Children with Pediatric OCD are normal kids that suffer with excessive ritualistic behavior or preoccupation with disturbing thoughts. This is not a typical childhood developmental phase that might include special prayers , possessiveness over a favorite toy or “lucky” figures that provide a sense of security and comfort, but rather are repetitive rituals and “routines” that begin to interfere with your child’s social and school functioning – for example, repetitively asking a parent if they have done something harmful or inappropriate, or spending hours re-writing homework assignments until they are “just right”.
In addition, interruption in their “routines” may create undue anxiety,frustration and hostility. Another sign that accompanies early onset of OCD symptoms is a marked and decreased sense of confidence in activities, schoolwork, and with friends. Given how scary and overwhelming the OCD thoughts may be for a child, it makes sense that their level of self-confidence would be significantly impacted.
Children begin showing signs of anxiety and compulsive behaviors at any age, but most are more likely to demonstrate symptoms of Pediatric OCD near puberty. OCD tends to run in families, therefore, your child may be genetically predisposed to develop the disorder. OCD however, is not the result of something that your child or you as a parent have done wrong. Other factors that can lead to the presentation of Pediatric OCD are stressors like moving, changing schools, or experiencing a divorce. Kids who previously have had no issues with OCD or anxiety may become vulnerable to symptoms when coping with these challenges.
It is often believed that kids with OCD are just afraid of germs and wash their hands a lot. This is only one type of OCD. There are actually many different forms of Pediatric OCD and/or sub-types that children/teens may develop and generally fit into the following categories:
|Washing||Worries about dirt, germs, blood, AIDS, environmental
|Checking||Imagining having harmed self or others; being
responsible for something bad happening
|Ordering/Symmetry||SA need to have things even, balanced, or “just right”|
|Counting/Repeating||Magical numbers, urge to repeat (songs, rhymes, numbers, etc.) or repeated tapping|
|Scrupulosity||Excessive religious or moral doubts. Urges to confess. Intrusive sexual thoughts or urges.|
|Hoarding||Fear of losing possessions|
|Body Dysmorphic Disorder||Distorted body image|
As a Pediatric OCD therapist I specialize in the treatment of children and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the treatment of choice for OCD. Through CBT, children will learn that their excessive worries are not real, but only irrational thoughts or feelings. I will teach your child life-long coping skills that will help them face their current obsessions and compulsions, generate more realistic thoughts and more appropriate ways of coping, and successfully adapt to future OCD challenges. As your child’s therapist, I will introduce him/her to Exposure/Response Prevention (E/RP) therapy. This is when your child is asked to expose her/himself to the disturbing thought or object that creates excessive anxiety and to not perform the mental or physical ritual (compulsion) that temporarily reduces their anxiety. I will walk your child through these exercises in manageable steps. Through E/RP your child will gain confidence along the way, recognizing anxious thoughts, challenge them, and re-approach these provoking thoughts with new skills to self manage their symptoms.
For more information about these disorders visit www.adaa.org.
OCD is a Neuropsychiatric condition. In most cases, it can be treated with CBT alone and without medication, however I recognize that every situation is unique and that some children who are experiencing severe symptoms, might also benefit from medication in addition to behavioral strategies. If it is determined that your child’s functionality is seriously limited and he/she would benefit from the addition of medication, I will help arrange a consultation with a Pediatric psychiatrist who prescribes for the symptoms of OCD.
It is very important that you as parents are involved in your child’s treatment and recovery. Therefore, the best support you can provide as a parent is to be an active and encouraging member of the treatment team. Working together against OCD, your child will need your support and assistance in doing their challenging Exposure/Response Prevention work. You may be asked to change your current supportive tactics to fight OCD because, up to this point, your best intentions to help your child most likely have not been effective, at least not long term. It is important that your current efforts are replaced with proven methods for change and that you cooperate completely with the customized treatment plan. As your child’s therapist, I will provide the education and support for you to coach your child to confront their problem, which can be accomplished only when your child, rather than you as parent, plays the central role in resisting OCD.
When Pediatric OCD and OC spectrum disorders are left untreated they can become more intense and socially crippling over time. Most kids with OCD are demoralized by it and many become depressed, which then becomes an additional problem. It is essential that the diagnosis of OCD is not denied and that you as a family have radical acceptance of your child’s condition, and the understanding that your child is hurting inside and experiencing pain and suffering. Educating yourself about OCD and helping your child manage the symptoms of this debilitating disorder is the appropriate thing to do otherwise your child will continue to lose precious time and become more distracted from the pleasures of youth and the necessary developmental stages of life. Your child’s future success does not have to be limited by OCD!