Recognizing OCD in Your Child

Posted by Phil Cardenas on Apr 16, 2013

Kids can be downright confusing. Trying to make sense out of their behaviors can test even the most patient and understanding parents. When does the fear of the monster under the bed or worrying that daddy is never coming back go from normal childhood anxiety to a serious problem. 

If obsessions and compulsions begin to interfere with your child’s functioning in relationships with their family, friends, or schooling, they may have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

About one child in 100 develops OCD. Their brains process information differently from other children, resulting in uncontrollable worries and doubts (obsessions) that they try to address with repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions). This begins a self-perpetuating cycle that prevents the child from interacting normally and only grows worse with time.

Fortunately, the medical profession has made great strides in recognizing and treating OCD in children, and today there is plenty of reason for hope. 

The first step in treatment is recognition and diagnosis. A qualified mental health professional has diagnostic tools and treatments. Explain your concerns to your doctor and ask if he or she  feels you and your child are candidates for referral to an OCD specialist.

It’s important for you to recognize that OCD is a medical condition just like asthma or allergies, that it’s treatable, and that its diagnosis is not a negative reflection on either you or your child. No one is at fault, and proper treatment can help both you and your child live happier and more productive lives. As this disorder has become better understood, its treatment and the outlook for sufferers had improved dramatically. It’s an enemy that you and your child can defeat together.

As a parent, your role is to help your child by understanding what OCD is, finding the right therapist to treat it, and learning how you can reinforce the therapy by responding to OCD symptoms at home.

 Research has shown that a treatment known as “Exposure and Response Prevention” or ERP is quite effective. ERP is a type of  “cognitive behavior therapy” in which patients are put in situations that expose them to their obsessions and give them the tools to combat them and the compulsive behaviors they trigger. Often ERP alone is sufficient to treat OCD, but anti-anxiety drugs may also be used to facilitate the therapy.

If you suspect that your child may have OCD, don’t be intimidated or ashamed to seek the counsel of a professional. You are not alone. Over one million children in the US have some form of OCD, and there are people out there who can help. 

For more information about OCD in children, we recommend “How to Help Your Child: A Parent’s Guide to OCD” published by Beyond OCD.  . It’s is available as a free download from our web site at: To learn more about OCD, its treatment options, and to tap into our many other resources, visit our web site at It’s there to help you get the information you need to get beyond OCD.



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