Obsession Compulsive Disorder refers to a situation in which children obsess over thoughts, mental images or recurrent visuals, strong urges that they just cannot seem to get out of their head. When a child has these thoughts, he might also feel very anxious or fearful. If children have unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviour, or both, which don’t go away and which interfere with daily life, they might have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Some examples of obsessions might be:
Imagining oneself or loves ones getting hurt
Being scared of getting sick from touching dirty handles or dirty ‘anything’
Feeling that something terrible will happen if your books aren’t in the right order.
Washing hands repeatedly
Hoarding – that is, not being able to throw anything away
Counting or tapping
Behaving in mildly superstitious ways, like always wearing the same t-shirt to dance class
Pulling at hair or picking at skin/pimples continuously
Should You Be Worried?
Many children have obsessions and compulsions. They can be a normal part of children’s development. For example, your child might go through a stage of wanting his bedtime ritual to be exactly the same every night.
Obsessions and compulsions that don’t get in the way of your child’s or family’s life aren’t usually anything to worry about.
You might have your child checked for OCD by a health professional if you notice your child has:
More severe obsessions and compulsions than her peers
Obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviour that upset her and stop her from enjoying life or that interfere with your family’s everyday activities
Obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviour that last for more than six months.
You can help your child with some strategies for managing worries and facing fears. These strategies might include:
Relaxation – for example, deep breathing, muscle relaxation and meditation
Positive self-talk – for example, ‘I can stop doing this’, ‘I will be OK if I don’t do this’
Distraction – your child does something else that she enjoys, like reading a book or shooting hoops, for at least 15 minutes
A worry box – for example, your child writes down or draws worries and puts them in the box to look at later with you
A calm place where your child can do activities that distract her from worries.
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