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  • Dr. Stuti Kumar


Many children have bothersome thoughts now and then, and they might feel compelled to act on those impulses, even if what they do doesn't make sense. For instance, if they don't wear a favorite item of clothing, they can be concerned about ill luck. Even when they try to suppress them or dismiss them, some children's thoughts and inclinations to act in a certain way continue. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in children is characterized by unwanted thoughts that occur frequently, occupy a significant amount of time (more than an hour per day), interfere with daily tasks, or cause extreme distress. Obsessions are the names of the thoughts. The actions are called compulsions. OCD is characterized by obsessions, compulsions, or both.

Obsessive or Compulsive Behavior examples include:

  • Having persistent, unwelcome ideas, urges, or visions that are distressing or anxious.

  • Having to continuously count or repeat words aloud or quietly are only a few examples of repetitive thinking and speaking.

  • Having to repeat actions (such as washing hands, arranging objects in a certain order, or repeatedly verifying the same items, such as whether a door is locked)

  • Having to act repeatedly following strict guidelines to cure an obsession.

Children engage in these behaviors because they believe they will shield them from negative events or improve their mood. However, the behavior is frequently unrelated to the genuine risk of something unpleasant happening or it is excessive, such as washing one's hands several times each hour. OCD is sometimes misunderstood to entail extreme neatness and organization. Cleaning may occasionally be a part of OCD behaviors, however oftentimes an OCD sufferer is more preoccupied with a single task that must be repeated than with organization. Compulsions and obsessions can evolve.

What Warning Signs Might Parents Notice?

  • Obsession:

These are troubling ideas that keep crossing in head. A young person with OCD doesn't want to consider these topics. They believe they cannot stop, though. Obsessions might be detected by parents as severe anxieties or worries. Children who have OCD may become unusually agitated over: Things that seem incorrect or out of place whether terrible thoughts might come true infections, dirt, illness, injury, or harm things that are not straight, even, or arranged "just right".

  • Compulsions (Rituals)

These are behaviors children engage in to feel better. Rituals appear to the youngster as a means of putting an end to thoughts and allaying concerns. They appear to be a means of preventing adverse events.

Parents may see that children:

  • Unusual touches, taps, or steps

  • Arrange items repeatedly and use words, phrases, or inquiries having a lot of uncertainties and difficulty choosing

  • Clean or wash more than is necessary.

  • Spend a lot of time getting ready, taking a shower, eating, and doing homework.

Kids may involve their parents in rituals. At first, parents may not realize that something is a ritual. For example, a child with OCD might ask for reassurance over and over. Or a child may insist a parent say or do something a set number of times, or in a set way. Kids and teens with OCD can have obsessions, compulsions, or both.

  • Feelings

Children struggle with OCD symptoms. At first, rituals may appear to provide them with some comfort. But patterns are numerous. They begin to demand more time and effort. Little is left over for kids to do things they like. OCD sensations, thoughts, and rituals create a stressful feedback loop. This may make it challenging to concentrate in class, enjoy yourself with friends, go to sleep, or unwind.

Children may seem tense, worried when they can't perform a ritual, they get agitated, irritated, sad, and upset and demand continual assurances from their parents that everything is well.

Some children may not disclose to their parents the feelings, anxieties, and actions that OCD creates. They may conceal their anxiety because they are perplexed or embarrassed by it. They could try to cover up rituals.

How Might I Support My Child?

If you suspect your child has OCD:

Discuss your observations with your youngster. Talk kindly, pay attention, and express your love. "I notice you fixing your socks a lot, trying to get them even," or something like that works for your child's circumstance. You're under a lot of pressure to make them feel right.

Let's say that OCD may be to blame for the anxiety and the repairing. Tell your child that a doctor's examination can determine whether this is the case. Inform your youngster that things will improve and that you want to support them. Schedule a consultation with a child psychologist or psychiatrist. Your child's doctor can direct you to the appropriate source. They will spend time speaking with you and your child to diagnose OCD. They will inquire about your child's symptoms to help them identify OCD symptoms. If OCD is identified, they can describe the course of treatment.

Attend your child's therapy sessions. Coaching parents on how to handle their child's OCD symptoms is a component of treatment. Discover all the ways you may contribute. Learn how to encourage your child's development without avoiding rituals.

Be patient. OCD recovery is a process. There will be lots of sessions in therapy. Make sure you attend each one. Help your child put the therapist's instructions into practice. Thank your child for trying. Show out your pride. Remind them that they are not to blame for their OCD.

Get and offer support. Families suffering from OCD have access to a wealth of information and assistance. Start by visiting the International OCD Foundation. You can cope better if you realize that you're not alone. You can feel hopeful and confident by hearing other parents' success tales.

What is the treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Exposure and response prevention (ERP), a type of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), is the most successful treatment for OCD.

The therapist introduces the child to little doses of the thing that typically sets off their obsession during this therapy. In this way, the kid can practice managing their anxieties in a secure setting. The therapist aids the youngster in resisting their urge. The youngster eventually stops needing the compulsion as they get less worried. The therapist can teach the child's family how to practice at home.

CBT and medication are frequently combined to treat more severe OCD symptoms. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs, are the most effective type of anxiety treatment. The drug can aid with anxiety reduction. The therapy benefits the youngster more. Children who learn therapeutic skills can eventually take less medication or even quit completely.

In the years following their therapy, kids with OCD frequently go back to their therapist for "booster sessions" to refresh the coping mechanisms they had learned.

Written by: Dr. Stuti Kumar, Consulting Child Psychologist

Are you aware of any specific strategies or coping mechanisms that help you manage your intrusive thoughts and rituals effectively? (Select all that apply)

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Medication

  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

  • Support groups

You can vote for more than one answer.

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