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OCD in children: Signs, Causes and Treatment

OCD in children: Signs, Causes and Treatment

Does your child get frightened without any apparent reason? Does your child repeatedly perform any activity? Then your child might be suffering from Obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, if you want to know more about how OCD affects children or what the common signs of OCD in children then this article is best for you. Furthermore, Inland Empire Behavioral Group is one of the finest platforms that can treat OCD in children. So why wait longer? Take a step ahead and make your child happy by removing all the mental issues from your child’s life.

Obsessive Compulsive disorder
OCD stands for obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a common mental health condition that has a strong association with behavior. This disorder can affect any individual irrespective of age or gender. However, the onset of OCD is more common in childhood stages. This mental illness can persist to adulthood stages without effective and early intervention or treatment. Although affected children experience various symptoms due to this disease, obsessions and hallucinations are the most common among all.

Children with OCD are unable to live a normal or prosperous life. They are unable to pay the desired attention to their academic life. Therefore they fail to obtain good marks or excellence in their academic activities. Moreover, they also face major difficulty in developing bonds with their family, friends, or any new person. Due to their mental illness, they don’t have control that what they think and behave accordingly.

Signs of OCD in children
The common signs of OCD in children are as follows:

Obsessions: This involves the recurrent occurrence of unwanted thoughts that affect the mood and behavior. Children with OCD are unable to take over their thoughts. Therefore most of them also experience anxiety or depression.

Compulsive behavior: Children with OCD often get indulged in any activity just to get rid of their undesired intrusive thoughts. They think that if they focus on this specified behavior, they will successfully prevent distressing situations to a greater extent.

Some other common OCD symptoms in children are as follows:

  1. Aggressive behavior
  2. Lack of focus or attention
  3. Unwanted thoughts or emotions
  4. Self-harming thoughts
  5. Difficulty in organization
  6. Checking things multiple times

Diagnosis of OCD in children
The diagnosis of OCD is based on the occurrence of symptoms. A child can only be diagnosed with the obsessive-compulsive disorder if he exhibits obsessions and compulsions. Some children majorly show obsessions while on the other hand, some are greatly involved in compulsions.

What causes OCD in children?
Some common causes of OCD in children include:

Abnormal brain changes
Different studies have reported that individuals with OCD exhibit different changes in the brain as compared to the normal brain. Due to the onset of OCD symptoms, the normal functioning of the neurons gets altered.

Family history
If any of your parent or family members suffer from OCD, then there is a greater possibility that you will also suffer from this disorder. The genes responsible for the onset of OCD symptoms are transferred among generations. However, it is also suggested that not a single gene is also involved in the development of OCD as there are different genetic factors responsible for the occurrence of OCD symptoms.

Distressing life events
Many children experience different stressful events at some point in their lives. Some get abused in different ways and then face major traumatic symptoms in their later life. However, there is a more likelihood of them suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How does OCD differ from OCPD?
Both OCD and OCPD are quite different from each other. OCD disorder involves the occurrence of obsessions along with compulsive behavior. While on the other hand, OCPD does not involve these symptoms. OCD is specifically a mental disorder that affects the personality. OCPD is a personality disorder and therefore exerts strong effects on the personality.

Can babies have OCD?
There is a myth that only adults get to suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, the main fact is that babies can also experience OCD symptoms. In addition, various recent studies have also reported that kids between 0.25% and 4% of children develop OCD. The onset of OCD symptoms is not limited to any specific age. OCD can develop in young kids and can alter their normal life. OCD  in toddlers should also be considered like other aspects.

Furthermore, the boys are more prone to develop OCD symptoms as compared to the girls. Symptoms start appearing at a very early age and then persist to adulthood stages.

How OCD can be treated?
If you want to see your child happy and living a prosperous life then treating OCD in children is essential.

Without the appropriate medication, it is difficult to manage the symptoms of the disorder. Based on the symptoms, different plans are recommended. Some plans comprise the medications only while some prefer the combined dosage of medications and therapy. Some common medications that are used to treat OCD involve:

  1. Zoloft
  2. Prozac
  3. Effexor
  4. Celexa
  5. Luvox

Cognitive behavioral therapy
This therapy is widely used to treat mental health issues including obsessive-compulsive disorder. Children with OCD struggle with anxiety and depression and therefore exhibit negative behavior. However, this psychotherapy is considered more effective in dealing with all undesired thoughts and ultimately the positive altered behavior. Talk therapy to develop a secure and friendly environment so individuals with OCD can easily share their all mental health concerns. Initially, therapists perform the initial assessment of the disorder and the associated symptoms and then develop the strategic plan to treat the OCD. They identify which factors are responsible for the onset of OCD symptoms in children. This psychotherapy is also useful in treating ADHD in children. After the identification, they guide the strategies to overcome the OCD and linked symptoms.

Exposure and response therapy
As the name indicates this therapy involves the exposure of individuals to the fearful situation and then determining their reaction. This therapy is also highly effective in dealing with OCD in children. Moreover, with the help of this therapy, they can identify those factors that leave them stressed or frightened. The therapist guides them to gradually face the fearful situations or elements and learn from them.  After the specified period, individuals experience reduced levels of anxiety. Furthermore, due to the repeated exposure, they become habitual to that situation and then stop responding.

Interpersonal therapy
OCD affects both mental and behavioral stability. Therefore, children with OCD fail to construct healthy relationships with their loved ones. They most often face conflicts with others and face major issues due to their interpersonal issues. However, our talk therapists guide us on how to resolve interpersonal conflicts and live a happy life without any conflict.

Toddler ocd test
It is difficult to perfectly evaluate the OCD symptoms. However, only professionals can better assess OCD and its symptoms. In addition, different questions are asked of the parents of children which include:

  1. Is your child addicted to any activity?
  2. Does your child repeatedly wash their hands?
  3. How often does your child exhibit anger?
  4. Does your child prefer isolation?
  5. How long do they bother you?

How to prevent OCD in children?
As children majorly interact with their parents, therefore they should know some parenting tips to deal with their kids with OCD. Parents can get guidance from a mental health professional to better identify the OCD symptoms and then develop a coping strategy for their kids.

Engagement in social activities
Parents should make a plan for extracurricular activities to overcome the OCD in children. By contributing to healthy life activities, children avoid engaging in compulsive behavior and start thinking productively. Just like the home, teachers should also encourage the students to participate in all kinds of extracurricular activities and boost their cognitive energy.

General Discussion
Each parent should have some time in their daily life routine to interact with their children. They should ask certain questions from them regarding their academic and personal life. In this way, children get the confidence to share their things with their parents. Whenever they experience any frightening situation in their life, they openly discuss it with their parents and resolve the issues.

Development of coping skills
The interaction of parents with their children plays a significant role in the prevention of OCD in children. Parents should learn different strategies that help them to deal with kids with OCD. Children suffering from OCD are unable to control their emotions and therefore exhibit anger outbursts. They also show negative behavior with them so parents should know how to respond to them. Instead of scolding them, they should deal with them with affection and care. Instead of assisting them, they should leave them alone in their struggles. Ultimately, they become independent and take better control of their life.

Facing the fears
Guide your children that they should encounter their fears with courage instead of avoiding them. With the initial exposure to fearful situations, your child may face trouble and become stressed. However, as a parent, you have to teach him to learn from the failures and then develop coping strategies.

Engagement in social activities
Children dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder prefer to stay alone instead of interacting with others. They don’t pay attention in their class and do not learn productive things. Moreover, they are unable to develop the bonds with their friends and family. As a parent, you should develop some extracurricular activities at home and encourage yoir child to participate. Different studies have reported a positive correlation between social engagement and OCD recovery.

Talk with mental health professionals
Parents should also discuss all the aspects of OCD in children with the mental health professionals. Therapists have a better understanding of obsessive-compulsive disorder and coping strategies. Therefore, they can guide the parents regarding different coping strategies for OCD in children.

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Dr. Reri Uku


Dr. Reri Uku is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC). Her expertise lies in her ability to provide quality, compassionate, and comprehensive mental health
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As an adjunct faculty at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), she values interdisciplinary education and inter-professional collaboration for a student-centered learning approach to provide safe and effective patient care.

She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from Azusa Pacific University in 2018 and her Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner from National University in 2019. She graduated from California State University, San Bernardino master’s program with majors in Nurse Education and Advanced Community/Public Health in 2014. She became a registered nurse in 2010 and her background includes experiences in Medical Surgical Nursing, Neurology, Oncology and Psychiatry.

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