Options for OCD

As with any mental illness, evaluation by a healthcare professional is the first step in getting treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sometimes, an evaluation for OCD can reveal other mental health conditions, such as <<tic disorders>>.

Once a diagnosis has been determined, a healthcare provider can work with the child and family to determine the best treatment plan. Oftentimes, for OCD, treatment includes therapy (specifically cognitive-behavioral therapy integrating exposure therapy) and medicine. It’s important for the family to be an active and supportive participant in the therapy process; families can support children with OCD by altering home life to avoid OCD triggers or stressors.

How to prevent OCD

There is no known cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but families can work together to support children with OCD and ensure they get the professional help they need to live happy, healthy lives.