Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children
OCD Symptoms in Children
OCD symptoms in children are often more difficult to control than those occurring in adults, because children aren’t aware of the vicious cycle of unhealthy behaviors they are trapped in. When this form of anxiety in children starts manifesting, simple worries and doubts turn into distressing ideas and obsessive thoughts that can’t be stopped with all the child’s efforts. As a result, the child feels compelled to repeat an anxiety-reducing ritual over and over again. The symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder in children can change over time but in most cases they become even more disturbing if no treatment is applied. In fact, statistics show that most adults develop OCD symptoms during childhood, between ages 7 and 12. While before the age of 12 this condition is more common in boys, after puberty girls are equally prone to developing obsessive compulsive disorder.
Recognizing OCD Symptoms in Children
Just like adults, children also have insecurities and fears and therefore can be affected by problems interfering with their daily activities. It’s perfectly normal for your child to be concerned about germs for example on his hands after playing with a very dirty object, but if a child keeps washing his hands repeatedly after touching a friend or after using a fork, this is definitely not a healthy behavior.
The fear of dirt is one of the most common symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder in children and it manifests as an intense feeling that something terrible can happen unless they wash their hands to remove the germs. Kids dealing with this obsession are terrified about the possibility of getting ill or even dying because of there might be dirt on their bodies, so they perform the compulsive routine just to make sure they are in control of the situation.
While some teens realize that their behavior is excessive and irrational, younger children can’t do anything to keep their obsessive thoughts away or to stop the repetitive gestures, as they feel compelled to repeat the anxiety-relieving rituals. OCD symptoms in children are, therefore, classified into two categories: intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
Besides the already mentioned trigger, there are other obsessive ideas commonly occurring in children with OCD and these are:
- the upsetting need for order and symmetry that makes the child arrange objects over and over again and this obsession can trigger intense anxiety when something isn’t placed ‘where’ or ‘how it should be’
- a fixation for numbers, seen as lucky or unlucky, or the need to continuously count in order to make negative thoughts go away
- obsession with aggressive, sexual and immoral behaviors or with body waste
- intense feelings of fear triggered by the idea that someone loved is going to die
The Typical Behavior Patterns Seen in Children Suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OCD symptoms in children include not only the obsessive thoughts, but also the compulsive routines done in order to make the upsetting ideas disappear. Here are the most common behavior patterns seen in kids with this form of anxiety:
- repetitive hand washing, teeth brushing or showering
- repetitive counting or checking of doors
- eye twitching, coughing or obsessive throat clearing
- rearranging objects to place them in the correct order or position and to restore balance
- collecting boxes, containers or other similar things with no logical reason
- Repeating words and phrases to reduce stress and anxiety
- Repeating a specific ritual before eating or going to bed, doing the same routine at constant periods of time
All these compulsive behaviors are nothing but your child’s reaction to triggers seen as dangerous and potentially harmful so this is why OCD symptoms in children are considered the manifestation of an overactive alarm system.